I always get asked the question: How do I get into a sports residency program? I remember asking the same question when I was in physical therapy school at Saint Louis University. While a residency is not the only way to become a sports physical therapist, it is in my opinion one of the best ways to truly learn about sports physical therapy. Here is my advice to those interested in pursuing one....
- Speak to as many sports residency directors as possible. Have questions for them and follow up with them. If you have the chance to meet them in person (conferences) introduce yourself. If you see them again, re-introduce yourself (but ask a question too).
- When you find programs that you're interested in, contact the current (or former) residents to see what their opinions are.
- Volunteer at as many athletic events as possible. I think this is crucial in showing consistent dedication. You may have to make some sacrifices. I remember driving to Butler to work on my brother and his football buddies one night and driving back to St. Louis early the next morning to go volunteer at a soccer tournament. If you really love sports PT like I do, this should be easy.
- Shadow and/or assist other members of the sports medicine team (doctors, strength coaches, athletic trainers, nutritionists).
- Know what your career goals are. You have to have a vision of why you want to be a sports physical therapist. Everyone says they want to do sports PT but don't have reasons why other than "It'd be cool". If you love football, check out southern sports residencies. If you love skiing or snowboarding check out like a Howard Head for example.
- Each residency emphasizes some components more than others. Some may emphasize research, others may not even have you do a research project. Some have on-field coverage at the college level, others have it just at the high school level. Find out what you value most in a sports residency and why those components fit your long term goals.
- Find out where the past residents are now. This is often overlooked IMO. If you are looking at a residency for a stepping stone then did the past residents move on or stay? If you think you may want to stay at that clinic or university did the former residents stay?
- Learn how to create a quality resume. Most PT schools do a poor job preparing students for how to interview and create a resume. I spent months learning about resumes, Linkedin, business cards, marketing and interviewing. I know many of my friends and even my colleagues Chris and Jim (The Student Physical Therapist) thought I went overboard in this area. Fortunately I knew that this was key. You could be the best PT candidate in the world or have better skills then the next guy but if people don't know who you are its tough to get that interview/job. Don't forget that you have to market yourself. Create your own brand!
- Finally, find a way to make yourself unique(your brand) to other candidates. You could do this many different ways. I have additional certifications and run a blog with Jim and Chris; maybe that made me more unique. Or maybe it was all the on-field experiences, etc. The point is your never going to know what the residencies think is unique so find your interests and pursue those within sports to the best of your ability (and time). This will help you in the interviews to explain why you are the best candidate for the program.
Good luck and don't hesitate to contact me for advice!