Prior to Adelaide FC Tim has worked at a large range of elite sporting teams such as Arsenal, Port Adelaide, and GWS Giants.
Topics we discussed:
- His biggest challenges and what he learned
- How he upskills himself
- What he notes down on athletes during the rehab process
- Do you have to lie to change an athlete’s mentality
- How often athletes stick to the rehab plan 100%
- His pet peeves in work/life
- Scott Smith
- Jack Hombsch
- Mark Williams
- John Quinn
- Darren Burgess
- Mark Fisher
- Ian Mckeown
- Kevin Sheedy
- Stuart Graham
- Chris Morgan
- Tom Allen
- Sam Wilson
- Lachlan Wilmot
- Nick Walsh
- Arsene Wenger
- Unai Emery
- Travis Boak
- Chad Cornes
- Phill Davis
- Petr Cech
Connect with Tim: https://www.instagram.com/timparham/
Jack: Welcome back to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast. My name is Jack McLean. I am the host and in today’s episode I interview Tim Parham, the head physiotherapist at the Adelaide Football Club. He has worked at a large range of leading sport teams, such as Arsenal Football Club, Port Adelaide, and GWS Giants.
Highlights from this episode: we discuss the importance of keeping good records for your rehabilitation plans; the key to good communication in high performance sport; how to develop buy-in; understanding the best-case, worst-case and a realistic-case for each return to play.
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Let’s get into today’s episode. Thanks for jumping on, Tim.
Tim: Not a problem. It’s fantastic to get a jump on and be a part of it. I’ve watched from afar and seen some pretty good guests. So, pretty humble to be invited.
Jack: Thanks, mate. Very lucky to have you on. We’ll dive right in the beginning, mate. At what age did you discover you had a passion for physiotherapy?
Tim: I suppose it’s a pretty interesting story, if you’re that way inclined. I started studying sports science, human movement and absolutely loved that and always wanted to do that through high school. And the whole idea about physiotherapy never really dawned on me. I always had visions of going into PE teaching and being pretty active in that space. Like, I think, most people that studied sports science, PE was my favorite subject through school and into year 12.
And then on the back of that I graduated. A small way into teaching, I realized that it actually probably wasn’t for me. It also coincided with a time where I was playing football, albeit amateur football, quite badly. And had a few injuries. And got to actually build up a pretty good relationship with a physio guy by the name of Scott Smith in Adelaide who’s pretty well-regarded.
And he was my treating physio. And I’d got to him after probably a long line of physios. And he probably opened my eyes up to the scope to be able to delve more into the rehab space and actually lean on some of my frustrations. Which, as an injured amateur athlete, I was frustrated with physio saying, ‘No, you can’t do this,’ and ‘No, you can’t do that,’ and ‘You shouldn’t be doing this.’ And this real cotton-wool approach to injury management.
All be it at a very, very amateur level, but I suppose Scotty opened my eyes to what was perhaps possible. And I’m giving my age away a little bit now, but when I graduated sports science, there wasn’t the Master’s courses available. So, I went and did a full Bachelor of Physio degree on the back of my sports science degree. And I did have an altered or a modified load.
Which was awesome in a way, because I could still work in that strength & conditioning space while I was studying. So it meant that I could have a really strong S&C lens on what I was learning in the physio world. And then I suppose as I graduated, it solidified in my mind where I wanted to take it.
Jack: A couple of things to unpack there. You mentioned Scott, what was his philosophy and how did it differ from those that were frustrating you, that cotton-wool approach? What was Scott focusing on with your rehabilitation? How it differ?
Tim: I think first thing for me was just the interpersonal relationship I had with him. Fantastic practitioner, but a really good bloke. And he became a mentor of mine, or he still is. We still chat. But also he was able to give me some home truths in a sense that you need to get stronger, you need to do this, you need to do that.
But equal to that, it’s like, ‘Hey, hold on.’ I was already having a groin injury initially, and he was very much saying, ‘Look, just because you’ve got this groin injury, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be training the house down, doing non-weightbearing conditioning, gym work.’ It just opened up a whole, I suppose, avenue towards the rehab.
Jack: Focus on the things you can do and still attack them.
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. And I think one of my frustrations with physios, and I don’t want to bash physio, but a lot of physios will default to the safest option a lot of the time. And I think in many instances you’re actually doing the athlete or the client a bit of a disservice. And that’s one of the things I really liked about Scotty was some pretty clear objectives and some good, honest home truths, I suppose.
Jack: That’s interesting. So, you started in the sports science realm and you mentioned you were doing some strength & conditioning work while doing your Bachelor’s of Physio. What did that look like? Was that in a Globo Gym? Was that a semi-professional sport? What type of experience was it?
Tim: Anything and everything. I dabbled in a little bit of Institute stuff here in Adelaide, worked at a public gym, which I think is great, personal training. And then also, probably most significantly, I was working for the SANFL here in South Australia. This sort of elite academy, primarily the Under 18s pathways. And that gave me a great insight into that semi-elite football environment.
Jack: And so, it sounds like you had a passion and motivation to work in elite sport. Was that the goal when you started sports science during the strength & conditioning and then with physio as well? The end goal was to work in high-performance?
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. I think that was pretty clear in my mind. After finishing my physio degree, I was really lucky again. I had a graduate training position at one of the public hospitals and that was great in terms of cutting my teeth in that true physio world.
But I knew that after 12 months, I wanted to get into initially some private practice and I achieved it. Ended up working for Scott in his practice here in Adelaide. And through that, I got some good exposure, some real sink-or-swim moments with Sturt Football Club in SANFL.
I did that for three years, then flipped after a netball team for a couple of years in the South Australian Netball Association. Some stuff with Tennis Australia, Australian lacrosse. So, it was a real dipping your toe in the water in terms of that semi-elite and elite sport.
Jack: And how did you gather those opportunities? When you had going from someone that was studying and doing a bit of work here and there, how did you build it? Was it speaking to Scott and he would hook up with some networks? Or was it emailing people? What was your strategy? And I guess for physios and Australian coaches listening in, that are trying to get some experience and maybe they’ve had a few setbacks, what would be your recommendation to try and get the foot in the door?
