Those familiar with the women’s game in this country will know that it’s a big year for both the padded and flag programs with World and European championships respectively.
While the players will be going through their paces looking for selection, one person who will be helping them along the way and making sure they’re in the best physical condition possible will be their team therapist, Naomi Maycock.
Naomi has played a number of sports herself having been an academy and county level netballer and national level equestrian, but a foot injury at the age of 15 stopped her riding career as she spent 10 weeks in an air cast. It was at university, like we find with many people, that Naomi first got into American Football but hers was a very different journey to others.
“I went to university and started playing rugby but a few of my friends were playing American Football so went along to watch. I’ll freely admit that I was very bored when I first went to watch as I had no idea of the rules or any clue what was going on! But in my third year I was asked if I wanted to do my final year placement for my Sports Therapy degree working with the BUCS Gloucester Gladiators and I thought, ‘Why not!’ I went to the pre season camp, had a go at the drills, tried on a lid and pads to get the whole experience. I stayed with them through the whole of their (successful) season.”
After graduating Naomi went on to work with the Gloucester Centurions but it was while still at university that Naomi started her journey towards being a therapist at the top level.
“One of the players from the Gladiators was selected to play for GB Students so I contacted the team and asked if it was possible to go along to the training to get some work experience from a sports therapy perspective. And since then my role has grown and grown!”
And by quite some measure! Naomi has a lot going on in her life with her own clinic, working with a men’s rugby team and then the Oxford Saints American Football team, working as the Anti-Doping Co-ordinator for BAFA as well as undertaking a Professional Practice Masters in Sports Therapy. And of course let’s not forget her role with the GB contact and flag teams which she says is her biggest achievement to date.
“It is such a honour and a privilege working with such a great group of women. With such a big year ahead for both teams there is a lot of background work that goes in to getting these women to their peak playing ability. But the women just work solidly through it. There’s a lot we’re doing from screenings, baselines, prehab and rehab, but it’s all a very closely guarded secret! Can’t let our competitors read this!
One thing that the other teams that the GB sides will face this year will be aware of is the sort of injuries that crop up. Having had a number of years of working with teams now, Naomi is well briefed too.
“Most common are problems surrounding shoulders, knees, ankles and hands and fingers. But also there are concussions. What we tend to find is the level of the athlete does have an impact on the level of injury. The more efficient the technique used, the lower the injury risk.”
Naomi is fortunate to be working with the GB women’s sides but she says for a lot of people both inside and outside the sport there are still a lot of gender stereotypes. The comments such as ‘it’s rugby for wimps’ is something that Naomi has heard on more than a few occasions.
“People are genuinely surprised at how big the game of football is becoming in the UK but even more so that not only is there a women’s section of the game, but how good the women are.
For many people it is still tough to be a woman in a man’s sport, I haven’t had these problems, I am lucky that the men that I work with trust and respect me, but I know that isn’t the case for other women in sport. It’s improving and I hope that the more people see women undertaking roles in sport, attitudes will continue to change. In both the GB women’s teams those involved are shooing away the stereotypes and carrying on as if there are no differences.”
Naomi couldn’t be happier in the role that she is in. She feels that in American Football she has found her niche, and while she admits there are long and sometimes unsociable hours involved, she gets so much from helping people get back into sport and would encourage others to do the same.
“It’s such a great career and I would recommend sports therapy especially within American Football. I’ve worked hard to achieve this much in such a short space of time but I took every opportunity that came along and would recommend others do too. The key is having passion for what you do and the rewards will come.”