Patrick Harding: Building A Successful Career in Physiotherapy

June 19, 2018 3 min read

It’s been a privilege to work in elite sport for the past 10 years, initially as a physiotherapist and now more recently as a Performance Coach.

 When I’m asked about my career I find it difficult to be objective as it’s your ‘journey’ and inevitably you view it through your own perspective and bias. But my philosophy has always been to follow opportunities as they arise.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve always known where I wanted to be, but my short-term career path has always been a product of what’s in front of me in the here and now. It has lead to an eclectic CV; pro Rugby to Australian Rules Football, into Olympic Sprint Canoeing, followed by English Premier League Football and now Motorsport, pro Boxing and Golf (the last three concurrently).

And that’s my best piece of advice. Get a depth and breadth of experience that prepares you (as well as you can be!) for any situation you find yourself in, clinical or otherwise.

Don’t expect to get the big jobs straight off the bat. Learn your trade, spend as much time as you can covering games, clinics, sporting events. The amateur level is a great place to define the type of therapist you want to be. Use the space to establish your values, set your boundaries because when you do step into the elite environment they will be bombarded on a daily basis. Staying true to them is invaluable for your own integrity if nothing else. 

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes but when you do don’t make them again. The situations where I’ve learned the most have been the ones I know I should have handled better. The amateur level doesn’t have the same level of scrutiny attached so it’s the best place to learn. If you focus on consistently improving as a clinician, then you put yourself in the best possible position to apply for the elite roles because your clinician knowledge and experience will speak for themselves.

Reputation is built on experience and experience is built by concentrating on each day as it comes! I speak to my athletes a lot about focusing on the ’process’. And by that, I mean, all the little decisions you make as an individual on a day to day basis that supports your training and your preparation. From the breakfast you eat, to the data you collect, to the decisions you make around recovery and what’s best for your body at all times etc.

Making those correct decisions over a period of time changes behaviour, it creates a situation whereby making the right decision becomes a habit, not a conscious thought process. When you do that, the outcome is purely about delivery at any given point in time, the accumulation of an extended period if the right decisions. As practitioners supporting athletes, we need to adopt the same mindset. Our habits affect our performance.

Even when you get to the elite level certain situations will always bring you back to the reality that there’s so much more to learn. I remember pre-Rio 2016 having Dr Diane Lee and Ashleigh Wallace come into my Canoeing squad at my request to implement innovative performance assessment techniques for my senior program athletes. I will never forget struggling so badly to keep up with the speed of their thought process and being in awe of their clinical knowledge.

Ash was someone I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with in the lead up to Rio and someone I ha ve a huge amount of respect for as a clinician and friend. Others like Dr Phil Glasgow od The Sports Institute of Northern Ireland (SINI) and James Moore English Institute of Sport (EIS) are some of the clinicians I hold in the greatest regard.

My more influential peer has been Rob Madden. Our careers have been inextricably linked from the moment we met and I’m incredibly proud of what he’s achieved and to have shared the journey with him, professionally and personally.

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