College of Health and Human Performance

Benny Vaughn (BSHSE ’85)

Sports massage visionary and HHP Alumni Hall of Fame inductee

Benny Vaughn (BSHSE ’85)

When Benny Vaughn entered UF as a freshman in 1969, he didn’t envision becoming the father of sports massage. He came to run track and enjoy all that student life had to offer — like attending a Janis Joplin concert in the Florida Gym!

Along with breaking records in the half-mile event, he broke barriers being only the fifth black athlete at UF. After leaving the University, he read an article about how massage therapy was being used by European athletes to enhance performance. Naturally, this intrigued him enough that he enrolled at the American Institute of Massage in Gainesville. Soon, that wasn’t enough.

“Discovering massage made me realize I wanted to know more about health and wellness that only a college degree could provide. I was, and continue to be, incredibly curious about the human body, athletic performance and wellness,” explains Benny.

Returning to UF in 1982, he enrolled in the health education program at HHP, but a crucial piece in his education was completing the requirements to become a certified athletic trainer. The focus on assessment skills in athlete care was the key to making his massage career take off.

Benny’s idea that it’s the “strategy not the technique” sets him apart in his massage practice and places him in high demand among elite athletes. He worked as a manager for athlete medical services at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. He has gone on to work with the USA Olympic Track and Field Teams for three other Summer Olympics games (2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing, and 2012 London) as well as numerous indoor and outdoor World Athletics Championships, and NCAA regional and national track and field competitions.

Benny’s contributions to the fields of both massage therapy and athletic training have long been recognized. Massage magazine selected Benny as one of the most influential contributors to massage therapy and bodywork. But one of his most cherished awards was being inducted into the HHP Alumni Hall of Fame in 2010.

In 2014, Benny moved his Fort Worth practice into a new 5,000-square-foot, purpose-built dream facility. It’s a far cry from the tiny rooms he worked in as a young therapist, but the lessons he learned at UF remain powerful.

Benny often credits his time at UF and with HHP professors such as Dr. Jerry Lafferty, Dr. Barbara Rienzo and Dr. Jill Varnes with giving him the skills needed to educate clients and athletes alike for self-care and performance improvement. He also credits Chris Patrick, head athletic trainer at UF-UAA for giving him opportunities as a student trainer. Later, as a staff trainer, Benny was able to institute massage therapy within the athlete care system at UF in sports such as swimming, gymnastics and football. 

A poster in Benny’s clinic states “Sport Saves.” It is this belief that prompts Benny to give back to the profession that has given him so much. He often provides athletic therapy services to young athletes at no or low cost with the knowledge that sport can provide a foundation for future success.

Benny is also proud to serve on the Dean’s Leadership Council at HHP and on the National UF Alumni Board. But it is Benny’s insatiable curiosity about the human body and its function that makes him get up every day and look forward to the challenges of his work.

[Profile added in 2016]


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