Tim: I think I’d get multiple roles, especially with SANFL stuff. From game day runner to working in some game development stuff to working with the rehab lads, doing some conditioning work and those sorts of things.
But I think beyond that idea of just getting stuck in whatever is throw at you, I think probably going in with a mindset that I don’t know everything. I’ve got some ideas, but just trying to pick up bits and pieces here and there, chat to people. I was always pretty amazed at how forthcoming people were when you approach them directly, be that via social media platforms or texts, or something like that.
Generally it’s more about just being proactive in that space and trying to start those conversations and get the ball rolling. We do work in a big industry, but it is a small industry at the same time. It is pretty tight-knit and it’s very rare that someone actually will shut a door on you. So, I really tried to lean in on that as a general philosophy.
And then also I think the other thing was just building good relationships with people, like investing the time in some of the athletes. And I’m probably going down a bit of a rabbit hole here, but I remember one of the guys that has become a really good mate of mine, Jack Hombsch.
He played at GWS and Port Adelaide and just finished up at the Gold Coast Suns. We worked together with the Under 18s state team. We worked at Sturt Football Club. He moves up to GWS, I follow him. I came down to Port, he was there. And interestingly enough, now he’s at the Crows as a development coach.
So, some of those things that it’s easy to take for granted at the time, but it’s just building on those good relationships and leaning on the people in the industry. And probably getting to know them more at a human level, more than anything. I think that’s been really important.
Jack: That’s such great advice. That’s heaps of gems there. So, getting involved in any way that you can. It wouldn’t be typical for a physio to be runner, game day runner. But that goes to show your mindset or putting yourself in that position. Were you a trainer at that stage working up to physio role? Or you were the game day physio and runner? How did that go?
Tim: I was involved with the SANFL for the span of about six years, so I think I wore most hats at different points in time. Anywhere from fitness coach, runner, working with the rehab guys, strength & conditioning… So, to that end, I think I did everything and anything, which was great. It was great grounding.
Jack: And you mentioned building the networks and getting enough just from a networking point of view, but actually developing the relationship. And from a personal point of view, is that something that’s come naturally to you? Or is that something that a mentor is giving you feedback on and you’ve worked on that skillset? Or is it something that you’ve always valued?
Tim: That’s a tough question. I think I’ve always intuitively valued it. I’m a person that I love my mates and I feel like I’m a good mate. But equal to that, I think I’m lucky. I’ve got friends that work jobs that they are dissatisfied with and they don’t get a buzz out of the day-to-day. So, it’s probably having some gratitude in those moments, where it is a bit of a grind, and just reflecting on how lucky you are in certain instances. So, that’s probably been a big part of it.
In terms of having feedback in that regard, not specifically. But it is something that gathers a bit of momentum in terms of that challenge of trying to get to know someone and trying to work out what makes them tick, especially at a rehab level. I think, if you invest your time and energy into that, then the rest is almost like following the bouncing ball to some extent.
Jack: And you mentioned Scott Smith. Are there some other people that have been significant in your development early day?
Tim: Absolutely. I think you’d like to think you’d pick up snippets from everyone: good, bad or indifferent. And like I said earlier, I don’t know it all and I definitely don’t pretend I do. So, I think that’s probably a big part of just absorbing as much information from as many practitioners and coaches as possible.
For me, the GWS was my first foray into full-time sport. So, Mark Williams was a fantastic sounding board for me. Obviously, an ex-Port Adelaide coach, just a brilliant person, challenging, ruthless at times. But a great carer. And I really lean on some of the stuff that Choco taught me, especially in those early years at GWS.
John Quinn, who was our high performance manager at the Giants, was fantastic. Again, very challenging. He had expectations, set a standard, had exceptional reputation within the industry. Was someone that I definitely butted heads with at times, and we’d laugh about it now. But he drove really good standards.
And then I suppose the bigger picture. I really loved my time at Port Adelaide. I ended up at Port Adelaide through Darren Burgess and he probably solidified a lot of my philosophical approaches to rehab and injury management and maybe taking more of a performance lens on managing players. And so, he’s been a huge influence on me.
But then also, I’d have to say that the staff I worked with at Port Adelaide were fantastic. It was a really good high-performance medical team. Mark Fisher, who’s an Olympic team doctor. Damian Newberry. Tim O’Leary, who’s had some NBA experience and been at the helm for a long time. Mike Heynen, Ian McKeown, Stuart Graham. Like really good practitioners.
And I suppose the beauty of my time there was the fact that we would jump into a room and literally bang heads and have pretty robust discussions. And at times it’d get a bit heated. We’d walk out of the meeting and 10 minutes later we’re all laughing and joking about it. And we all genuinely had the best intentions for the players. And so, that was a really rare working environment for me. So, that was a really influential period for me in terms of just developing the craft and being more critical of how and what you’re doing.
And then I suppose the trip to the UK. There were so many great people. That’s some standouts for me. It’s the head physiotherapist, that guy by the name of Chris Morgan, who’s now the head physio at Liverpool. Unbelievably well-credentialed physio, had been in the Premier League, and still is, for 15 years. Fantastic. Has seen it all, watched it all, level-headed, but really good, solid skillset. Really honed in on the fundamentals. And for me, as an outsider coming into the sport, was great as just a sounding board for different ideas. So, I owe a lot of credit to Chris. We still chat at a personal and professional level.
And then probably another couple of standouts for me was Tom Allen. He’s the head of sports science at Arsenal. Brilliant mind. But would break down the complicated and make it simple, which I found super impressive.
And an S&C coach by the name of Sam Wilson. He and I worked together really well. He ran a lot of our own pitch rehab. He’s a licensed coach. In terms of the craft and the subtleties of football or soccer, he was brilliant in being able to educate and just hone in on some of the attention-to-detail stuff, especially on the pitch. So, it was a massive influence.
