Tim Dempsey – CSCS, CPT, PES, DNS, PRT

How did you become interested in PRI and when did you attend your first course?

I first heard of PRI during some conversations I had with some participants during the DNS certification programs. They kept saying once you get DNS that I should really look into PRI. I took Postural Respiration home study in the Spring of 2014, and even though it seemed “out there” it also made a lot of sense. The home study courses are great, but its not the same as being there. I fortunately live in an urban area where courses are offered a few times a year, so I was able to attend the other courses in a short period of time, and now am in the process of repeating some of them. Every time I attend a course, even the second time, there is so much to learn and I keep picking up stuff.

I know you work with amputees and Paralympic athletes, how does your exercise selection change for these athletes?

The Riekes Center became a designated US Paralympic Committee Sport Club 5 years ago. My first Paralympic athlete, was Sharon Kelleher, a 2 time Paralympian in wheelchair tennis. It was really intimidating at first, because I felt really lost training her. Then after a few sessions, we had this conversation, and it was like, lets just throw preconceived notions out the window, and lets come up with our own way to train. I tribute Sharon,and the other Paralympic athletes myself, or my staff train, with allowing us to just take it and run with it. They have been so incredibly open. As far as PRI use with the Paralympians, it would come as no surprise to Ron, but you still see the same compensation patterns, they just may be harder to find. A colleague and myself were doing a gait analysis on our gold medalist sit volleyball player, who is a below the knee right leg amputee. We thought "now there is no way, she is going to be right side dominant in her gait”. Sure enough, you could see her just hanging out in right hip during gait. Another one of our wheelchair athletes who took 5th in the 1500 in Rio, sure enough, right posterior rib hump with left anterior rib flare. The others we work with show the same compensatory patterns seen in “able bodied” clientele. The challenge comes in adapting points of reference. It’s often a question of “how far down can you feel?”. Finding left heel or back of right hip, may not be possible, so you have to come up with reference point that works for them, and sometimes that means palpating to find it. None of our wheelchair athletes expect to be able to jump out of their chairs and walk again, and we’re not looking for that either, however, it has been amazing how much more they can do now. It might be just bending over to touch the floor and being able to come all the way back again on their own, or it may just be “finding left oblique” while establishing a zone of apposition, when they never could feel left oblique before. I am also blessed to work with the super elite of the Paralympic community. They are so willing to try anything.

Can you talk about the Riekes Center and some of the services you provide?

Its so difficult to describe the Riekes Center. I always tell people just go to www.riekes.org. We are a nonprofit mentoring organization that provides programs in Nature Awareness, Creative Arts and Athletic Fitness. My immediate supervisor, Gary Riekes, wants us to provide the best services possible. He has been incredibly supportive of me going as far as I can professionally, which included PRI, and expects all of our staff to be the best they can be. I come from a social work background, so the idea of providing services to everyone regardless of ability to pay is huge for me. For example, Stanford University may refer underinsured patients to me. We can scholarship them, and while I am working with that patient I can communicate with their PT at Stanford so continuum of care is provided. The patient gets to continue their care at a reasonable fee with us, and the Stanford PT is freed up to work with other patients. Its become a win/win situation for many of our clients. Riekes Center has this knack for taking students that are in very difficult situations and using all 3 of our program areas (Athletic Fitness, Nature Awareness, and Creative Arts) and creating a customized program that works for that particular individual. Its very unique, and the community is very supportive due to the success we’ve had.

What would you say to other CSCS that are considering taking a PRI class?

As a CSCS I can say that unfortunately many in the strength and conditioning field are still stuck in a methodology that is outdated. Its a competitive field, and we are working with athletes that need any type of advantage, so get out of the comfort zone and try something different. PRI is where strength and conditioning and elite athletic performance is headed. Learn it now or get left behind.

What is the typical client?

I really don’t have a typical client. Each day is incredibly diverse. In one day I could see a Stanford professor dealing with a knee injury; a Paralympic athlete in a wheelchair; an executive from Google; a TBI referral from Palo Alto Medical Foundation; a high school athlete coming out of PT; a group of high school athletes getting ready for college; and Olympic caliber athletes looking to fine tune; etc. etc.

What areas of client training excite you the most?

I have really gotten into training the TBI patients. Its a challenge because the cognitive ability to remember and repeat patterns may not be there, so you have to help them find correct movement patterns that might have “gotten lost” with the TBI, or create new ones that will “stick”. Clients really bought into PRI are also wonderful, and its fun getting the high school and college kids ready for their season .

Who have been your mentors in your career?

