No matter the sport you play, injuries are a part of the game. When you are playing at a high level, you depend on your trainers, as much as your coaches, to ensure your health is a priority. When you want to play through it you need to know they’ve got your back.
During the Women’s Softball European Championship we spoke with Ireland’s team trainer, Esther Van Verseveld, to learn more about the life of a trainer.
Van Verseveld is no stranger to competitive sports. A former professional cyclist she holds the Silver Medal in the UCI Road World Championship. Today she’s sports massage therapist who calls The Netherlands.
Esther began her career as a direct result of her experiences in cycling, “I toured all over the world with my profession and that’s how I came in contact with sports massage therapy. I studied it and I do that now for the Irish team.”
How did you get involved with softball specifically?
My husband used to be a baseball player and my daughter, she’s 18, she’s a softball player in The Netherlands so that’s how I got into softball.
Two years ago Team Ireland was looking for a sports massage therapist for the Europeans, which were held in The Netherlands. They got in contact with me. Ever since I am their official sports massage therapist.
Bring us through a day in your life working for the national team?
I’m basically going straight from 6:00am until 11:00pm.
In the morning we all go to breakfast together. After that I take care of the people who have injuries. I give them massages or I do some taping. Then we do a warm up for the pitchers.
During the games I’m in the dugout. If there’s an injury, or someone needs to go to a doctor, I will be the person who takes them.
After the game I take care of the pitchers, cooling them down and again take care of injuries.
During the evening there is also time for me to do some cooling down massages and take care of the injuries again.
I do it with all my heart and have a lot of fun doing it. Especially with Team Ireland. They’re great!
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Team Ireland. They are such a nice group of people. They are so excited. They’ve grown so much in the last two years, especially Colum and Melanie [team manager and head coach respectively]. They live the sport and the team every second of each day and I think the team is more ready now because of them.
What is the most difficult thing about what you do?
The most difficult thing is to see the injuries because I was a professional athlete myself in a sport that hurts every day. In cycling you fall down and you break things.
Sometimes the girls get injuries but, because I have a sportsman’s heart, I think, how bad is the injury? Do you have to come to me? Can I do something for you? You can play!
There are a lot of shoulder problems of course, and knee problems, in softball. Cycling it’s completely different. There are a lot of injuries and wounds.
So it’s hard to figure out how much the pain is and how bad it is and that’s the difficult part I guess because I cannot feel what they are feeling and because I’m such a sports fanatic. So that’s difficult sometimes.
Coming from a different sport have you encountered unexpected injuries?
Yes but in The Netherlands I work with one of the best sports physical therapists. He treats a lot of the players of the Dutch softball team so if I have a question I can call him and he helps me out.
What’s been the most valuable professional lesson you’ve learned working in softball?
I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that the team is as strong as the weakest player. Sometimes the player says, ‘Well, I didn’t have my day.’ But that’s not important because you are a team.
If you don’t have your day the team is supposed to pick you up and that’s something I learned. It’s something I try to teach the girls every day because sometimes they think about themselves too much.
Coming from an individual sport that must be a new experience for you.
Exactly. But Melanie and Colum are great in their teaching of team. They are amazing. They’re so positive.
What is your favorite thing about the game itself?
The tactics. I’ve never played softball but because my daughter is playing I learned about how it is supposed to be and I love tactics.
Watching a game, like Italy v. The Netherlands tonight, it’s going to be amazing. I just love everything. The tactics, the way the girls are, going for every point, that’s what I love the most.
Anything you want the world to know?
I wish that every player, on all the teams, would have as much fun as the Irish do. They are playing on a level that may not be the highest level, yet, but they have so much fun.
In sports it should be all about fun and team spirit. That’s what I want everybody to know and to feel.
Sometimes you see too much drama on the field so that’s what I wish for everybody, to have more fun and for their experience to be positive.