Can you be an Athletic Therapist and a parent too?

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Nicole McLean

Nicole McLean has been a certified Athletic Therapist since 2004. She has worked with many teams and filled many roles through her career. In 2014, she completed her Masters of Science with research in sport concussion. Currently, she is the Head Athletic Therapist for Football Alberta and the CJFL’s Edmonton Wildcats.

I became an Athletic Therapist in 2003, I had my first child in 2015. That’s 12 years of building and loving my professional life before I became a mom. Leaving my athletic therapy life behind was not something I wanted to do. So how to do it all….

There’s one easy answer to how you can do it all, be a parent and an AT.  You can’t! At least not full-time in either role. You must give some things up. 

I nursed a 5-month-old baby in AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas during halftime of an international football game, after I checked that all my athletes were uninjured. Fortunately, my husband is a big sports fan and coming along with his wife and new daughter to an NFL stadium for the week wasn’t really a big sacrifice. 

I missed Halloween and trick or treating in 2021 as my team, who had not played in 2020, had a playoff game in Winnipeg. I was on a charter flight home while my husband sent me pictures of the 3 kids going door to door. 

I’m not saying these are easy choices but as ATs, I think we are very good at multitasking and having jam-packed schedules. 

As a parent and an AT, you get pulled in multiple directions. My kids are six, four and two years old. At home, I hear “Mommy, Mommy” all day long (I’m trying to type this, with the youngest at home, climbing on my lap to see what’s on the screen. How come “Blue’s Clues” can’t distract you this morning?). When I head to an evening practice with adults (18–22-year-male athletes), there’s no break to the demands for my time or attention. Most ATs do not have a job where we can close the door and work alone. 

How do we survive these busy years? I can only tell you how I keep my head above water…most of the time!

  • Ask for help – when my third child was born, we slept upstairs in the master room with the other 2 kids across the hall. My toddler loved an early wake up. We’re talking 4:15 a.m. After about two weeks, I moved myself and the newborn downstairs as I couldn’t be awake all hours of the night. It was my husband’s turn to wake up with the older kids.
  • Say no – I’m just coming off a busy April with 1284 athletes registered for Football Alberta camps. I was in charge of reviewing each of their medicals. I was asked to cover an event this weekend and I said no! Need to catch up on family time. 
  • Prioritize your commitments – I signed up for an online concussion symposium this evening. My husband has been texting me all day to make sure my schedule is clear this evening to watch the final season of Ozark. Guess I’ll have to catch the symposium later on YouTube. 

Good luck with your work/family balance. My sports family were some of the first people to come over and meet each of our new babies. Our kids are comfortable running around a football clubhouse and conversing with the athletes. It’s a busy lifestyle but we do it because we love it!  

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