In-Depth Look: Head Athletic Therapist for the Kingston Frontenacs Hockey Club
Ryan Bennett, BHED, Dip SIM, CAT(C), ATC, CSCS is Head Athletic Therapist for Kingston Frontenacs Hockey Club, a major junior hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League. He has worked for 12 seasons in this league.
Describe your work setting:
I work for a major junior hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League. Currently, there are more players who go to the National Hockey League from our league than any other junior league in the world. It is a field setting, but I have a clinic and office I use for rehab and treatments.
How long have you worked in this setting?
I am in my 12th season in this league. Before that, I worked 4 years in professional hockey, mainly in the American Hockey League.
Describe your typical day:
There isn’t really a typical day for me as we play or practice at different times depending whether it's a weekday or weekend. Typically, we play 2-3 days a week, have 1 day off where only injured players report and practice each day the rest of the week. Our season starts with training camp in early September. The end of season is late March with a possibility of 9 weeks of playoffs. We play 34 home games and 34 road regular season games.
A typical practice day has me arriving around 8:45am to prepare for our older, non-high school players' arrival at 9:30am. They workout or receive necessary treatment until 11:00am. Once they have left for lunch, the equipment manager and I work on laundry, tidying the dressing room and gym and getting the bench ready for afternoon practice. Players arrive back around 1:00pm, and I work on any pre-practice stretching, taping, wrapping and treatment. Practice starts around 2:15pm, and I watch for issues and injuries from the bench.
When practice ends at 4:00pm, I supervise the high school players' workout and perform any other stretching or necessary treatments. The players leave around 5:00pm. At this time, the equipment manager and I work on laundry, and clean and prepare the dressing room and gym for the next day. I typically leave the rink at 6:00pm.
Game days have a similar morning with a few hours break in the middle of the day. I arrive back at 3:00pm to prepare. The players arrive between 4:00pm-5:00pm. Games usually start at 7:00pm, and I get home after the game and cleanup, between 11:00pm and 12:00am.
What do you like about your position?
I grew up playing hockey so I've always loved the team atmosphere, it's like a second family. The feeling of winning, especially big games and championships, is second to none. Treating elite and motivated athletes twice a day allows me to see quick improvements. It's very rewarding to get them playing ahead of doctors' estimates. Hockey has also allowed me to travel all over the province, country and world with my junior teams and international programs.
What do you dislike about your position?
I've missed many events including weddings, funerals, birthdays and celebrations of friends and family which is unfortunate. My schedule isn't very flexible and doesn't allow for any missed or sick days. I've missed only 2 games over 12 years, for my daughter's birth. It's also tough being away from my family during long days and long road trips. However, things like FaceTime help and having summers off goes a long way to make up for it.
What advice do you have about your practice setting for a young AT looking at this setting?
For those looking to work as an athletic therapist or Athletic Trainer (AT) with an elite sports team, I would suggest volunteering as an assistant to make sure you understand the huge level of commitment required to do a good job. Also, work with as many different ATs and other healthcare providers as possible. The skills and connections gained from other healthcare professionals will prove invaluable. Finally, nobody gets into this field for the hours or money so make sure you're learning and enjoying your job every single day. This is what I do and I haven't worked a day in my life!