Title: Physical Therapist/Strength & Conditioning Coach
Favorite Karaoke Songs: “Beautiful Day”, “With or Without You”, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2
Esther Lee grew up in Toronto, completed her undergrad degree in Washington state, received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Chapman College in Southern California, and has practiced in Hawaii. Through all of her many moves, she always knew she would work with athletes.
Lee is the full-time physical therapist for both Venus and Serena Williams. She met Serena first, while treating her at the Joubert Physical Therapy clinic in Beverly Hills. Three years ago she joined Team Venus, and now travels with the sisters full-time, making sure their personal machines are finely tuned.
The body of an elite athlete is essentially a multi-million dollar property, and must be treated as such. So Lee is with Venus every day, carting along her mini pharmacy of athletic tape, anti-inflammatories, Therabands, gauze, bandages, sunscreen and a dozens more items. Before each practice, Lee manually warms up Venus’ joints and gets the blood flowing through her soft tissue. She supervises every session and is on-hand to provide treatment to a glitchy muscle or stiff joint.
“I work on her every day,” says Lee. “Usually, what I do is more preventative. She might be feeling discomfort or pain, but it’s not an injury. I work on it before it becomes an injury.”
After tennis practice, Venus and Lee hit the gym or the track for conditioning exercises and agility drills. Sometimes, Lee must protect the athlete from herself.
“Venus loves to work hard and I’ll have to remind her not to overdo it,” says Lee. “She is very diligent, even when she’s not feeling the greatest.”
Lee is especially busy during tournaments, constantly assessing and treating aches and pains to keep them from blowing up into something more serious. During tournament play Lee isn’t allowed to touch Venus, though. The Women’s Tennis Association provides on-court physical therapists to provide care. But because they are only allowed a few minutes to diagnose and treat athletes, Lee makes sure they are well informed about her client before the tournament begins.
“I love travelling. I love the competition. I love my girls,” says Lee. “The whole team is like a close family. We all get more serious during tournaments to help the girls achieve.”