The Winning Touch: KU Massage Therapist Beth Morford
Feb. 8, 2012
When Kansas swimmers Stephanie Payne and Danielle Herrmann make their trip to the Olympic Trials in Omaha this summer, there may be a familiar face joining them. This person has been an important component in the duo’s success, but does not even get into the water. Instead, she plays an important role in the swimmers’ preparation outside of the pool. She is none other than Kansas massage therapist Beth Morford.
Morford has been working with KU student-athletes for five years now, but has specific contracts to service members of the swimming and diving and softball teams.
“Her involvement with our athletes plays a huge roll in their ability to bounce back from competition and train well day-to-day,” explained KU’s head swim coach Clark Campbell.”
“I enjoy being able to provide athletes with a therapy that gives them a competitive edge,” Morford said. “Knowing that you are an integral part of their therapy and their training is fulfilling.”
One of those who benefitted from Morford’s services was former Kansas swimmer and current student assistant Joy Bunting. Bunting’s freshman season (2007-08), was also Morford’s first with KU, and she is most appreciative of what the massage therapist brought to the table.
“When you are in the middle of the season, you are sore and your body is broken down, so having an opportunity for her to work out certain areas was really beneficial,” Bunting explained. “It helps those muscles recover quicker and you feel better in the water during the middle of the week.”
But it’s not just about good feelings alone; Morford knows there is a specific science involved in how she treats each individual athlete.
“When an athlete performs, there tends to be a level of metabolic waste that resides in the tissues,” she explained. “What my technique does is it goes in and breaks up adhesions and brings circulation to the area to increase the level of repair on the tissue. There is a faster repair if you have someone within the 24 hours of competition to warm up that tissue before, with a faster paced massage.”
While the massage veteran is not actually in the pool with the swimmers and divers as they compete, she does take some pride in their eventual performance.
"I am just like anyone else who participates with the team, because everyone contributes something," she thought. "The more you know the athlete the more excited you are for their accomplishment, and it makes you happy because their happy."
The former KU-student-turned-massage-therapist sees each individual member of the Jayhawk swimming and diving team every two to three weeks, in order to give their body the extra attention it needs. Morford doesn’t only work with swimming and softball bodies, as she has worked with student athletes from tennis, golf and track and field throughout Kansas athletics.
It’s Morford’s work with the swimming and diving team that is now getting her some much-deserved attention. Her experience with USA Swimming during the past year could very well land her at the Olympic Trials this summer, where Payne and Herrmann will also be competing.
“She is getting the well-deserved reputation of being one of the best massage therapists for athletes,” Campbell said.
Whether or not that reputation carries Morford to Omaha depends on a number of different factors.
“The repeat invitation to work with the United States team comes when its administration reviews the surveys that the athletes fill out once a meet is over,” she explained. “If a therapist gets positive feedback, then they are asked back for future meets."
Morford started using her massage therapy, knowledge and skills on Jayhawk student-athletes as sort of a fluke. It all started with a familiar face from the past.
“My husband (Casey) swam for Clark when he coached at the University of Evansville,” Morford recalled. “In 2006 we moved back to Kansas and I’d just had a baby, so when the fall of 2007 came I e-mailed Clark and asked if he was looking for a massage therapist.”
Unbeknownst to Morford, Campbell and his staff were actually hiring a massage therapist that week, so the timing could not have been better.
“I came in for an interview and it went really well,” she remembered. “I was called back for a second interview with the director of sports medicine and got the job.”
The Lawrence native’s experience on the national stage did not start until a few years later, when she began splitting her time and talents between United States Swimming and Kansas Athletics.
“It just so happened that they (USA Swimming) needed someone in (February) 2011 for the Missouri Grand Prix in Columbia. Since I was close by, they asked me if I wanted to do an internship with them,” she explained. “I did the internship and the athletes asked me back.”
Morford went back to another USA Swimming event at the athletes’ request, this time in Atlanta at the Dual in the Pool last December. She will be making her third tour with the nation’s official swimming organization this month at the 2012 Missouri Grand Prix, but hopes to make her fourth at Omaha this coming June and July.
“It’s really all about how well you work with the staff, how good your therapy is with the athletes and if they like you,” she said.
If Bunting’s opinion were to weigh heavily on the final decision, Morford would already have her hotel room booked in Omaha, because of her easy-going nature and ability to work one-on-one with her clients.
“Beth is awesome. She is just so easy to connect with and does so well with each girl in a different way,” she said. “At Big 12’s you see a lot of massage therapists working on other athletes. I don’t know what their relationships are with their athletes, but Beth definitely connects with us not only a massage therapist, but also as a friend and an extra source of support.”
“They love when Beth comes in with her massage table and they know they are getting one,” Campbell said of his current swimmers and divers. “She is a popular person who goes with us on training trips as well as some of our biggest meets of the year.”
But it’s the trip she will be making without the majority of the team, which Campbell hopes his team’s masseuse gets to make.
“She is definitely worthy,” he thought. “She is going to be on the list for trials and I hope she is there representing our country.”
Whether or not the magic hands of Beth Morford find themselves in Nebraska for Olympic Trials this summer, rest assured the technique of this massage therapist will still be helping Jayhawk athletes excel in the pool and out on the diamond come next fall.
Morford also owns and operates her own massage therapy business in Lawrence… Find more information at: http://bethmorford.com/