“Ask yourself: What does the athlete need from me at this moment?”

Nicole Surdyka

What You will learn

  • A fun story of miscommunication and logistics on team travel.
  • The reality of wearing many hats that go beyond your job description.
  • Advice from Nicole on how to be authentic and supportive for the athlete during rehab.

How did the 2020 pandemic effect the world of professional sports? In this episode, Dr. Nicole Surdyka shares her experiences as a physical therapist in professional women’s soccer during the 2020 season and how she was able to overcome limited resources while still finding success during sports rehab.

Nicole is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and is a former college soccer player. She currently is the lead physical therapist at Red Bull North America in Los Angeles, CA. Previously she was the Director of Rehabilitation for the OL Reign in Seattle within the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

Nicole has routinely been featured across blogs, podcasts, and articles sharing her expertise in ACL rehab and how to manage injuries for soccer players. Nicole recently began expanding her knowledge of leadership and sport management by enrolling in the Sport Directorship master’s program at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Having been a female athlete and worked as a provider in women sports, Nicole is on a mission to provide the best care for athletes when resources are limited. Through this mission she has joined a group of experts at BJSM to explore future strategies to upgrade the care for athletes in countries that are underserved.

Listen here – Finding Small Wins Podcast:

008 | Nicole Surdyka: Physical Therapist in Pro Women’s Soccer, Enduring the Pandemic Season, and Overcoming Limited Resources

Notable Quotes

“What is best for the athlete sometimes is aligned with what is best for the club and sometimes not.”

Nicole Surdyka

“You should be consistent in how you show up for the athlete, we ask athletes to do their best that should also work for the staff.”

Nicole Surdyka
Courtesy of Cody Cunningham codywcunningham

Key Takeaways:

[:45] Adam introduces Nicole by sharing a briefing on her outstanding career.

[1:48] Nicole shares her experience as a soccer player.

[3:04] What motivated Nicole to become a PT?

[4:43] Nicole speaks of the common challenge of having limited resources.

[6:07] Nicole was initially worried about entering the professional women’s soccer niche.

[8:23] What was Nicole’s role at Seattle?

[11:04] Nicole shares the memory of a day when the Team was left with no transportation. 

[13:00] Another responsibility included in Nicole’s role was to order the gym equipment.

[14:44] Nicole talks about how it is possible to go pro without going to college, even though it is not the norm.

[15:37] What were the first things Nicole did in her role?

[18:50] Were there things Nicole wishes she could have done better?

[21:04] How do you transition the high-level care the men are getting and provide it for the woman?

[23:11] Were there times when Nicole had information about a player that the player did not know yet?

[27:43] As a PT, ask yourself:  What does the athlete need from me now?

[30:43] Transfer vs. loan.

[34:45] What if the league had standards for every Team to follow for medical or PT evaluations?

[36:45] Nicole talks about what she thinks the minimum requirements for medical or PT evaluations should be.

[43:10] What happens when the PT disagrees with the athlete’s perspective?

[45:21] How can a PT meet the athlete where he/she is?

[47:16] Nicole advises PTs to show authentic appreciation for the athletes (they can tell when the attention is not genuine).

[49:15] Nicole is constantly helping her athletes to find their small wins.

[50:56] Nicole shares her biggest mantra: Calm, consistent, curious.

[55:17] Apart from being good at your work, you must be flexible and adaptable.

[57:14] As a clinician, what were some of the expectations she had that did not match with reality?

[59:40] Nicole talks about handling pressure when an athlete is rushed to play back when is not totally ready.

[1:07:17] Nicole speaks on what is new and exciting in her career.

[1:12:44] Rapid fire questions with Nicole.

Adam Loiacono


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