Jack: Thanks for sharing that. It’s an amazing, pretty elite list that you have written down there of people that you’ve worked with. Which is testament to yourself that you’ve worked in those places and been involved with those. But challenging each other and the care, that open and honest conversation is something that’s popped up throughout, and the importance of relationships.
So, if we’re going to that, like the heated conversation, how does that develop? How does a team get to that level of the ability that they can butt heads, get heated and then leave it all out there, because it’s all about caring for the players, and not get emotional and caught up in that? Is that through repetition and practice? Do you believe all high-performance teams can get to that point or do you need a certain amount of different types of personalities to get there?
Tim: I’m not sure. It’s been a bit of a developing interest of mine, that performance psychology and what makes a high-performing team. I think if you have the answer, you’d be very wealthy. I think probably the big thing for me is having the personalities in the room that, however you get to that point, are willing to lay your work bare a little bit and embrace that transparency in a way.
And some of the advice I give to young physios, young coaches, is it’s hard, but make yourself valuable, but also allow people to critique what you’re doing. And I think equal to that is if somebody does critique what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, make sure that they come with a solution as well.
I think often in high-performance environments, and especially in the trenches, when you’re mid-season, you’ve had a run-up of injuries or a run-up of losses, it can become a pretty high-pressure environment. There is volatility in elite sport. You’ve always got half an eye over your shoulder as to what’s going on job-wise, job security and that sort of stuff.
But I think that’s really important that in those key moments that you’ve got each other’s back and you are able to open yourself up and be productive in that space. Which is bloody hard. And it’s a challenge. You’ve got to have that right mix of people. And there is something to be said for just the amount of time that you actually spend with each other.
And that was one thing that was abundantly clear at Port, when I’d come down, a doctor and a physio that had been there a long time and we were all very tight-knit group socially as well. I think that’s part of it as well. It’s just having that trust and having that time in the trenches with each other is really important and it’s really hard to just accelerate. It often doesn’t happen quickly.
But I think the other thing as well is, as tough as things can be, and we talk about the run of injuries or the run of losses or whatever that is, trying to actually make it a fun environment. I think this is an industry, and I’m not preaching to the converted, I’m sure there’s people listening, but there’s a lot of ego. It becomes a bit of a turf war at various points.
Ultimately, we’re all in it because it’s a high-energy environment and we want to get something out of it. And it should be reciprocated. You’re in the environment because it is high energy, but that should give you energy as well in your day-to-day.
Jack: Awesome, mate. Thanks for sharing that. And there has been a couple of key, I guess, trends amongst experienced practitioners in elite sport and the importance of not just staying at one club and staying within one sport. And looking at your experience, you’ve definitely done that. You’ve worked in different sports and across very elite clubs.
Was that deliberate and intentional early days? When you were at GWS, did you think, ‘I’m going to be here for 10 years’? Or did you think, ‘I’m not going to get comfortable here. I’m going to move. And when I get the opportunity to jump, I’m going to take it’? Or was that just something that eventuated?
Tim: Something that eventually I’ve never really had a, you always have these sort of ambitions and that sort of stuff, but I love motel on the JWS and even thinking back on it now, as hard as some of those early years were in establishing a new club, trekking out to Blacktown and stuff, we had some great practitioners and some great people involved in the club at that, in those early stages.
Lucky Wal-Mart, stack of great coaches, Nicole she’s nailed sort of high performance manager at St. Kilda. So looking back on that sort of stuff, like we never really, or I personally never really thought now that I’m here for a couple of years and I’m going to shoot home it was just more about opportunity and timing and the decision to come home with some it’s probably when I say home coming back to Adelaide was decision around family and, just stay married and having a family and so forth.
And an equal to that, I suppose, to Aaron Burgess, offered a role or pitched the role, which was quite appealing and was, spoke a little bit about my core values. And we found that we’re pretty early on, were fairly philosophically aligned.
And, I suppose the time at Port Adelaide was a great ride in a sense, because you’re going from JWS, which is very much a young club with very young pine list and everything’s new. And some of my fondest memories and strongest relationships I have are from those early GWS days, because we’re all sort of thrust together.
And not many of us were from Sydney. We’re all from Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth, Northern territory and sort of truly football stuff. But again, some of those are really great memories of stemmed from that, and it’s only probably in the fullness of time you look back and you think far out that was awesome.
What we were doing and it’s as brutal as it was at the time. And then the shift of port Adelaide by contrast was a very old club established. Very cool values that it has its roots within the community. Great history in Adelaide and then equal to that impactful when the IFO and at that point in time, it was on the rise just that moved to Adelaide Oval.
And I think I just missed out on a grand final by kick and it was a real energy and a buzz around the football club and absolutely loved my time there. And then I suppose that the opportunity to move to the UK, it was one that probably started as a bit of a joke. Darren got the role at arsenal and I think I was probably one of, quite a few people that sort of juggling.
He said, man, I’ll carry your bags for you. I’ll whatever you need, I’m there. And it wasn’t sort of until we sort of six months later that once Darren was on the ground and I could see the lie of the land, that role sort of presented itself. So, interviewed for a role there.
And then ultimately it became one of those things. I had a young family at the time. I had a one year old and I said to my wife, Marcella, I was like, we kick ourselves. If we don’t do it, we’d just would regret it. We can’t, this is too many pros and not enough columns and. And it all happened.
Exactly. I mean, it was in hindsight, we had some tough moments as you know, with a young family yourself, but it almost became a non-decision in a way, because the opportunity was too good to pass up. So, and as a family and as a person would learn so much about each other and ourselves and great experience.
Jack: And you mentioned Darren Burgess and yourself, had you worked at, you had some of our core values and philosophy it am I mistaken? You guys hadn’t worked together until put Adelaide?
Tim: No, we’d never actually met each other. So no, no.
Jack: Is that through reputation, through other players that have said things or other practitioners that have mentioned?
Tim: I don’t know exactly. But I think it was probably more along the lines, like our new syllabus that the staff at Port Adelaide some of the physios that I’d worked with those sort of S NFL circles and especially Sturt football clubs. So there was some connection there. So I think also being from Adelaide probably helped Michael was a little bit sort of naive to that fact.
