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Coaching Connections

Coaching Connections

May 01, 2023 Posted in: Patients & Providers  3 minute read time


Working with pediatric patients as a physical therapist helps Lauren Lunsford relate to the young soccer players she coaches. She also takes lessons from the soccer field back to the clinic.

A physical therapist at Saint Joseph Berea for four years, Lauren Lunsford, PT, DPT, is passionate about educating patients and helping them heal. She works with people of all ages, including children. It’s a patient population she admits she didn’t envision treating when she entered the field. Over time, however, she became more comfortable working with young patients, and it helped with her other passion — coaching soccer.

“Working with kids in the clinic, learning what motivates them and how to speak to them effectively, has really helped me better engage with them,” Lunsford said. “It’s enhanced my ability to reach the kids I coach.”

Getting Her Kicks

A former soccer player herself, Lunsford was motivated to get into youth coaching when her daughter, Josie, expressed interest in playing. Now in her third year of coaching, Lunsford leads Josie’s coed U7 (younger than age 7) team with the Madison United Soccer Association. The team finished its fall season last October and is gearing up for the beginning of the spring season in March.

“Coaching is fun,” Lunsford said. “What’s neat is the kids’ capacity for growth. I expect more out of my players than just kicking and running. We work on specific skills that will help them at each age level, like recognizing when a teammate is open. We practice these skills as the players mature and develop. It’s so rewarding to see them demonstrate in games the skills that we spend time practicing.”

It’s an end-of-season tradition for Lunsford to bestow a unique title on each player that reflects his or her growth.

“I might tell a player, ‘When we needed you scoring or playing defense, I knew you were going to do your best,’” Lunsford said. “I like to highlight their strengths.”

The Power of Positivity

Motivating young soccer players can be tough. So can persuading children to work on building strength and range of motion after an injury or surgery. Leading her daughter’s soccer team helps Lunsford get through to young patients who’d rather be doing almost anything other than physical therapy.

“Using positive language is important,” Lunsford said. “Switching the conversation from ‘No, don’t do that’ to ‘Here’s what we can do’ is huge in both soccer and physical therapy. I stay on the positive side of things.”

"When I invest time with a patient or player and see growth and development, it’s beautiful. That’s why I’m a coach and a physical therapist.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Winter 2023 print edition of Spirit of Health.

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