Former Ridgeback in Oshawa goes from hocky player to Team Canada therapist at Davis Cup

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Published February 7, 2022 at 11:01 am

Former Ridgeback hockey player Alex Derlis found himself working as a massage therapist for Canada at the 2021 Davis Cup

Getting to represent Canada is something most athletes dream of.

While former Ontario Tech men’s hockey player Alex Derlis may not have been on the court for Team Canada, the passion he discovered for athletic therapy after recovering from many sports-related injuries himself, led to the opportunity of joining Team Canada as a performance manual therapist at the 2021 Davis Cup.

Over two seasons with the Ridgebacks he played 44 games, finishing with nine goals and 27 points. In his final academic year, the kinesiology grad was the team’s student trainer, staying involved in the program despite injury.

After graduation, he enrolled in the diploma program at Sutherland-Chan School of Massage Therapy, while continuing to work with athletes on the side as a strength coach.

He has worked in various sporting settings such as the Ride to Conquer Cancer, BioSteel Hockey Camp, and more recently, the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid. In the offseason, he works as a private therapist for pro athletes in hockey, tennis and basketball.

Derlis gives credit to his university experience for showing him limitless possibilities and personal growth.

“Everyone was so integral in my growth as a student-athlete and a human being. I was immediately engulfed by the young and rapidly growing culture being developed at the school, which was a lot of fun to be a part of,” said Derlis. “They really allowed me to be myself while learning and practicing during my four years and without them I wouldn’t have had the space or time to shape how I wanted to think and perform in life. Being a Ridgeback provided plenty of opportunities to grow as a young adult and professional, and I owe a lot to the school for providing me with the inclusive environment to do so.”

Being selected to work in the Davis Cup for the first time came after endless networking and trust in the process. Derlis spent time outside of his education volunteering for sporting events even when he became a practitioner.

“There has been a lot of energy and focus spent on getting to work in big events like the Davis Cup, so when it happens, it’s very rewarding on a personal level. It helps fuel me to learn more and improve constantly which is something I always want to do.”

Treating high-level athletes is not so different from being the athlete yourself according to Derlis. He knows he has a certain level of competency to hold to be able to procure the necessary skills to work on a national basis.

“When you can find yourself in a position where you can represent your country at this level in a competition where it counts most, it holds a special place in your heart,” he said.

He will always reflect on his Ridgeback roots to understand the massive impact his student-athlete lifestyle has had in and outside of hockey.

Derlis admits having gone through injuries as a smaller player complicated his healing, but gives recognition to his pain, as it helped him with risk management in sports. Through his experiences he learned a lot about the day-to-day care that gets put into managing athletic injuries and carrying out rehab protocols.

“Believing in yourself and the process of training, practicing and staying on-top of your studies and health, are all integral parts of being a student-athlete. These are the focuses that helped shape my mindset – a mindset I still carry with me every day in my personal and professional life. It prepared me for helping athletes combat barriers that stand in the way of continuing their passion.”

By Nicole Fisher, Ontario Tech

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