And it was something that I think it started, we were just having phone calls and talking about and around stuff and yeah. Just sort of grew legs over, over a period of time.
Jack: And what was arsenal like when you started settling in and working in that, how different is it to football in terms of the medical performance side of things?
Tim: Unbelievably. Very different. I suppose the first thing for me, which I underestimated was just the enormity of the club and the brand and the fabric of, of a big premier league club. And it’s not kind of until I was on the ground that I got a real appreciation for that. So that was probably the first thing like that one that hasn’t felt that way.
Jack: The fans is that the stadium, the facilities, I mean, I’m sure it’s a lot of things, but what are the things to try and get a visual of that feeling of is going on there?
Tim: I suppose it’s hard to pinpoint exactly. But I remember when I first got on the ground in London and I’ve been hit up by bloggers and journalists and all this sort of stuff, and I hadn’t even set foot in the club. And then I suppose once you’re physically on the ground there, you’re looking at the players car park, and I think most of the guys, a daily drive was a rain driver, J wagon.
And then on special days, you’d say the Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s. So though, there were sort of those sort of pinch yourself moments and there was this time rock up for work and your kids being laid out for you and you head upstairs and have breakfast. Cause the shifts cooked, buffet breakfast, and you have the sign again at lunch.
And then I suppose just the dynamic of the buying group was something just completely unique. My first year at Arsenal had a best score of 25 athletes. We had 14 different nationalities. So coming from IFO where it’s pretty homogenous, really. Like if you or I walked into north Melbourne footy club or course, or one or freemium.
There would be some similarities. There’ll be a lot of similarities, and not too many differences. It’d be pretty same side. I suppose the thing in football or soccer it’s a fairly polarizing sport. It’s obviously a global sport and with that comes, you know, obviously different languages being spoken, but then also different philosophies around preparation training, what the schedule looks like, what you eat how you recover, how you rehab an injury.
So that was a real sort of pinch yourself moment, I suppose it was like, well, this is, yeah, this is big. And in terms of sort of high-performance medical staff, like it came at a period of time of immense change for the club, and I’m not for sure if you, or your sort of listeners or viewers premiere like follow us, but Yas and Benga had been there 22 years.
And so it was a period of immense change and for the club and with that came a lot of staff changes and I was one of seven new sort of performance slash medical staff coming in out of the tape. Well, interestingly enough, in our sort of high-performance medical, I think we had seven nationalities.
So that alone, I mean, we had Portuguese physio Russian data scientist. We had an alarm strength and conditioning coach and American conditioning coach myself a Japanese osteopath. So it was a real melting pot of ideas and, and that, so yeah, I did a presentation over in the UK and I think one of my opening slides was like, we had a team building day.
Suppliers and everyone in the football department, we went paintballing and as a gesture from the cloud on our uniforms, we had to, where are the flags that, where we’re from? And we had a photo at the end, and it just advising say just how many different flags that were being represented within that sort of that football department. So, that was probably those sort of, I suppose, observations with one throughout.
Jack: This is a beast that really does that. It helps to have that understanding of context and it definitely paints a picture of that whole experience made from having bloggers do.
And then they’re like you said that the wealth around the club and the level of detail and care going into presenting your uniform and all that sort of thing, it’s a unique experience and definitely a special one. It’s amazing. And what about as a performance squad? We’ll talk about meetings before and having that high before.
Synergy in Alberta, go toe to toe, but also care, you know, and be on the same page. How were meetings done differently? How did you guys sort of build that synergy and spent down together?
Tim: I think to be honest, I knew those early stages because it was a period of immense change for the club as a whole.
We had a new manager come in. Third, Emory very well-credentialed manager in his own right. Unbelievably dedicated, intelligent operator and his record speaks for himself for himself. So understanding sort of the coaching staff was, you know, and their philosophies and their approach to to the data that I became a really important part of it again when you have a prominent figure like us and you know, that 22 years in the guy that leaves a massive sort of indelible sort of footprint on the club.
Jack: And being able to with him, is that why there was a lot of change or did they just leave because ask them?
Tim: A combination of things. There’s a bit of a mess turnover. I think at some level the club probably saw that as an opportunity for a bit of a restructure. And I suppose that continued a little bit within that sort of high-performance medical space. You know, there was some physios that had been there 14, 15 years, 20, 20 plus years as well. So that’s obviously a challenge in a sort of high-performance medical sense is coming in after pretty well established that practitioners and coaches.
And then trying to forge your own way of doing things and understanding the guys around you and what everyone’s about and what their one wood looks like and how it all sort of works together. So that was some of the early challenges that we faced. Definitely.
Jack: And you mentioned the rehab, those different philosophy amongst practitioners and play. So how did you go about building buy in within your own cohort of staff and then players as well?
Tim: It’s a good question. And something that I probably handle up, like I’ll be went in a bit gung ho I suppose some good advice to me was because I had come from outside of football or soccer was actually laying on that.
And again, as mentioned earlier that football was one of those sports where, you know, we had world cup winners, champions, like winners in our squad and. Yeah, they’re very sort of strong opinions on how things should run. But also they have trophies to that night. You know, I think we had pedal check at one stage.
We had 17 sort of trophies to his name, and now that he’s a big time player. So he, I think he spoke seven languages and, and had some, some strong ideas about this is our three habit hamstrings. This is how to recover for the guy. And then this is that we’re interviewing and training.
Jack: Sorry. Was that when he was dealing with the rehab many rehab or when another player?
Tim: Yeah, it was there. But equal to that. I mean I remember one of my first sort of occasions we had a Spanish player who was X international and he strained his hamstring and he was a 33 year old wingback and it was his first ever soft tissue injury. And I remember quite vividly, I went in to sort of chat to him and start to map out a bit of a rehab plan for him.
Because my role was as rehab coordinator, which to try and bring all the pieces together and, you know, make sure there was some units, yes, some unity between the strength and conditioning, sports science physiotherapy medical, and sort of oversee that process. And to some extent sort of avoid that conveyor belt that, you know, I think a lot of teams and clubs get sucked into doing and ultimately sort of bringing everyone on the same page from day one of an injury.
