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Alumnus Heals Boston’s Athletes

Passion and Relationship-Building Key for Rehab Expert

Scott Waugh '90 returned to campus to talk about helping some of Boston's most famous athletes get back to work.

11/11/2009
By Kristen O'Reilly

He stands next to Bruins Coach Claude Julien during home games, ready to attend to any injured player on the ice. He plays catch in Fenway’s outfield with rehabbing Red Sox players such as Mike Lowell and Julio Lugo. He’s consulted with golfer Tiger Woods and treated Grammy Award-winning artists. He also owns an ever-expanding clinic where he still treats less-than-famous people on a daily basis.
And yet, Scott Waugh ’90 remembers his roots. He may now rub shoulders with some of Boston’s most famous athletes as rehabilitation coordinator, physical therapist and athletic trainer for both the Red Sox and Bruins. But he said he discovered the passion for his profession at UMass Lowell, thanks to the relationships he created as a student.
“Twenty-three years ago, when I first came here, I sat in these same seats,” said Waugh in a far-ranging, unscripted discussion with several hundred students, alumni, faculty and staff in Weed Hall on Monday, Nov. 9. “I made some strategic decisions back then that set some things in motion for me so that I can enjoy the success that I have now.”
The most important of these decisions was going down to Costello Gym on his first day on campus to meet Head Athletic Trainer Artie Poitras. Poitras put Waugh to work immediately as a student trainer, a job he kept for his entire college career.
“That was the single turning point in my career. I then spent every single day in the training room at the Costello Gym,” Waugh said, adding that that included nights, weekends and holidays. “It was where the passion for what I do started.”
His first professional break came when he was chosen as a paid intern for the Atlanta Falcons right after graduation, even before he had taken his certification exams. Poitras and others in the athletic department were instrumental in opening that door thanks to their professional connections.
“I was down there because of the relationships that I established here. Those guys pulled strings to get me down there. I realized that you need to know your stuff, but you need some people to help you along the way,” he said, relating his awe at taping Dion Sanders’ ankle on his first day on the job. “You can get an invitation to the party, but you have to show you can dance.”
Years later, after working at Boston College and the USA Hockey Olympic Training Camp and while working for the Bruins, Waugh made a name for himself by helping Trot Nixon return to the Red Sox to play an important role in the 2004 World Series. Shortly after that historic season ended, Sox owner John Henry called him in to make him a job offer he couldn’t refuse, despite his already full plate.
His incredibly full days begin at 4:50 a.m. and sometimes end after midnight, depending on the season. He talks to his business manager on his commute to work at 6 a.m. and treats patients at his clinic for several hours each morning. On game days, he’s treating players before, during and after the game, whether it’s at the TD Garden or Fenway Park. And when seasons overlap, he’s jetting from Spring Training back to Boston on a regular basis, putting in 100 hours per week.
But it is his time treating ordinary people at his clinic, Sports and Physical Therapy Associates, that he treasures the most. “I will never take myself out of patient care,” he vowed, even as his clinic grows to treat thousands of people. Everyone who enters his clinics gets “a hug,” even if that means just listening to their problems.
His advice to students: “Make patients part of their rehabilitations. You can never lose the human side of this.”
Waugh remains committed to the University that helped him on his successful career path. (“I’m in a position to send my kids anywhere [to college]. I would send them here in a heart beat,” he said as an aside.)
At the end of his talk, which was the fourth in the Power of Possibility Alumni Showcase, Vice Chancellor for Advancement Beth Shorr announced that Waugh has made a gift to fund two Sport Therapy Fellowships each semester for the Athletic Department. The $3,000 fellowships will be awarded to second-year physical therapy students who show an interest in and commitment to pursuing a career in sports medicine.
Waugh also vowed to help open doors for future talented, hard-working UMass Lowell students. “It’s all about relationships and passion,” he said.