As we congratulate the West Indies U19 team it is easy to forget all the work that went into the victory. Most of the hard stuff would have started a long time ago and been mostly behind the scenes. We take nothing away from the remarkable young men that did a tremendous job and literally brought new life blood with them into a sport that has seemed to be floundering for some time. This week Sporting World takes the opportunity to turn up the volume on an individual working just out of the spotlight.
Khevyn Williams, an international athlete in his own right representing Barbados in field hockey, most notable at the 2011 Pan Am Games, has been working with the West Indies U19 unit from practically the inception of this group.
Filling roles in and around his main appointment as physiotherapist, ‘Foffy’ as he is better known by friends, has kept the young men ticking and in fighting form.
It was all I could do, on short notice, to impose on his personal workout yesterday at Cross Fit Bassa Bassa where Khevyn takes care of his own body. A strong advocate of their cross fit concept and approach this is what he had to say about the tournament and his journey into sports physiotherapy:
How did you get into physiotherapy?
I went to York University and I came out with a BSc Pure and Applied Sciences with Psychology as a major. After that I went to George Brown to do Fitness and Lifestyle Management and it was during that course, which is a three-year programme squeezed into two so it’s quite intense, I did a placement at High Performance Specialists’ facility where they train high end athletes.
At the end of the Fitness and Lifestyle Management applied diploma you come out as a glorified personal trainer, albeit one who is in high demand all over Canada, but at this facility the sister company that was a physiotherapy clinic and I used to be in there regularly.
In my own training, I had my own injury, I went in there, the head physio looked, assessed me, “pulled” my leg and the injury was done. I decided I wanted to do that for people as well.
It was natural fit.
How much has being a high performance athlete yourself helped?
It gave me an idea of what people go through but you must remember physiotherapy is very broad, sports physiotherapy is a minute part. My plan was always probably getting into this field to be working with athletes.
Being an athlete I kind of had an idea what they had to go through from a training perspective, from an injury perspective, and then from a rehab perspective. So just having that personal knowledge certainly helps me liaise with my patients and I can be empathetic to how they are managing themselves.
Everybody wants to get back on the park as fast as possible but you do have to take your time.
Describe your roll in the West Indies U19 programme.
In the programme I helped, because I was the glorified personal trainer at the start, dealing with strength and conditioning in their preparation. But my main title was physiotherapist and that was to help with injury prevention and also manage injuries to keep the kids on the park.
That went through the whole of 2015, up until Bangladesh at the World Cup. We did have a strength and conditioning coach with us at the time, so my main role then became solely the physiotherapy aspect. So as I said it was all about preventing injuries and managing any that did arise as the tournament progressed and certainly we had injuries.
You are always going to get freak injuries with athletes, sometimes they can hide it, but I get to pick them out and I have to make sure that they don’t exacerbate them during play.
What’s your take on playing hurt as opposed to playing injured?
I also had a coach when I was playing hockey in Australia who used to ask, “Are you hurt or are you injured?” That was interesting to me… for me if you are hurt, you can continue to play on… to me injured means be careful, doesn’t mean you can’t play on, but we have to really make sure that this injury isn’t going to be exacerbated by the function or by the activity that you are going to get into.
So that’s how I look at it now, professional athletes or amateur athletes for that matter, always have a little niggle here or there. You’re never going to be 100 per cent. It is what function or activity that they are going to get into, is it going to exacerbate the issue? If that’s the case then we have to see what the risk factors of that would be and if it’s going to hamper their career in the future.
A good physiotherapist once told me err on the side of caution.
So we do that… but in sports we still have to be a little more aggressive because we need players to be able to push through.
What advice would you give in terms of injury prevention?
Preparation is key. I think that if you are not prepared for anything you do in life you will not come through successfully. Same thing with athletes and playing if you are not prepared… and here we are talking about appropriate strength and conditioning, which includes flexibility, endurance and power the gambit of stuff. If you are not prepared you are likely to improve your risk of injury.
There are myriad intrinsic and extrinsic factors, intrinsic referring to things inside the body and extrinsic meaning the playing surfaces, footwear and other things like that. So we have to be prepared with everything… the wrong footwear means you are not prepared.
Recall one of the most difficult situations you would have had to deal with over the years.
There are some things you are not quite sure… because you don’t have MRI hands or X-ray eyes. So sometimes a patient may suggest that he has a hurt finger, but you’re not really sure, so you do your thing and if you think there is mobility you may want to get them back on the park.
But I think there may have been one or two times I have come across fractures which I didn’t anticipate to be a fracture. So that’s when that good physio rings in my head all the time to err on the side of caution. If you are not sure get an X-ray.
Injuries come from little ankle strains to massive hamstring tears to complete ruptures of biceps, etcetera… the worst thing that we are dealing with these days are head injuries because those can be life threatening.
Give us one of your best experiences working with athletes and travelling with a team.
Well this World Cup that we just came back from must be highlighted. To be not as well prepared as I thought we should have been, because of the limit to resources, and to come out successfully, has been a real tribute to the athletes themselves, the management staff and what WI cricket is trying to do to raise our sport again.
It was certainly a highlight to be part of a World Championship team.
How would you like preparation for programmes to change? We just won the U19 World Cup and I consider that our junior programme. If you look at our senior team it is not fairing the best in the cricket world right now. We have an issue with transition of sport from a junior level to a senior level. We need to look at that and focus on how we going to keep the standard of the athlete, not just for talent, but nurturing from sport science to technical/tactical education.
I also think our structure needs work and corporate Barbados and corporate Caribbean needs to get more involved in sport to allow the coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, the physiotherapists to be able to be with the athletes and help them along their way.
It can’t be a free thing, it can’t be on a volunteer basis, not when we want to transition to seniors and compete at that level. It’s a full time job, and even if the particular sport isn’t bringing in money I think we have to look for them somewhere else and I think corporate Barbados or corporate has a big role to play there.
What’s next for you?
I am loving the whole development side of things that I had the opportunity to experience over the last year or two with the WI U19s. If I can continue to help the process and with the transition to seniors that would be fantastic.
I am also home based and helping what’s happening here in Barbados is also important to me so I am about to set up my clinic here. So by the end of 2016 I’ll have something going on.