I remember chatting to the supplier and I said, look, how do you want to manage this? Because one of my big things is, it’s not designing the best rehab plan in the world if you haven’t run it past the athlete themselves. So, generally one of my first ports of call was to go to the athletes.
Even though you’ve never done a soft tissue injury. How do you feel that this should be rehab and with a straight face? His answer to me was, look, I’m flying out tomorrow. I’m going back to Pamplona. I’m going to have 14 days in the sun. I’ll get some red wine and some good food, and then I’ll be back and I’ll try.
And this is a guy who had probably never set foot in the gym was very anti gym and yeah, the whole concept of sort of strength and conditioning and hamstring rehab continuums, all of a sudden flies out the window. So yeah. And then interestingly, probably two weeks later we had a go at sort of do a low grade hamstring on a game day on a Saturday and he was Swiss and I don’t want to generalize in terms of nationalities and those sorts of things.
This was a Saturday afternoon. He strained his hamstring and then Saturday night, about 10 o’clock. He sent me a message and he said, oh, I’ll see you at the club tomorrow morning, 7:00 AM. We start working twice a day, every day until I’m back. That’s like, whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on. So that’s sort of one extreme to the other, but they were sitting next to each other in the same dressing or so I suppose.
So for me it was a little bit of like, how do you package up your rehab to get the maximum buy-in from the flight and incredibly challenging and tell him, don’t get, at times don’t get me wrong. But I suppose again, coming from outside of football, with no football pedigree and, to be honest, the Aussies, we get laughed at a little bit and in a football sense, but one thing we do stack up pretty well with is our physicality and you know, our sports science, sports medicine practitioners across the world are pretty well-regarded.
Interestingly, a lot of the players have come across Aussies in their clubs or junior grades or in their travels, which I’m probably piggyback on the back of that a little bit.
Jack: That’s awesome to hear. We’re involved at that level. It’s pretty impressive for a country of our size and amount of people we have and we’re stacking up in that world, that world level, particularly in EPL, it doesn’t get much bigger. So oh, that’s amazing. Why did you end up doing with the Sage or your health Spanish plan? Did he end up going on these trips?
Tim: I think we broke it a bit of a deal. I think he went away for four days and then came back and yeah, look, we went to all sorts of measures that show and you know, strategy to try and get him.
I engaged in some strength work and that sort of stuff. And some of it is a little bit biased, you know, we’d do, we’d take the kettlebells out and leave them pitch side and take a barbell out. And you almost trick him into doing some eccentric strength load albeit pitch side at various points.
So it was just, I find it trying to find different ways to skin the cat, so to speak.
Jack: And that method of asking the player first is your first interaction into race. How did you, how’d you come up with with that? Is that something that you’ve done for a wall as a mental, or have you seen someone else do that and you’ve sort of taken her on or yeah, take us through that process.
Tim: To be brutally honest, I probably learned the hard way. I think back to some of my early sort of JWS days and you know, a couple of players there, I’m sure they don’t mind me saying that Phil Davis was. Yeah, we go back. We’re great friends. And and that early days is, I suppose, questioning of me was you haven’t asked me once what I think about any of this.
And Phil’s a great operator. You’re probably aware of some of his work podcasts and in the media and that sort of stuff. He’s an astute, intelligent guy. And I was probably at the front end of my sort of career and, you know, full time since working in elite sport and it’s something I’ll never really, you’re a bit headstrong and you’ve got a healthy ego and that sort of stuff, you know, that was probably the white cup coordinated from someone like that to say, Hey, hold on.
What are you on about, like, you haven’t even once talked to me about what you’ve got planned. Like where do you think that sits with me? So that, that was a good wake up call. I feel when we joke about some of those, those early sort of robust discussions and in a similar vein, like Chad Cornes was, he had the back end of his career at GWS and we’ve become really good friends, but there were moments, there were similar sort of thing.
And he’s like, look you’d not once sort of challenged me as to what I feel like I need. And so, that’s just when it comes from the athlete, that’s can’t get any more sort of influential than that really.
Jack: And I thank you for sharing that. That’s great advice that speaks to volumes on what you said before that you’ve learned from everyone that you’ve been, that you’ve worked with an echo show.
It’s not just learning off people in your tray, but also the players that you work from, you can get a lot out of that. And thanks, man. Really appreciate that. What about from on the player’s point of view is you’ve worked. The top key players in the NFL, but also will athletes in English, premier league are they a common mindset? And why about the athletes that are high performance from a consistency point of view and that developing athletes can aspire to work towards?
Tim: That’s a good question. suppose one of the privileges that I’ve had in my experience in in rehab, it’s a tough time for the athletes, that their identity in a certain sense is lost for that period.
And I think the guys that this whole idea of resilience and robustness, I think those sort of words get thrown around a bit too liberally at times, but I think want to stay like the guys who, one of the common themes that I’ve seen across really good athletes is that ability just to deal with adversity.
And in that rehab space, I suppose that takes the form of, often it’s two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward, one step back. It’s never linear, it’s never exponential. So I suppose that the guys that have that ability to, to sort of cope, you know, mentally and physically with that adversity and that sort of non-linear rehab pathway I think is really, really good.
And then not sort of some of the great athletes that I’ve worked with. I think there’s a sense that they’re very humble that that’s also a big part of their makeup, but ultimately they’re hard workers and I have work ethic and they’ll front up and they’ll grow on and embrace the grinder at various points.
And I think you can sort of tip toe around it a little bit, but the great athletes work the hardest. More often than not. Off the top of my head, a point to someone like Travis spoke and unbelievable privilege to be able to sort of work alongside someone like triumph because in a positive way will question everything he’s doing and be really fastidious about his preparation, his training, his recovery, those sorts of things.
