The athletes come about as close to the action as just about anyone - but that wasn't going to work out for Matt Berube.
"If I had been able to make a career as a coach, I would have done it - but those positions are few and far between," noted the 33 year-old native of Hornepayne and graduate of Cambrian College.
Then came that moment, when the spotlight of opportunity shone ever so brightly, when the eldest of six children in the family would clearly foresee the path he was to follow.
"My plan was generally to go into sport medicine, perhaps kinesiology and then physio or something, not really sure what exact direction that was," said Berube, who enrolled in the Physical Fitness Management program at Cambrian following a three-year stint in the work force, one completely unrelated to his ultimate career goal.
"I was working with the CAA (Cambrian Athletic Association) and a student who was a year ahead of me got into York University in athletic therapy. I started googling, came across the CATA (Canadian Athletic Therapists Association) website, read the scope of practice and realized that this is exactly what I wanted to do."
"Working on the sidelines, working with the team, you're a first responder on site, but then you also get to work with the athletes in a clinical setting, so it's the best of both worlds," added the owner/operator of Dynamic Therapy & Rehabilitation Centre.
As a general game plan, this was hardly was a shock for the young man who played "absolutely every sport that was available to me", even going so far as to organize a softball league, on his own, just to that he could play that sport as well.
"I always knew that I wanted to be involved in sports in some aspect, ideally as close to the sport as possible," said Berube. But as his time at Cambrian was nearing completion, he realized that another step was required, academically, to reach his ultimate goal.
"There are only two schools that offer athletic therapy programs - York University and Sheridan College," he explained. "Sheridan is a stand-alone four year program with a really good reputation from being very involved with many of the sports teams in southern Ontario: the Marlies, Argonauts, Tiger Cats, TFC, and Blue Jays."
"This is where things started to change," Berube continued. "Once I got into the program and got a more realistic view of what the job entailed, I realized that there are very few positions in sport where it's both financially viable, and provides a reasonable lifestyle, where you are not on the road eight, nine, ten months a year."
Sure, he was fine with a four year sojourn to the GTA and surroundings regions, one which catered to both his academic needs, but also opened the door to internship possibilities that would have been difficult to duplicate back home, including serving as the athletic therapist at Appleby College for a year.
"It was a really unique opportunity, being at a private school with incredible facilities."
Still, he was being called north. Love and family, friends and lifestyle all conspired to lure Berube back to Sudbury. Yet his time away had clearly opened his eyes, the dreams of the ideal job mixing with the reality of the marketplace in a city he wished to call home.
"Keeping in mind that my interest was largely in sport, I realized pretty quickly that trying to work for a sports team and making a career of it in Sudbury likely was not going to happen, simply because of limited opportunities," he said. "During my time at Sheridan, I started to transition a little more from the team side of things to a more clinical setting."
"I started looking at places, positions that lent themselves to that."
Having accumulated the bulk of his 100 hours of athletic therapy involvement, prior to admission to Sheridan, working alongside well respected local athletic therapist Kim Brouzes (Active Therapy Plus), Berube benefitted from a wonderful foundation, one which allowed him to focus on key components of his practice, when his time would come.
"In realizing that I was going to become more clinical than I initially intended, I started to foster those relationships, looking at becoming more recognized at a fairly young age," he said. "For me, it was huge to get to know people in local sports, trying to get my name out there a little bit, having people develop a level of trust."
"That's such a huge component of it."
And much in the same manner that a passion to be involved in sport would meander, over the years, ultimately steering Berube to his current vocation, so too has grown the fundamental beliefs in the work that he does. As a kid who played everything, growing up, but deals with many an athlete that doesn't, Berube sounds a word of caution.
"I don't love the way that sports are trending," he said. "Most sports, across the board, at any kind of elite level, are getting into that kind of uni-sport mentality. You're a basketball player, a volleyball player, a hockey player, and that's all that you do. I don't know that this is necessarily the best approach."
"There are multiple reasons for this, and without getting into the weeds too much, the rate of injury is significantly higher in single sport athletes versus multi sport athletes, and there are a whole slew of reasons behind that."
With a decade or so of experience, in any way, shape or form, in his field, Berube fully understands that there remains plenty to learn. It's part of what excites him, creating the niches of knowledge that can gradually be stacked upon one another.
"Some practices might have a wider scope, but we tend to fixate more on musculoskeletal injuries," he said. "That's kind of our bread and butter. It really is a matter of having as good an understanding on the anatomy as possible."
Pressed for a part of the body that perhaps garners his attention more than some others, at this point in time, Berube points to the lower back and hips. "It's just so complicated - and we see so much of it in the community, there are so many compounding variables."
"We, as a society, sit way more than we have, historically, and that lends itself to so many different isssues."