My career mentors come from way back during my days as a social worker, dealing with inner city gang members and pregnant and parenting teen age girls that were wards of the state. My daughter Becky, is named after one of my former social work supervisors. They work for so little pay with the marginalized of society, and go unnoticed for what they contribute to society.

Who have been your mentors within PRI?

I have great admiration for Ron Hruska for the way he runs PRI. The PRI instructors I have had are wonderful- Jesse Ham, James Anderson, Skip George, and Mike Cantrell who we discovered we were acquaintances at Emory University in the late 1980s while I was in seminary and he was in PT school. Sometimes its the 2 minute conversation that makes a difference. Instructor Jesse Ham and PRT Matthew Uohara were the first ones to encourage me to apply to the PRT program. PRT Caleb Chiu is local and very open to discuss when needed, as is PRC Keren Cahn, and there are several other local PT’s that have taken several PRI courses, so there is a PRI community here. Maybe its not so much mentors, but people around that understand PRI.

How do you go about mentoring others in your profession?

The Riekes Center is a nonprofit mentoring organization, so mentoring is built into our philosophy. We are expected to share what we know with others, so its a natural part of our day. I’ve also had interns come from Japan and Mexico and we expect our international internship program to grow.

What types of activities do you enjoy in your free time?

I am a single parent, so I place a ton of value on my time spent with my daughters, and seeing them at their various sporting events. I do a variety of workouts, mostly at Riekes center. Caleb introduced me to MovNat which is really cool. Preparing for my visits to Mexico also is something I enjoy and that takes a lot of time. I also play saxophone a few times a week and play at the Riekes Center recitals when needed.

We know you have done lots of education in Mexico. Could you expound on your experiences in this country and how you see PRI being appreciated in Mexico?

I lived in Puebla,Mexico 1994 to 2000 and worked and coached for 4 years at the Universidad Popular Autonoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP) and 1 year at Universidad de las Americas (UDLA). Both are top notch universities. Many of my former players are now coaches or administrators at other universities or for professional teams, so a few years ago they started to invite me back to help out their teams or universities in Puebla, Mexico City, Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Quintana Roo and other places some times as much as 3 times a year. I’ve also done Spanish language webinars that have been broadcast throughout Mexico, and I’ve been told to Colombia, Argentina, Peru and Panama also. My trips to Mexico can be very overwhelming. Thanks to the success of the teams I coached in Mexico and to my former players, conferences I give in Mexico can be really big. I had 300 show up 2 years ago, and this past week every session averaged more than 100. There’s the homecoming part of seeing my former players who are now married, have children, and successful careers. It’s so great to see them. There’s the strength and conditioning side of presenting concepts to coaches who have grown up learning a Cuban style of methodology, so concepts we take for granted can be very new to even very good experienced Mexican coaches. There is the language side of presenting in Spanish and I have to make sure I am getting my point across accurately. Then anytime you cross the border, you go from representing yourself and/or your organization to, like it or not, representing your country. I was just in Mexico last week during the transition of the US government. You have to make sure you’re not coming across as a condescending know it all American, and I probably had to be even more sensitive to it this time. This last trip I had 170 students from the physical therapy department during one of my presentations on TBI/PTSD. I mentioned PRI to them and asked if they wanted to see the Intro to PRI powerpoint, which is provided to all PRCs and PRTs (I translated it into Spanish) and go through some of the basic concepts, which they of course agreed to. Like most people in sports performance or PT, they were really blown away by the PRI concepts. After the talk, about 10 students stayed an extra 30 minutes just asking more questions about PRI and PT in the US. PT in Mexico tends to be applying modalities and maybe doing some exercises in sagittal plane, so it kind of opened up a whole new world to them, and I was just sharing basic concepts. PRI has massive opportunities to make a huge difference in developing countries precisely because it doesn’t rely on expensive treatment devices and or medications. The reach and effectiveness can be enormous. This is what really excited me about PRI since the beginning, and its something I hope to work with PRI staff on. Then there is just the logistics of being a presenter, which I am sure PRI staff and others who present can relate to. You may have just presented 3 hours of intense material and are dying to go to the bathroom or grab a bite to eat, and during your 15 minute break 5 people want to come up and discuss their particular issues. Thats just part of  presenting that you need to anticipate. I’d love to talk more to the PRI presenters at conferences during breaks, but I refrain from doing so as I know how valuable those breaks are.

I also want to thank Ron and PRI for allowing me to indirectly be part of such a wonderful, ethically run organization. My professors in seminary said they felt I was best suited for a career that “involved healing the body” (which is why I didn’t continue in seminary) and during my over 10 years in social work and international development, I always felt there was so much more organizations could do to improve the health of their communities. The Riekes Center provides me a place where we can make this happen, and PRI has been such a wonderful complement to the services we provide.


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