Anyone who has watched a Little League game knows how competitive parents can be about their kids in sports. That's why there's a lot of untapped demand for athletic training for elementary and high school students that goes beyond what they learn from their coaches in practice. There's also room to do a lot of good for these aspiring athletes. Mike Flynn of Rebound Sports Performance in Topeka, Kan., worked as a physical therapist and saw a need for more specialized training. "We got sick and tired of seeing the kids with the same injuries in the PT clinic," he says. Rebound Sports's clients are mostly high school and middle school kids. It works with them on ways to do speed and strength conditioning without getting hurt. Flynn says his business is the only one in town.
Running this business combines the fun of sports and working with kids with the fast pace of marketing a service. That can be hectic if you don't have business experience. "I'm coming from a background in athletic training, and my real job is business development," Flynn says. "You're creating a new professional experience for yourself." That means this business fits someone who is an accomplished multitasker. Mark Nemish is a former trainer for Vanderbilt University and the Nashville Predators hockey team who launched Dynamic Sports Performance of Ashburn, Va., in 2004. "You're not just responsible for the [training] programs," he says. "Now you're responsible for all the administrative programs. There are a million hats you have to put on." What makes the stress worth it? "The biggest thing is parents calling up and saying you made such a difference in my kids' lives."
What does it pay?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for athletic trainers in May 2007 was $40,720.
What kind of background do you need?
Having worked as an athletic trainer for any kind of team, from school to professional, is probably necessary. Experience in training can make finding clients much easier, not only because it helps your reputation but because it gives you connections. If you know coaches at schools in your area, for example, you already have a network of people from which to draw clients. Connections are the main reason that Nemish has been able to expand his business. Nemish also says that a graduate degree in a field related to athletic training—he holds a master's in exercise science—can shore up your expertise and win over parents and athletes.
How do you get started?
Use connections at local schools to get your name out there. Once you've had a few satisfied clients, you're likely to get more business from their team members once word gets out. "Word of mouth is the biggest part of our business," Nemish says. If you don't start out with enough capital to rent your own facilities, you can even try to use a school's facilities to work with your athletes.
- Introduction to Athletic Training by Susan Kay Hillman