But he’s always looking for the next 1% or 2% and have some confidence in the fact that he’s done, he’s done the big rocks across his week and you know, his preparation is, is spot on. And that’s where he gets his confidence from. And seeing that sort of evolution of someone, like Trev, I think that’s super impressive and that’s probably a trait as well.
A lot of the best athletes I’ve worked with sort of share that ability to sort of keep reinventing and embrace new challenges. And I have that attention to detail.
Jack: Yeah, it’s a good point. You make there, like the big rocks and ticking those off. So new conference point of view, but then not getting complacent, like still focusing on getting better.
It’s not like it’s sort of just on maintenance mode and still working on those 1% is all the time while not throwing the baby out the bathwater and always just changing stuff all the time. It’s a tough balance to get as much.
Tim: Yeah, absolutely.
Jack: And is that something that he showed like from early stage and has always had that it was eat during develop that?
Tim: I’m probably not talking at a school when it comes to someone like tread, but I think it’s the mindset that is evolved over time. And I think it’d be one of the first people to admit that if he had his time again, he would do things differently, but it’s that ability to recognize key moments and key opportunities for change, which I think sets him apart from a lot of others.
Jack: And what about yourself personally? What has been one of your biggest challenges that you’ve faced and what did you learn from?
Tim: I think they know, honestly, probably the move to the UK was a big one where the young family and wife and the unknown going into a fairly, what is a traditionally, fairly volatile sort of industry.
And again, coming from outside of the sport I think was probably the hardest, but best thing I’ve ever done in a professional sense. A lot of, sort of sink-or-swim moments and I think that’s probably been one of the greatest, I suppose, challenges but equally one of the most rewarding as well.
Jack: And was it black? You mentioned how you in late sport, the chat, one of the challenges is managing, looking at your show and if a job security was that twofold when you’re in another country in English, premier league, or is it similar to AFL?
Tim: There is an element of sort of job protection mode and looking over your shoulder and the volatility of the industry. I think some of that points a little bit to the structure, the way things are, you know, it’s a private ownership structure. Coaches come and go. I think it was probably Chris Morgan said to me in early days, he said, look, this is a bit of a circus. And just remember a manager’s only four to six bad weeks away from getting the sack.
So you sort of go in a little bit with eyes open, but it’s not until you’re on the ground that you realize that. And I think one of the great things in Australian sport in a way is you know, especially my experience in IFO is we really do embrace some of that those robust discussions and those sorts of things.
I don’t think people at, when I was involved with football were probably a little bit more guarded and there was a little bit of a period where everyone was just trying to suss each other out. And we’d all sort of be to a certain extent thrown together within short space of time, again, in a period of immense change.
So there’s probably more at risk as well, you’re halfway across the world. You don’t really have a network. You don’t really have a safety net either. So, in that sense it was there were some elements of we’re on a knife’s edge here, but I suppose that to some inmate that the highs are really high as well.
Jack: And then when you came back to Australia, did you feel that that period over in the UK was a time where you’d really ingrained your philosophy or is your philosophy selling, you constantly sort of tweaking as your career progresses?
Tim: I’d like to think it’s continually evolving. There’s certainly been stuff I’ve brought back. I think the first thing, you know, I probably don’t take myself as seriously as I used to, I sort of understand what my one word is and I’m never going to be a brilliant clinician. I’m not going to be a brilliant diagnostic, clinician or manual therapist per se.
I know where my strengths lie and I’d probably feel more comfortable within that skillset, but then they call to that. I’m probably less resistant to embracing new ideas. And one of the things that I’ve noticed coming back into AFL is its greatest strength is almost its greatest weakness.
It’s a pretty homogenous environment in many respects. Being able to sort of draw on some of those experiences, which initially I probably would have found out or probably didn’t embrace completely, I’ve found myself leaning on a little bit now back in Australia.
Jack: And is it like working with those athletes that have come from different backgrounds and presented with different cases, do you feel that you learn different ways of doing a hamstring rehab by seeing different methodologies and speaking to all these different types of people or more just ingrained that your methods were something that you want to stick to? And it’s more about actually just getting people to adhere to the philosophy or the methods, if that makes sense.
Tim: Yeah, probably sitting on the fence a little bit, but I think one of the big things that I have done with. Is, and I think, a lot of the young sort of strength and conditioning coaches and young physios or anyone really working in the space yet you almost have this urgency to do more and more and more.
And what I suppose the football experience taught me was that you can actually do a lot with not much. For instance, if you’ve got a player that doesn’t want to engage in the gym, then you’ve got to find a different way to sorta skin the cat, so to speak. So I’ve found that I haven’t, I suppose, had the temptation to throw a million things at players and probably it’s solidified, what the big rocks are and, and, and what I would like to lean on in players rehab, and sort of strength and conditioning programs.
So that’s probably the big thing. So it’s that sense of sort of deep pottering and having a better understanding of, of what. Yeah, he has key foundation or your key, your big rocks are in a rehab. So, and often, like I said, a lot of young coaches in my experience and I’ll absolutely put my hand up and say, I’ve been there, like, you’d want to throw everything at the athlete.
And you just almost get seduced with the opportunity to almost show off a little bit. I suppose in time you realize that there is a lot of clutter in doing that and yeah. And sometimes just the simplicity it’s very classic cliche, but simplicity is best.
Jack: And what about yourself? Like what is one of your favorite ways to develop your own knowledge? Do you focus on, if you’re taking a player through a hamstring rehabilitation. Is that an area that you do more research on because that’s specific to your role in that position?
Or like you mentioned how a high performance culture is something you’re interested in the moment. So we wrote a book on that. Like, is it quite specific or is it more just general in how you upskill yourself over your career?
Tim: Yeah. I suppose I’ve never really been strategic about it, but probably like yourself, like your offerings with social media podcasts, Twitter, even that sort of thing, but probably the big thing is actually engaging with people. And I think I touched on it earlier that generally speaking, most people are pretty willing to pick up the phone or reply to an email especially in AFL circles, we’ve got a great cohort as you know of strength and conditioning coaches and physios.
