In late October, the L.A. Dodgers hired Sue Falsone as their head physical therapist. This marked a profound shift in gears, as head positions in athletic organizations have traditionally been a male-dominated field of work.
Falsone has already served as consultant to the baseball team since 2007, but traveling with a team of all-male athletes used to training with an all-male staff brings up questions of gender issues that are not unlike ones often examined by PhD candidates in woman’s studies programs. Will the team respect her as their PT and consider her to a team member, not a female outsider? How will overnight travel with Sue affect the team, individually and as a whole? Will she be able to relate to a male-only team regarding physical issues? How will emotions play into the “game?”
Fortunately, Falsone is well-aware of the dynamics within her organization and has made huge strides in garnering the respect of the team. According to an ESPN article, “the players made her feel like part of the team right from the start”. While some have considered her gender as a potential problem for the team, she brings with her past success of reducing team injuries and has already proven herself capable of strong and efficient management to the team as a consultant.
Falsone was inspired by her aunt at a young age to work in physical therapy. Raised in New York into a traditional Italian family, she quickly learned to become self-motivated and a hard-worker. In 1996, Sue Falsone graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Physical Therapy from Daemon University. She directed a private training organization in Tempe, Arizona (Performance Physical Therapy of Athletes Performance), where many pro leagues sent athletes for sports training. Noticed for her successes and innovative techniques, she seemed to possess something special the Dodgers capitalized on.
Acting president of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, Marje Albohm told the LA Times that this promotion for Falsone marks the beginning of the next frontier for women and that the appointment evolved in a very natural way. Albohm hopes that this event will allow women to be viewed as legitimate candidates for jobs that have traditionally been heavily dominated by men.
Falsone’s appointment is pivotal in allowing women to take up a more visible part in sporting events. Falsone’s focus, not on herself as a woman, but as a trainer is quite a natural style for her. She contends that integrating traditional physical therapy with conditioning and strength training in a holistic manner provides the best training for athletes to excel.
Although Falsone’s promotion has sent ripples through the sports management world, the promotion couldn’t seem any more natural for anyone who’s aware of her expertise in physical therapy. Perhaps the lesson to be learned from this event shouldn’t be about how stunning it was for a woman to be hired in a prominent sports management position, but instead how merit is becoming the new standard for a line of work heavily skewed by gender.