Betting on yourself and giving yourself permission to fail is no easy feat. It requires confidence in your abilities and calls on you to squeeze out every ounce of courage before making the leap, especially in a field as competitive as sports. An eat or be eaten type of environment. For physical therapist, Dr. Ron Weathers, there came a time when there was no other option but to venture out and create his own brand. “Everything I’ve done up until this point . . . has prepared me for this next step in my life,” he recalled. A groundbreaking professional, with a resume that will knock your socks off. But, please, keep them on your feet. He’s worked for reputable organizations such as Duke University, the Orlando Magic, and the Los Angeles Lakers. Yet, the pinnacle of his career is serving as Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Embodi Physical Therapy (PT) and Sports Performance.
Although launching your own business, at any time let alone in January 2020 – two months ahead of the global shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, can be exhaustive it can also be incredibly rewarding seeing it develop from scratch. “Here’s the great thing about starting a business in the pandemic: you become really really agile really quickly, or you go out of business,” said Dr. Weathers as he reflected on being forced to focus on the necessities needed to run his company. After struggling like everyone else to obtain personal protective equipment (PPE), once obtained, he combined that with a medical bag and massage table and began treating his clients out of their garages’. Ultimately, doing so until they were advanced enough, within recovery, to use the equipment stationed in his own garage. Then, transitioned to his physical office located inside of a CrossFit gym.
His practice is rooted in mentorship, relationship building, and education. Having worked with collegiate and professional athletes for over 10 years, he has cultivated relationships that lead to return business and referrals. This also speaks to the importance of representation within the field of physical therapy. When Dr. Weathers started working for the National Basketball Association (NBA) back in 2013, he was the only Black physical therapist amongst its 30 teams. The number has since grown, yet not exponentially. “When I was in the NBA full-time, I would spend 80% of the time doing my job, but the other 20% was mentoring. At the end of the day, I am a Black man and I’m dealing with predominantly young Black men, and we would have a lot of closed door conversations about . . . just life things,” shared Dr. Weathers.
Within his practice, he takes pride in it being a safe space for a range of discussions, outside of an athlete’s dedicated sport. If you were a fly on the wall, you would see a bunch of joking, laughing, and discussions around the hottest television show, paired with thought provoking conversations. Unfortunately, in today’s world, people rarely view athletes as actual people full of emotions and intelligence. “A lot of times, especially with these NBA types, they’re just seen as more of a commodity. Almost like robots. Almost like people who’ve been put on this earth for our entertainment and our entertainment only,” he explained. So, having someone who sees them as a human being coupled with having intellectual conversations and maintaining confidentiality is a no brainer as to why clients opt to return to him, when they can go to any other practice in the world.
If you have never been injured, or seriously injured, you are fortunate. Not only can injury take a toll on you physically, but also mentally. There are a lot of people who don’t truly know themselves outside of their professions. Now, imagine if your profession required you to use your body at a high level. It can be a dark time. Dr. Ron understands the psychological toll of injury, and is there with his clients every step of the way. Detailing, “When you are injured, there is a psychological component. I mean the stages of injury are very similar to dealing with death and dying. There is a denial phase. There is an acceptance phase. You are actually kind of grieving through that and it takes someone like myself to help those athletes through that process and that’s one of those things that I really enjoy.”
His passion for the field stemmed from his own career ending injury. He was becoming a standout football player during his junior year of high school in Houston, Texas, but those college looks went away after a foot injury the following year. This inspired him to become an athletic trainer, a title he also holds. Yet, he was still drawn to the rehabilitation process and establishing invaluable relationships with injured athletes. Thus, receiving a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Temple University. Dr. Weathers is also a certified strength and conditioning coach. So if after watching his company’s Tik Tok account, you’re confused as to the difference between athletic training, physical therapy, and conditioning, it’s because he does it all. “There’s a lot of overlap, but there are some nuanced differences as well,” he clarified.
hear a snippet of the conversation:
Owning his own practice gives him the freedom to customize treatment styles for clients. He is more of a hands on, manual therapist. This means, if you’re experiencing back pain then he is able to manipulate your neck or your back to make you feel better. His company logo is an ode to this style of treatment and the environment of his practice. Dr. Weathers passionately described, “I’m a hands on manual therapist, and it represents a spine. But I think it’s a circle, because I want to surround my clients. Create this environment of this safe haven, safe circle.”
Embodi PT received its name, essentially, due to its company values. He wanted it to embody strength, family, and mentoring. For originality, the spelling was changed. Think of the word embodiment, now drop the “ment.” There is a lot on the horizon for the company. Two years after its launch, Dr. Weathers can sense that he is on the cusp of expansion. Though, he isn’t rushing the process. Stating, “That’s a really challenging next step. To step out of being a clinician and technician and to being more of the boss. So, I want to make sure that I do everything organically.” In addition to the shift in responsibilities that come with company expansion, his company’s success is heavily rooted on relationships with clientele. “I think a big part of whomever I bring in will be mentoring. What’s important, what are people looking for? What’s going to keep these clients happy, healthy, and coming back? I think that’s outstanding customer service, fantastic personality, and you have to be a damn good clinician too . . . In order to find someone who fits all of those things, who embodies all of those things, it's hard to find. So, I’m taking my time,” he elaborated.
When expansion does happen over the next five years, Dr. Weathers sees himself with multiple locations and shifting into the role of business manager. However, he will still treat clients as that love is the seed that launched his company. Expanding accessibility within the field of physical therapy, and being able to reach those who cannot pay a certain price out of pocket, is a responsibility that he doesn’t take lightly and plans for it to be incorporated as Embodi PT expands.
As a former college adjunct professor, he believes teaching comes naturally to him. It’s used within his practice as he shares tips with his clients, it certainly is present in his relationship with his children, and he hopes for it to lead to more community involvement. For him, this would look like mentoring and teaching young athletes on injury prevention. “One of the things I want to do is create these free educational clinics about how to not have knee pain at 17 years old as an AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] basketball player. . . These are things that youth athletes don’t know and are getting a lot of misinformation from the internet, because the majority of the time people are doing things that look cool to get likes and are not necessarily the best things for athletes.”
There is so much promise for this company’s future, and though acknowledged, Dr. Weathers is working to also stay rooted in the present. He has two adorable children, a beautiful wife, and is continuing to nurture those relationships. “I’ve been grinding in my career for a long time now, and it comes a certain point in time where you have to make sure that you take care of home. So, that’s what I’m doing now,” he shared.
For those who see Dr. Weathers as an inspiration, and want to follow a similar path, he imparts the following wisdom, “Find a good mentor. Don’t just find one good mentor, find multiple mentors.” Within those relationships, “Lean on these folks and the experiences that they have, so you don’t end up making the same mistakes, and you would be surprised how many people actually want to help you.” Outside of mentorship, establishing a notable career will take risk and trial and error. He encourages you to, “Stay motivated. Fail a lot. Try a lot of different things. Figure out what you don’t want to do early in life, and then once you figure out what you want to do, then move full steam ahead.”
Also, for those who are living with pain and have been good for quite some time. He shares, “Just because you’re aging, you don’t have to be in pain constantly. There’s nothing wrong with being great . . . So, why not choose to be great if you can be great?”
In other words, sign up to be great and be treated by his practice at embodipt.com.
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