What Not To Do / Elite Sport  / Do not move out of your lane to impress
elite sports david clancy

Do not move out of your lane to impress

I have made a few mistakes when working as a sports physiotherapist with one team. The main one is I have not always “stayed in my lane”. Do not do that! Aim to stay in your lane of skill, expertise and experience. Do not try to shine in other areas, even if you feel you have the capabilities to blossom there too. Do your job and only yours, and not that of others.

Education and Experience

I studied physiotherapy in university. I completed a masters to further dig in this area, to learn more and be better. I completed clinical placements. I worked in public and private healthcare settings. I was a pitch-side physiotherapist for rugby and football. I have lectured and presented internationally. I have written peer-reviewed articles, and chapters in sports medicine textbooks. I’ve setup a podcast based around stories and lessons of high performance. I founded my own whole person wellbeing company, all this as a physiotherapist. I repeat, as a physiotherapist, as my identity.

I have read books and attended courses in other disciplines, from areas such as performance psychology to leadership development. Whilst those other cognitively diverse experiences have certainly helped me with certain jobs and at specific times in my professional career, what got me involved with some teams were my skills and competencies as a highly trained physiotherapist. That is what I studied. That is what I practised. That is why they employ me.

They do not employ me to do other things! They want me to do what it says on the tin, to be a sports physiotherapist; rehabbing and monitoring the recovery of their players both physically and mentally. Can they play? When can they play? Period. Know my lane and own that specific lane.

What Not To Do

Then I got two big learning experiences of what not to do for sure.

  • When you are invited somewhere to assess and monitor a player, from a medical and future performance capability perspective, Do not step out of your lane of practice! It was felt I over-stepped my boundaries during a consultation once. I got calls from the Team Manager and I really had to dig myself out of that hole. I assessed another player that I should not have, at someone else’s request. Do not do this. Follow what your “employer” wants you to do. Do that well and do it right.
  • A similar situation transpired another time when they thought I was doing many things outside of the box of ‘just physio’ and that confused them and irritated them. The Team Manager thought I was there as a sports physiotherapist for their specified players only, not to do the other things I was doing – again, perhaps leaning in a little bit much, and compromising the position that I was hired for. Do not make these mistakes. Understand what you can and should do, and only if requested, then do more. If you do great work – you will impress. If you step over the line thinking that is what you should do, think again. It could cost you.

To be a peak performer in a chosen field we often feel as though we need to do many things at a high level, and to keep impressing. From my experience, that is not always the case. Do what you are supposed to do and at an exceptional level. Let the other professionals do their jobs, and do not try to do parts of theirs too.

Stay in your lane

Do not step on other people’s toes. Stay in your lane. Know yours – and run fast and graceful in it.

Focus on being good at a few things, rather than trying to do it all. You cannot excel in everything, as much as we would try. To be a subject matter expert or thought leader do not try to reach the top in many diverse skills. Be a specialist first and a generalist later, but only after you have acquired a depth of experience and expertise in your chosen craft and after plenty of graft. Only after that, should you consider widening out, provided the decision makers above are happy for you to do so.

Do not overstep what you should do. Do not move out of your lane.

Top Tip

Find your passion and purpose, be clear and succinct on this. Build out your 5 core values.

Recognise when you are on a path to something you really enjoy doing, a career that feeds your creativity, curiosity, learning and development and that nurtures your body, mind, and soul.

Then focus and dig deep for oil in that area. Become an expert in that craft. Hone your skills and toolbox. Sharpen your saw. Clean the sheds. Find your mentors – your who of who’s. Understand your why and what makes you tick. Stay in that lane for a while. You will then create a bank of expertise to call on and lean on forever. Specialise to actualise first. Then maybe consider moving out of your lane and become a generalist if you want and when you want.

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