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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Massage at the Paralympics: Followup Post

In August, I wrote a post about fellow therapist Jen Tamang volunteering at the Paralympic Games in London.  As a followup,  I asked Jen a few questions about her experience.

Many thanks to Jen for sharing her story!

What first got you interested in the Paralympics?
My first exposure to the Paralympic Games was when I was selected to be on the international sports massage team for the Athens Paralympic Games in 2004. Working in the Athletes Village was amazing and I felt so thrilled to be working along with top therapist's from around the world.  This was just a great opportunity to do two things I love, travel and massage!  I learned so much about the tragedy and triumph of many athletes and could not ignore the energy of their passion to be there competing.  When I returned home, I realized many ways to remain involved with a particular sport that I grew to love called Goalball, which is for the visually impaired.  WMU has a wonderful blind/low vision program and Kalamazoo also is base for the State of Michigan Commission for the Blind.  I went all the way to Greece to learn about this sport that was so active right in my back yard!  :-)

What did you have to do to be chosen to volunteer there?
For both Athens and London, it was over a year long process to be selected for the massage team.  Out of thousands of applicants only a handful are chosen.  It is a true honor!  A series of applications narrow down the possibilities and then a phone interview as well as background checks and on-line trainings for your venue and role specific duties.  Scurry to get what was needed and then wait and wait and wait.  Worth every wrinkle.  

How many hours did you work each day?  
A typical day was about 8 hours per shift including an hour break for a meal in the volunteer cafeteria.  With about a 90 minute commute door to door, it did make for a long day, but I really enjoyed feeling like I was living there and people watching was always interesting too.  

How many people did you work on?   
Our shift consisted of 30 minutes sessions per client.  I would see anywhere between 5-15 client's depending on how busy the day went.  Never knew until you show up and it was almost all walk-in basis.  On slow days, we were allowed passes to the Olympic Park and walked around and enjoyed just being there!

How many were the athletes?
Athletes have priority if there was a line of people waiting, but we worked on anyone who lived in the Village.  Coaches, trainers and Chef De Missions came in looking for relief from their very important and stressful job!

How much down time did you have and what did you do or see in London while you were there?
Typically, after 2-3 days of working, you would have a day off.  The shift manager was very relaxed about switching days off as long as you had someone to cover your shift.  They know you are there to enjoy the experience and not just work work work.  Although there was plenty of that too.  :-)

What was the most inspirational thing you saw while there?
There were so many inspirational moments and this is why I make the time and effort (and $$) to keep going to these events.  I come back completely exhausted, yet renewed and with a totally different outlook on life. Priorities shift and become clear.  It is exhilarating to work on individuals who are normal everyday people and then get to transform and showcase their superhuman athleticism on a world stage.  I indulge in feeling that I am a part of what I can to help turn their dream into reality.  Massage has such a profound affect with these athletes.  Making a great athletic performance into a WINNING athletic performance.  That is gold for me!

Jen also added how awesome it was that 2.5 MILLION tickets sold (that is sold out!) to watch the events and opening and closing ceremonies and to even get into the Olympic Park!  The impact this will have on the young generation (in England at least) seeing and experiencing these games will be amazing in the hopes that they will be a more aware and compassionate group of humans.  Even the impact for adults is inspiring to give recognition to these amazing athletes.  It's pretty darn cool that the Paralympic Games were so well received and sought out by the London and surrounding community.

What do you think?  Have you ever considered volunteering for such an event?

Cindy Iwlew is co-founder of Bodywork Buddy Massage Software, a complete online management solution for independent massage therapists that includes online scheduling

She continues to operate her own private massage practice of 13 years.  

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