Passion for Athletics and Helping Others Leads to Career in Recreation Therapy and Sports Wellness
Matt Edens, CTRS, sports teams coordinator, and Gustavo Duran-Monge, MS, CSCS, sports specialist, share how sports and recreation are part of rehabilitation at Shepherd Center.
Matt Edens and Gustavo Duran-Monge have a passion for sports – playing them, watching them, and helping others develop or maintain that same passion after injury. They both played various sports when they were growing up, and Gustavo parlayed his love of soccer into a college scholarship. They have different jobs within Shepherd Center’s Recreational Therapy and Wellness Sports Department, but those jobs – sports teams coordinator and sports specialist – complement each other. They both bring their love for sports, competition and a healthy lifestyle to their jobs while trying to help clients do the same.
How did you come to choose this as a career field?
Matt: I was on a path to an education degree in college, and then I learned about adaptive sports. I started volunteering at different events. I decided to become a recreational therapist as it married my love of sports with wanting to teach.
Gustavo: I played competitive soccer, and it opened a lot of doors for me, so I wanted to pursue a career that had something to do with health and exercise. At first, I had a job that was not very fulfilling. I started praying for a job where I could make a difference.
In your role, how do you help clients become involved in sports?
Matt: For patients, it’s when they come down to the gym during practice. Athletes on the team usually go over and introduce themselves. That simple connection helps newly injured people see there is life after injury. For community members, I usually set up a meeting to go over the11 sports we offer and we start by picking a sport or two for them to come out and try.
Gustavo: I try to get to know them and what they are interested in and then explain what their options are. I demonstrate how they can still do that activity, or try to find something else that fills that same need. I also tell them that by being active, they can prevent secondary complications, such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
What is the best part about your job?
Matt: Watching the athletes working incredibly hard and pushing themselves to reach their goals, whether it’s achieving a personal record in a race or moving up into the starting line up on one of the team sports.
Gustavo: One of my favorite things is when they think they can’t do something, and then they discover they can. The first time they realize that, it is so rewarding.
Gustavo Duran-Monge, MS, CSCS
B.S. – Physiology, Life University
M.S. – Exercise Science, Life University
NCSA – Certified strength and conditioning specialist
- Gustavo is originally from San Jose, Costa Rica, and came to the United States in 1998 on an athletic scholarship to play soccer for Life University in Marietta, Georgia.
- He is married and has a son and a daughter.
- He enjoys cycling, outdoor activities and spending time with his family.
Matt Edens, CTRS
University of Georgia
B.S. – Education with an emphasis on recreational therapy
- Matt is married to Kelly Edens, a fellow Shepherd Center employee, and they have two daughters.
- He is a huge University of Georgia fan as well as all Atlanta sports, and when he can, he enjoys watching football, baseball and basketball
- Most of his leisure time is spent together as a family doing various activities from taking his girls to soccer games and practices, to movies, to bowling, and swimming or to the park. He also loves to cook on the grill or BBQ smoker.
Shepherd Center is thankful to the donors who make Shepherd Center sports and recreation therapy programs possible. To learn more and contribute, please visit shepherd.org/giving.
Interviewed by Sara Baxter
Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.