Birmingham Iron chooses local woman as massage coordinator

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Kristie Williams (front, second from left) with her fellow Alliance of American Football league massage coordinators, program Director Sandy Fritz and Assistant Director Luke Fritz in San Antonio last week (Photo courtesy of Kristie Williams)

CULLMAN – With the Alliance of American Football (AAF) league coming to Birmingham this year, there are exciting new opportunities for people across the state to get involved with the franchise. One of those opportunities will involve several people from the Cullman area. Kristie Williams, a Meek High School graduate and current Arley resident has been selected as massage coordinator for the Birmingham Iron and has staffed her department with several local massage therapists.

Williams spoke about the process of being selected and just how exclusive this team of coordinators is.

“The league hired eight coordinators for the eight different cities, and I was chosen as the coordinator for Birmingham’s team. I own Alabama Therapeutic Massage in Cullman and they are using my therapists as well as a few in Birmingham and Florence,” Williams said. “Troy Polamalu’s personal massage therapist, Sandy Fritz, personally chose me and she created this. She created this wellness program along with them and hand-picked eight people and I was fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the eight.”

Williams is excited to get started not only because it’s what she loves to do, but also because she and her team will be trying new things. Her goal is to see their new wellness program successfully implemented and providing athletes care that they haven’t received before.

“This plan is completely different from any other sports model that’s ever been created. There will be 52 players at the start of the season; they’re in training camp right now and making cuts and the goal is for them to get a one-hour, restorative massage every week. Our team will be the first team ever to implement this,” said Williams. “There have been massage therapists work with professional athletes before, but it’s usually just a few per week, maybe 15 at the most but definitely not 52. So, we’ll go to Legion Field on off-time and the wellness team will work them and perform these restorative massages that are research-based. The way we do it, we’re only allowed to perform things that have been informed by research and I’m wanting to create a wellness education model off of this.”

Outside of this exciting new opportunity with the Birmingham Iron and the AAF, Williams is very passionate about education in her field. She hopes this new position will help her better provide an outline for massage education that can help others even after she is gone.

“I also serve as chair over the education committee for the state of Alabama Board of Massage Therapy and I intend to somehow implement this education model into the outline of massage education for our state,” Williams said. “I stood in front of the sunsetting committee this past year and helped protect our professional licensing board from being shut down. We have an amazing executive director for our state board and he supports change as well as growth! We plan to change the game. It will be my goal and my priority until I am long gone and even at that point, I'm hoping to carry on the legacy of this career through education.”

As the owner of Alabama Therapeutic Massage, Williams has had success in her business, but her goals are not based on personal success. Williams is hoping to spread the philosophy that massage therapists should work together in an effort to provide better treatment rather than being competitive.

“We all have a common goal. My business has been named the best for the last three consecutive years, but you know what that means? Absolutely nothing; it simply means we received more votes than another place. We do not consider ourselves in competition with other massage locations,” Williams said. “We all have a different technique, different education and unique skill set, not better, not worse, just different. Therapists need to realize this and begin the merge into complete wellness, rather than competitive care. When I contract therapists to work with my team, my goal is to create consistency and improve our skills. I want them to achieve great things and become greater than I could have ever imagined for myself!” 

Williams spent a few days in San Antonio last week with the other teams’ massage coordinators, learning from the AAF’s Massage Wellness Program Director Sandy Fritz and her son and assistant director Luke Fritz. This training session was invaluable for Williams and she was thrilled to learn from one of the best in the business.

“They invited the eight coordinators that were selected to San Antonio for training camp with Sandy Fritz, the director, along with her son Luke Fritz who is the assistant director. Sandy has been a massage therapist for 40 years and she was with the NFL for over 20 and like I said she was Troy Polamalu’s personal massage therapist. She writes all the massage textbooks for all of the programs, so in my world she’s the guru, you know,” Williams joked. “We learned a broad base of protocols that will be implemented during the season and went over scheduling and those kinds of things and learned how to implement this new model realistically along with the athletic trainers and strength and conditioning coaches.”

The most exciting thing about this new gig for Williams is the chance to change things up in professional athletics when it comes to massage therapy. She’s also excited for her home town, which is quickly becoming a hub for massage therapy in the state.

“Normally, professional athletic programs do not supply massages for their players. So, normally they have to go out and purchase it on their own. Ms. Fritz and league’s wellness team created this wellness program so that all 52 players receive a one-hour restorative massage every week paid for by the league. Since the league owns this, they took a unique approach to letting Sandy select people who would run the state-by-state operations. There are about 2,500 massage therapists in Alabama alone so to be hand-picked for this is an absolute honor,” she said. “It’s a very rare opportunity and this program is a game-changer for the industry. I just want it to be known that people from small-town Cullman and small-town Arley, we’re doing big things in the massage world.”

Alabama Therapeutic Massage LLC staff chosen to be seasonal massage therapists for the Birmingham Iron:

  • Ashley Wilson – Cullman 
  • Destini Williamson – Arley and Cullman 
  • Levi Meigs – Arley and Cullman 
  • Crystal Alexander – Hartselle 

Massage therapists from around the state chosen to be seasonal massage therapists for the Birmingham Iron:

  • Jessica Lyons – Florence
  • Edward McDonald – Florence
  • Douglas Beard – Birmingham
  • Shaye Wingo – Birmingham
  • Kelley Franklin – Tuscaloosa

Learn more about the AAF at https://aaf.com.

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