Tennis enthusiast Garrick Leyco has always bonded with the men in his family over sports.
A registered massage therapist based out of Toronto, he was thrilled when a client gifted him with a set of tickets for the Marin Čilić vs Albert Ramos-Viñolas session on Monday. Attending the National Bank Open presented by Rogers for the first time, he called up his father Rommel, brother Kyelor and cousin Edward to see if they were down to join him. Tennis fans as well, they jumped on the opportunity to watch some live sports action after a year of watching from home due to COVID-19. They hope to make the tournament an annual tradition.
“We were so stoked,” said Leyco. “Words couldn’t express how excited we were. We were so taken aback by everything. We thought, ‘Wow, it’s almost feeling normal again after COVID-19.’ My brother was saying we should make this a yearly thing. I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’”
Leyco began playing tennis at age five when his father who played recreationally started him in the sport. As a child growing up in Scarborough, Leyco attended a tennis school that taught him the fundamentals of the game. When the now 32-year-old was a teenager, the family moved to Thornhill close to where a young player named Milos Raonic and his family lived. Leyco and his dad remember seeing Raonic practicing on the local court with his coach Casey Curtis from time to time. Leyco recalls a day when Curtis introduced himself briefly and asked if he would be interested in playing tennis competitively. Skeptical of the situation, Leyco and his father quickly declined.
“Me and my dad thought it was a scam,” laughed Leyco. “Little did we know (Raonic) would become a superstar.”
An RMT for the past five years, Leyco has always been interested in the human body and how it moves. He was on the path to becoming a police officer until eight years ago when he incurred a knee injury during tactical training where he tore a ligament.
At the doctor’s recommendation, he decided against surgery and began a rehabilitation process working with massage and physiotherapists. Not being able to do all the activities that he normally does, he was discouraged until he began receiving massage treatment and started to recover. That’s when he decided to pursue a career in massage therapy. He also had an uncle who was an RMT based out of California who taught him more about how you can help someone recover from injury through massage.
“I used to think it was a luxury spa thing until I realized it wasn’t and that even athletes need this,” said Leyco. “You can help people perform better through a nice deep tissue sports massage. I’ve seen it work firsthand with myself and with others and I was so inspired by that. I wanted to do that for other people just to give them back the hope that they might have lost.”
As if by fate, during the tournament on Monday, Garrick won a fan raffle and was gifted a box of SpiderTech KT tape which is designed to relieve pain while supporting muscles, tendons, and ligaments. His cousin Edward was also excited to see their faces on the big screen when they received their prizes.
“They had no idea I was an RMT and they gave me KT tape,” chuckled Leyco. “My cousin asked, ‘Did you organize this?’ And I said I swear I have no idea what’s going on. I was already looking at my patient list for the next day thinking, ‘Okay, can I use this tape on anyone?’”
Over the years helping people recover from injury, Leyco has developed an eye for seeing how an athlete’s sloppy movements on the field of play can make them susceptible to injury. He can’t help but notice small inefficiencies when watching his favourite athletes in action. On an occasion or two while watching sports with his family at home he’s been able to predict an athlete’s injury before it happened based on their motion.
Fortunately for Čilić and Ramos-Viñolas playing in the sweltering heat on Monday, Leyco didn’t notice anything concerning.