When she was in seventh grade, Lyndsay Young had to write an essay about her life. It included a portion about what she saw for her future. Thirteen-year-old Lyndsay wrote about how she wanted to be a physical therapist for Olympic-level athletes in Park City, Utah.
So, maybe she possesses a psychic ability—or maybe she’s the kind of person who stops at nothing to get what she wants. A driven therapist who loves helping others succeed, Young is an integral part of the small group that surrounds Mikaela Shiffrin, elite alpine ski racer with the U.S. Ski Team, 2014 Olympic Gold medalist, and reigning Overall World Cup champion. At our press date, Shiffrin had just won her first gold medal at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games and still had several races to go.
Speaking to Continuum this winter from Lake Louise in Banff, Canada, Young BS’11 DPT’14 had recently returned from travel with the U.S. Ski Team to Austria, Italy, Finland, and Switzerland. She spent one day in Park City in between all the team trips. Young says she’s on the road nearly 75 percent of the year, and she’s learned quickly what she does and doesn’t need to take with her. “I’m really good at folding now,” she jokes. “I just pick one color and make sure everything matches.”
And all that packing includes not just personal items but her physical therapy gear and her ski supplies. Since she is up and out in the open air with Shiffrin every single day, she has to be sure she has the right stuff—and the right mindset. “I make sure I’m taken care of, so I can take care of the athletes,” Young says.Her average day starts at 6:30 a.m., when she does some yoga and meditation. “Then, whenever the sun rises, we’re on the hill.”
She is a first responder, so she is with her athlete the entire time she’s skiing—meaning Young is strapped into a pair of skis herself, going up and down the mountain during warm-up and training runs. Then she oversees Shiffrin’s conditioning, sometimes in a pool, some dancing, and weights.
Shiffrin was injured in 2014, an experience that brought her and Young together. Young says that while her favorite part of the job used to be travel and exploration, she now especially embraces the therapy itself. “It’s cool to be able to prevent an injury and learn the patterns that create them,” she says.
She’s also learned a lot about the mental process of recovery. “Your whole brain changes. I had to make sure Mikaela had the facts. From day one, I was educating her on the injury, preparing her so she could anticipate the recovery.” Now, Young says, Shiffrin passes that knowledge on to fellow athletes, which makes Young proud.
The travel and tight quarters can be stressful, but Young says she is always conscious of being positive at the right times. “With elite athletes who are so hyper-focused, I know I also have to always be attentive.”
Looking back on her journey, Young says the U was hugely instrumental in helping her get what she wanted. The location, encouragement from professors, and program that trained her all contributed to making her seventh-grade dreams come true.
“I just try to remember to always stay playful and grateful. I’m here to help these guys be their very best,” says Young.