You’re on your phone call a Y. And so that’s been something that otherwise tried to lean on a little bit. And then I suppose it goes back to what I said earlier about not knowing everything and achieve sort of fronting up with, without all the answers I think is actually pretty positive thing in terms of being able to engage with others and other professionals in terms of what you have. I look at I have had a more recent interest in that sort of, what makes a high performing team tick at a coaching level, at a flying level, whether at a high-performance medical level.
And that’s a strong area of interest for me. But I’ll look all, it would consume all sorts of podcasts and then the light books, that sort of thing. So not any one thing and nothing. There’s no strategy surrounding it, I suppose.
Jack: That makes sense. So you’ll lean on people that are almost have experience and knowledge in that area. And then using podcasts research to rate and upskill yourself that way. And then that way going in, we informed, I guess, for those conversations and it sounds like it’s areas that are relevant to what you’re currently doing and what you’re currently interested in. But it doesn’t need to be a set structure, so to speak it’s more, more in flow.
Tim: Yes. Yep.
Jack: And what about journaling and noting things down? Is there, did he keep it informal? Or are you someone that likes to note things down and have a document? So there’s a process with at all?
Tim: I’ve never sort of gone down the journal or sort of self-reflection path per se, and actually listen to a podcast or high-performance podcasts with Dan Carter.
And he was talking about that the importance of his day-to-day journal and mapping out his day. But then that said I suppose one of the things that I have, that’s been a big part of my practice has been keeping good records being fairly sort of diligent with the planning and keeping good records to reflect on because ultimately no to sort of rehabs or rather the side and nor should they be.
And we work in a time poor. So I suppose, cutthroat industry and if you’ve ever had a perfect rehab, then the chances are, you’ve probably taken too long to get the player there. So, a lot of that is that reflection on some of your learnings, because every rehab is different.
And so keeping good notes and documenting what you do, how you do it, what went well, where you’re stuffed up those sort of things. I think a really important even this week, I pulled out a rehab plan of a player in 2011 that I worked on with JWS, with a similar sort of injury, just to have a look at what were some of the processes and sort of course of action that was taken then, but equal to that, it’s like, just have a look at that evolution of how things have changed in 10 years and how I’ve changed my practice.
Jack: And in that reporting, keeping your records process. So you’ve got the qualitative data, I imagine. And then what sort of quantitative are you noting? You’re noting things like how the athlete is presented from a mood point of view, or is it more screening information and sort of your subjective view on things? What do you think is important for practitioners to know during the rehab?
Tim: I think, there’s high scrutiny in AFL, especially. So, your objective data is pretty easy to come by. It’s abundant, there’s lots of, but I’d probably lean more towards the sub subjective stuff.
Those discussions you have with the athlete, with other practitioners, those sorts of things. Just that mud mapping of ideas I think is really important. And yeah, that’s the stuff I lean on probably more so, apply it as a running session. I always sort of brought, might just be a one or two lines at the end of their session as this like horrible guy, felt rubbish.
They felt trapped, moody, didn’t sleep well or adversely. Smashed it out of the park, let’s progress next session, blah, blah, blah. And I think that’s probably where you get your biggest sort of nuggets. It’s just one or two lines, just some, cause it’s a moving, moving phase, so to speak and I tend to lean on that a little bit, even just some of those incidental, cues that you pick up in discussions with athletes, like an example being, player might have a young family not sleeping well, and I know you’ve been there, I’ve been there.
And so, just those little things that are going to impact on the day-to-day and how things will take shape I think is really important. And you can marry that up with as much objective data as you like, but ultimately if you don’t have that core understanding of where the athlete is at then you’re probably not going to make as efficient inroads in their rehab sort of process. So that’s my big thing is it’s just little snippets of subjective stuff on.
Jack: Thanks for sharing. That’s great. Cause anyone at any level can start practicing that. Which is an awesome takeaway for practitioners listening in and you’ll, it sounds like you also use that retrospectively with years in the future.
What about like on a weekly point of view, when you said you were diligent with your planning, do you, because you’ve written that down, do you feel like you just sort of memorize that by writing anyway, like in the short period of time? Or do you look back on when you’re on a Sunday maybe, and look back at the week one to two sentences, just to get that context before you do your block, your next training block?
Tim: It’s always a reflective process. And then almost like I talk about planning, but I’m also never so rigid in the plan. And that’s probably one thing that has developed over the years. It’s just that willingness to be able to change tech a little bit and even on the fly. I think one of the key things is if you’ve got the.
The sort of cornerstones or the fundamentals of your session sort of locked away. And you’ve got a really good understanding of that, that’s the sort of science bit, and thenit’s how you deliver and how you sort of modify according to how the athlete’s feeling or so forth, which isn’t really the art or the craft of it.
So I always like to feel like I’ve got a good grasp of what the program looks like. But then I’ll never so stubborn that I won’t change because it’s written down, if that makes sense. And I absolutely used to, I suppose in my early days used to almost get stressed by the fact that, we weren’t following things strictly equal to that GPS numbers and those sorts of things.
It’s like I think you’ve got to have a sense of this is a moving feast and as long as you’re getting your big ticket items across your rehab site, you still need to have some flexibility in that. So that’s probably how it impacts mostly on planning. Definitely.
Jack: The Lucas, one of the leukocyte days who’s joining in live is written in a couple of questions for Timmy’s first one would be, do you ever lie to a player regarding an injury to change their mentality about it?
Tim: That’s a great question. It’s probably a loaded question. I think some of your messaging is really important. Well I don’t think you ever actively lie, but you might pay a slightly more favorable version of the truth. And I suppose at the end of the day, like if your intention is good and you’re genuinely doing, trying to do the best thing for the athlete look at maybe you’re hosing down some anxieties or some fear avoidance behind is.
Or even just so that player’s mindset. If you choose to just nudge that, then I think you can craft versions of the truth. But I don’t think you would ever blatantly lie while I tell the athlete. And again, if your intent is to do the best by then, then I think that’s probably a reasonable place for it, but great question.
Jack: He’s written another question. How often do play stick to the recovery plan? A hundred percent. It may be re potentially rehab plan a hundred percent, I imagine. How often do players stick to their rehabilitation plan?
