Why Volunteer? And When is Enough, Enough?

By Cassandra Gramozi, Manager of NLSSM

How work experience and volunteering got me to where I am now in elite sport… 

I graduated from NLSSM nearly 10 years ago and didn’t know where I wanted my qualification to take me. I guess I kind of fell into my passion without even realising it. I am currently employed by the Football Association and work with the England Mens U21’s Football Team as a consultant therapist.

Previously to this, I worked for the English Institute of Sports where I was the sole Soft Tissue Therapist for both men’s and woman’s GB Hockey teams as well as working in Team GB’s Intensive Rehabilitation Centre. This is run in partnership with EIS and the British Olympic Association as part of a medical rehabilitation team for all GB Olympic athletes. 

Before this I spent three years at a premiership rugby team based in London and also gained invaluable experience in private practice (I still do to this day!).

I am not listing off my CV for points or kudos. The purpose is to highlight some of the most important reasons that got me to where I am today. 

One of the most popular questions I am asked by students and graduates is:

‘How did you make it into the sport? What’s the magic ingredient?’.

And whether it is a sport that is your passion or a private clinic (the joy of your newfound skill set… you have options!) the answer is experience. 

How did I end up where I am now?

The teaching and education that I received from NLSSM put me in the best possible position going out into the big wide world of Sports Massage, but I used my initiative and people skills, called various clubs and asked if they would be willing to take on a newly qualified therapist to help out with their medical department for the season.

So I ended up assisting the lead physiotherapist at Saracens Academy once a week. It wasn’t long until they asked me to begin helping out with the senior squad as my skills and confidence progressed. After the first season, they asked me back and we agreed on an hourly fee.

If it wasn’t for the experience and opportunity I wouldn’t have been able to apply for the job at Wasps RFC (Previously London Wasps RFC) when it came up and it’s where I stayed for three seasons. Do you see where I am going with this? Because of my time volunteering, I now had a background in sport and gained positive references from those I had worked alongside.

Fast forward three years later I found myself sitting on the interview panel to find my successor at Wasps RFC. It came down to two final candidates and one of them was a graduate of NLSSM. While that NLSSM graduate strongly impressed the panel (they had just graduated and they were being interviewed for a professional sports club!) they narrowly missed out because they lacked the actual hands-on experience and practical application. 

This is one of the main reasons we recommend anyone who wants to get into professional sport to take advantage and do one of our work experience opportunities.  This would have made all the difference for our graduate, but they did get asked back to help out during the season. 

What am I trying to tell you here?

Take the opportunities that are presented to you.

While I know that not everyone has the luxury to take time away from work with full-time jobs, child care etc…I make no qualms about it, juggling life as such to fit in my work placement was by no means easy but am I glad I did it? Without a shadow of a doubt. I am not saying that every work placement or volunteer opportunity will lead directly to a paid job and may not be measurable in terms of employment right there and then BUT it does give you:

Networking – meet others in the industry. You are your best advertisement. Show it off!

• Potential to gain further work – it may not be returned right away but you never know what the professional relationships you build may bring you later. Some of these relationships I developed early on in my career are coming to fruition 10 years later!

• Gain confidence in working with real bodies and real situations.

Work alongside and observe other professionals. This is continuing professional development in itself.

• Expand your knowledge in a way that a classroom cannot

Take the opportunities that are out there. Some will not work but many will. Know your worth and set yourself boundaries of how much you are willing to give for ‘free’ and remember it needs to be a two way agreement. But most of all grab the opportunities and make the most of them for your own future progression.

NOTE: This article was written and first published in 2016. Updated 2022.

About Cassandra

Since graduating from NLSSM in 2008, Cassandra has been working in Sports Massage, seeing first-hand the positive effects of soft tissue therapy in a variety of settings.

Cassandra’s interest in Pilates and movement began when she started at Saracens RFC in 2008, before moving to Wasps RFC in 2010 as Senior Soft Tissue Therapist. After three seasons at Wasps, Cassandra moved into the world of Olympic Sports and spent the next four years working in the English Institute of Sport and the Intensive Rehabilitation Unit. For the last 3 years, Cassandra has been working for the Football Association as a consultant Soft Tissue Therapist to the U21 Men’s England football team.

Cassandra is also a qualified Polestar Pilates Instructor and trained in Comprehensive Pilates. Loves working with clients for sports rehab, oncology clients and older adults. She uses her manual therapy skills to assist movement and help you achieve more from every session. For pre and post-natal clients, she is also the perfect choice, particularly in your third trimester.

When she is not in the studio you can find her managing NLSSM or lecturing on the diploma course.

Gain experience with us!

At NLSSM, we recognise the importance of helping prepare you for life after graduation, we understand what employers want, this is why we offer a variety of opportunities to ensure you stand out as a Sports Massage and Remedial Soft Tissue Therapist. 

Check out a few examples of our latest work experience opportunities here. 

If you would like to find out more about our Level 5 BTEC diploma course, then please visit our Diploma page below.  

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