Inspiration through physical therapy, UT Martin graduate finds passion through injury

Most people would consider a torn ACL during their high school senior football season a disappointing end to everything they had worked toward, but for Collin Stricklin, of Martin, this injury led him to his passion and dream career: physical therapy. Stricklin, now a senior health and human performance major at the University of Tennessee at Martin, is ready to graduate, confident that UT Martin has prepared him for wherever life takes him next.

“(UT Martin) has given me a base understanding of the knowledge that I need for graduate school, as well as confirm that this is the field of study I want to be in,” Stricklin said.

Stricklin is studying to become a physical therapist who specializes in pediatrics and sports medicine after spending the majority of his adolescence in physical therapy because of various sports-related injuries. Inspired by Brian Smith, the sports medicine therapist who volunteered for his school’s athletics program, Stricklin is now the one inspiring children through physical therapy at The Sideline clinic in Martin.

“I love kids. Sometimes I feel like I am just a big kid myself. My hopes for specializing in pediatric physical therapy are to help increase a child’s quality of life and chances to participate in the things they would like. Just because they have a physical disability doesn’t mean they don’t want to play basketball, football or cheer. I want to make those aspirations for them as close to a reality as possible,” said Stricklin.

He now works alongside the physical therapist that encouraged him to pursue his love of exercise science in high school at The Sideline clinic and even has the opportunity to assist Smith during Westview High School football games on Friday nights. Stricklin enjoys most working in the clinic with kids on their exercises and helping them reach their goals.

While Stricklin has dedicated himself to his studies and work, he also knew that he would benefit from participating in campus organizations that would improve his professionalism in order to be a well-rounded therapist. He is a member of the S.H.A.P.E (Sports, Health, Athletics, Physical Education) Club, Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society and served on SOAR (Summer Orientation and Registration) staff.

His participation in each group has allowed Stricklin to refine not only his leadership and the intrapersonal communication skills that help him in his practice but also his viewpoint on life.

“(The organizations have) helped me have a different outlook on life, help me make connections, help me to realize that life is a good thing and it can be hard sometimes, but it’s good to have a support system to back you up when you need them,” said Stricklin.

Stricklin hopes to offer the same support to his clients that UT Martin has offered to him these past four years. Even though he grew up in Martin, he said it was the university that made it feel like home. He wants incoming and current students to know that while college can be a scary transition in life, the faculty, staff, students and administrators will always be there to help when you need it.

“It’s a little community that’s loving, kind and supportive,” said Stricklin. “Everybody does truly care about you and your wellbeing. You’re not just another student coming through.”

Stricklin will be a spring 2020 graduate.

Stricklin has not decided which physical therapy graduate school he will soar to next, but he does know that UT Martin has prepared him for wherever he lands.

“I believe that life has a road laid out before me and lots of options of places that I can go,” said Stricklin. “I believe that UTM has been a stepping (stone) to prepare me to go on this thing called life.”

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