Tim: It’s a tricky one to answer. I suppose the main thing is it’s never set in stone. I think whenever you map out a rehab plan, you always have a sort of asterisk is to your best case, worst case and most realistic case scenario. And as I touched on earlier, there’s no such thing as a perfect rehab, by any stretch, but equal to that. And you can have rehabs that exceeded your expectations and that’s where you need to lean on your sort of clinical experience and the experience of the high-performance practitioners around you to bounce ideas.
And it’s like, can we push this? Probably in terms of putting a number to it, you’d hope that you get most of them around the ballpark, but obviously people, things happen and guys progress, or they even regressive at certain points. I think one of the things that a lot of people lose sight of is, and it being in and around the industry is that it is the pointy end of the industry.
So there is an expectation to, to push the envelope at certain points and, and it’s not a risk free environment either. And I think that’s where your communication with the athlete comes in. And lying out. It probably is in columns and Mikey show, the athlete has a good understanding and the coaching staff and the other set of heartfulness staff have a good understanding of what are the risks and what are the, ultimately the rewards, if you go down a certain path. So, I mean, very rarely do you get it sort of spot on to the day. That’s for sure.
Jack: It will move to the more personal side, lighter side of, the movie or TV theory has impacted you the most and why?
Tim: That’s a good question. Okay. That’s probably a big play show. One of my favorites is the soprano. So I don’t know. That’s probably more like the dynamic of how that all works. Yeah, that’s probably one thing.
Jack: Favorite, inspirational quote or life motto?
Tim: Probably one of the things that over the journey, I’ve driven, people mad with athletes, primarily as my quotes Kevin shady had one which I use and I’ve even got on the little plaque on my desk at the Adelaide footy club, which is the system is a solution.
And a cup of water, a lot of shit for that. And that probably points a little bit to my sort of need to have a system in place. So that’s probably probably one you know, good is the enemy of great, that’s probably another 80% of success is showing up. I don’t know who said that, but I’ve heard that sort of slept around and, and they’d probably in a rehab sets one that I’ve tried it out on more than one occasion is, journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. It’s a bit corny to say it out loud, but that’s where I had, you gotta start somewhere. That’s the journey.
Jack: Awesome. Love those ones. What about in your work life? What are your pet peeves or angry?
Tim: I think there’s a couple of things. I think the first thing is like I’m not saying this because it’s an issue with it at any point, but one of the things I struggle with is people who aren’t willing to engage with each other and that sort of high-performance medical space.
They’re not willing to embrace the transparency aspect of the business. So that’s something that kind of annoys me, but really, I don’t like turf wars, but that like, the sort of people working in silos that frustrates me at a professional level. And then communication I think is pretty again, it’s so cliche, but it’s pretty important. And then don’t or refuse to communicate sort of drove me a bit mad at various points.
Jack: You mentioned knowing your one word in your strengths, is that your strength is the ability to be able to team and work collaboratively with different practitioners?
Tim: I’ve never actually thought about it as being a strength, but I think you’re getting the right people in the room and then having the right conversations, I think is a strength of mine. Again, sort of honing in on that, developing relationships on a thing. So I think, yes, it’s probably something I could sort of hang my head on a little bit.
Jack: Sure. What’s your favorite way to spend your day off?
Tim: I’ve got a young family, so I’ve got a two year old and a five-year old two girls and they keep me busy enough.
It’s probably more geared around family time. They’ve enjoyed a really nice off season this year, getting my weekends back and so forth. And just through October, we’ve had a couple of birthdays and yeah. So I suppose, some family time and then I’ll probably like most other guys here, I’ll take it the gym or if I can get out on a road bike and knock a few guys over, but as you know, with a young family, that’s sometimes easier said than done.
Jack: And in a COVID free world, favorite holiday destination?
Tim: Well, it’s interesting you touch on COVID. I mean, know we loved London. So this fantastic city, brilliant place. It seemed to be the hub of Europe for us. So probably a little bit biased and I’d say so London.
Jack: I will start to wrap it up, mate. You’re now, had physio, had laid back team. It’s the 18 with Berto. What’s in the pipeline for 2022? And what’s the rest of the year look like for you?
Tim: Look touch wood. It’s not a COVID interrupted year. I think a lot of people across the industry and, you know, at every level it’s sort of community this semi-professional to a light I’ve taken a bit of a hit in various ways. So that’s probably the first thing is that it is a COVID for a year and uninterrupted. That’s my first.
I suppose at a club level where we’re a young squad, I think we’ll go into the season being the youngest list again. Having had a few older players leave at the end of last year. So that’s going to present some challenges. There’s certainly some good optimism and, and some good thoughts about the place and having finished the year up strongly. And I suppose having at the club will be really positive, I think in terms of not just driving some cultural change and pushing the envelope and really putting a high performance lens on the total program.
Which is not to say it wasn’t there, but just having a point of difference and another voice and I think it’s going to be an exciting year. But equal to that, it’s going to have its challenges because it’s a cutthroat industry.
Jack: A hundred percent. Well, thanks so much for sharing mate, your journey and your story. You’ve lived a full life and there’s plenty more exciting things to come out, but thanks so much for sharing your time and energy tonight, mate, and, really, I took a lot out of it and I know the listeners of this podcast have as well. So thank you. Thanks for jumping on.
Tim: No problems. Thanks. I think that’s a really good guide to chat. Awesome.
Jack: Thank you for listening guys. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to hit the notification button on your Spotify to get a notification. When we have a new episode and our next live chat is with Cameron Faloon, the founder and joint CEO of Body Fit Training on Thursday at 8:30 PM. So I’ll see you guys then. Cheers.
Thank you for listening to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast. If you liked this episode, it’d be a massive help, if you could like, follow, rate, give a review or even share with your mates. The show is recorded in Melbourne, Australia. Be sure to follow our Instagram page for all updates on our latest and greatest. If you would like to get in touch to suggest a guest or advertise with the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much for tuning in.