Follow him @mikestella_atc
RockTape: Why did you get into athletic training?
I got into AT after a catastrophic knee blowout while playing high school lacrosse. I was a multi-sport athlete, earning all county honors in football, track & field, and lacrosse. My school’s Athletic Trainer was so helpful and impactful at that time, I saw myself pursuing AT to help athletes the way she helped me. Like most young people, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do as a career, but after experiencing my knee injury and going through the rehab process, I decided to pursue both lacrosse and Athletic Training in college. I played lacrosse at the collegiate level at Marist College, where I also got my degree in Athletic Training/Sports Medicine.
RT: A triple threat athlete! Do you still participate in sports?
While I played D1 lacrosse in college, I have discovered other things that MOVE ME now. Surfing, hiking, pilates, and fitness training have become mainstays in my life when I am not kayak fishing, or simply enjoying some time outdoors.
RT: How did you find your niche?
I spent the early portion of my career working in NCAA Division 1 Athletics, spending time with the Florida Gators, in addition to earning my masters degree in Sports Management from George Washington University and serving as a grad assistant AT. While at Florida, I worked with throwing athletes in track and field and baseball, and found my expertise in shoulder, elbow, and throwing related injuries due to their complex, difficult nature, and how intricate the rehab process is for upper extremity injuries; this is ironic, because it was a knee injury that inspired me to get into the field! An early mentor at UF, Andy Klock, told me “ankles and knees are easy…the real experts do shoulders and elbows.” I found my niche by accident, but just wanting to be the best sports medicine practitioner I could be and constantly challenging myself and my knowledge base.
RT: You’re a challenge chaser Stella! How is that going for you?
I founded The Movement Underground, my own concierge manual therapy, movement, and recovery center in Farmingdale, NY. I decided to become an entrepreneur when faced with the limitations of the traditional Athletic Training professional model. Since then, I am honored to inspire the next generation of ATs to pursue their own businesses, as a way to elevate the impact of the profession that I love.
RT: What’s happening at The Movement Undergound?
I work with a wide variety of athletes. From Major and Minor League Baseball Players, UFC/MMA Athletes, pro bodybuilders, all the way down to youth and high school athletes and weekend warriors and endurance sports. I really enjoy the variety of my day-to-day and helping people overcome injuries, pain, and getting them back to doing the things that they love.
RT: Name an ATC or coach you admire. What is it about them?
There may be too many to list here. As a member of the RockTape team, it’s hard not to put Mitch Hauschildt and Ethan Kreiswirth at the top of this list. These guys paved the way for me as an AT in the continuing education setting, and have both pushed the limits of the AT profession. To call these men my peers is an honor and a privilege.
RT: Where do you like to get your industry news?
I stay plugged in mostly by following quality social media accounts. There is no shortage of great people putting out amazing content and research that social media makes easy to find and digest.
Podcasts make up a lot of my travel and commuting time information digestion. These days I find myself listening to Huberman Lab, Ben Greenfield, Dr. Peter Attia, Dave Asprey, Strength Coach Podcast among others.
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RT: What was your first experience with RockTape like?
I was introduced to kinesiology taping while working at The University of Florida in 2008. At the time, I didn’t quite understand it, but it is hard to ignore when NCAA champions and Olympic track athletes come back asking for more and more tape, telling you that it helped both their pain and performance. I found myself using it, but not happy with the quality of tape on the market until I found RockTape in 2012. A buddy of mine (a PT colleague), informed me that they were doing a course in NYC, so I jumped in, and was instantly a fan of the product quality, the education, and the philosophy and approach – it really mirrored mine, which was very validating.
RT: Name another RockTape FMT instructor who taught you something that blew your mind.
What was it? I was fortunate to take that early course with the GOAT himself, Dr. Perry Nickelston. Blew my mind is an understatement… he dropped a nuke into the bedrock of my soul! I remember thinking to myself…”I wish I could travel and teach this stuff…” and impact professionals the way he impacted me. Five years later…I found myself on a plane to Denver to meet the team, and put myself to the RockTape Instructor BootCamp test.
RT: What is your favorite RockTape FMT course to teach?
Hands down it would have to be FMT Blades. I have been using tools for manual therapy for close to 15 years, and had a lot of prior experience and training prior to being introduced to the Blades curriculum. The approach is so unique, comprehensive, and viewing tissues through a brain based lens really opens up a ton of potential for making an impact with a client. Not only are the tools awesome, and far more affordable than the others, but the approach and concepts you learn in blades I think makes for you being a more well rounded clinician. It’s so much more than a tooling course, it represents a paradigm shift in manual therapy.
RT: What kinds of tools do you use in your practice?
RockTape, RockBlades, RockPods and RockFloss are used daily in The Movement Underground, and not just because I am an instructor! I was using RT products long before gaining the privilege to teach for RockTape. Every client gets customized manual therapy and movement sessions, and having the RT arsenal not only allows us to provide top end treatment, but also teach clients how to treat themselves sustainable using things like Floss and TriggerPoint massage rollers and balls.
RT: Where do you think athletic training is headed?
I think Athletic Training has so much more upside than people realize. I’m most excited for this new movement into entrepreneurship and private practice. While not common, I am proud to be considered a trailblazing AT in this regard, and it has been so cool to mentor young ATs and teach them how valuable their skillset as an Athletic Trainer can be.
Right now, the Recovery Industry is really heating up, and will likely lead to much more opportunity for business minded ATs who have specific knowledge in sports recovery. I know I am already looking to expand the Movement Underground in this regard, and think many others will follow suit.
RT: Did you know it’s women’s history month? Name a great female AT and why she rocks the job.
Stella: Like I said, I really love mentoring young ATs in entrepreneurship, but my friend, Alisha Pennington, has really done an amazing job putting together so many incredible resources for ATs with an entrepreneurial spirit!
Can’t get enough Mike Stella? Neither can we.
Listen to his interviews on the RockTape Podcast