Life after basketball, Navistar leads to career in therapeutic massage

Editor’s note: Jody Finney’s soft hands helped him set a single season record for free throw percentage at Ohio State University that has survived more than 40 years. After 33 years on the assembly line at International Trucks,

those hands have led him into a second career in therapeutic massage


SPRINGFIELD — Fifty years ago, in a Hayward Junior High School gymnasium, an eighth grader who lived on Burt Street was sinking a series of free throws in front of Coach Al “Bulldog” Turner.

“I considered myself a pretty good shooter,” Jody Finney recalled.

But in the course of Finney’s free throw run, Turner interrupted him.

“You think you’re a good shooter, don’t you?”

The coach then proceeded to point out a flaw.

“He said, ‘You don’t follow through, Jody,’” Finney recalled.

“I can still remember him saying: “You take a bowling ball, you follow through like this; a football, like this.”

With a basketball, the follow through involves a snap of the wrist that creates a slight backward spin, the physics of a friendly shooter’s bounce on the rim.

“He basically taught me how to shoot correctly.”

Turner’s lessons served Finney well in shooting accuracy during successful basketball careers at South High School and Ohio State University.

That the lesson serves him in the field of therapeutic massage, which he began in his 50s after an injury at Navistar International, is another story — the latest chapter in Finney’s life.


The path that led Finney to remodel his basement, install a massage table, high-end speakers and other amenities of his massage studio began in the pit on the assembly line at Navistar International.

Holding a torque wrench above his 6-foot-4 frame, he felt himself twist instead. Soon, the lower discs in his back were bulging.

“I couldn’t bend over,” Finney said.

He’d seen three other men with the same kind of problem undergo surgery and then never return to work.

Chiropractic visits gave way to physical therapy, then therapeutic massage.

“My pain started going away, so I became a real believer,” Finney said.

Within six weeks of his injury in the fall of 2000, Finney was in school.

A good job

Finney has no regrets about his assembly line job.

“I was going to work there a couple of months and see what happened,” he said. “But I had two kids at the time, I had to have a good-paying job. And kind of being anti-establishment, I didn’t want to be in management.”

As three more children came along, he stayed put and poured his energy into their lives.

“I had no stress working there, it was like a haven,” he said.

But when the injury arrived, “I was ready to retire,” he said.

Well, maybe not quite.

Asked the first day of massage therapy school why he was there, Finney gave an atypical answer.

“I don’t know how somebody can play a piano by ear,” Finney said. “I’m a fairly intelligent person, and I can’t do that. But some people have a gift. And I know I have a gift to do massage.”

Linda Finney, who met her husband when the two of them were in fifth grade, she sees his move into therapeutic massage in parallel to her own decision to have a career after focusing on raising their five children.

“I went to nursing school when I was like 48, ” said Mrs. Finney. “Then he decided he wanted to do something. He’s not one to sit around and be retired.”

Muscles and glue

Once Finney was a certified massage therapist, “I started out doing deep tissue sports massage,” he said.

Finney then moved on to working with the myofascial tissue, a layer that “should float between the skin and muscles,” he said.

When he started doing this kind of work, Finney experienced two benefits: better results for his clients and business that grew “exponentially” through word-of-mouth.


One result of Finney’s level of engagement is the degree to which is patients find him engaging and themselves are engaged in their treatment.

Meghan Vogel, 16, visited Finney after she’d won her first high school cross country race for West Liberty-Salem, only to wake up the next morning barely able to walk.

What she’d eventually discover was a pinched sciatic nerve that touched off other odd symptoms as well.

“I was at school one day walking back from lunch” when a friend fired off a funny line.

When Vogel laughed, “I instantly fell to the ground,” she said. “If I coughed or laughed, my leg would give out.”

Vogel found that when Finney reached the right spot and moved the tissue around, relief was not far off.

“We got all sorts of diagnoses,” said her mother, Ann, who in 18 years of coaching hadn’t heard about the myofacial tissue work that Finney does.

“I’ve learned so much from him,” she said.

Jacqueline Howell, who met Finney after she founded the girls golf team at Urbana University, said Finney’s done so well “I’m going to stop recommending him.”

Hitting both ends

The first few times Jim Copes went to Finney to relieve chronic pain, Finney wrote out an appointment card for the next session.

Now, Copes said, “I would not forget Thursday at nine. I tell him it’s like he breathes life into my foot.”

But while there sometimes are regular patterns to the massages, they don’t always go the same.

Finney said he usually enters a session with a plan in mind. But like a coach whose game plan goes out the window, a change of plan is required.

“I don’t consider this work,” said Finney, 62. “I never have and I never will. If it ever gets to be like work, I’ll retire again.”

But that’s not likely to be soon.

“I heard a preacher say one time, if you find something in life that you’re good at, you’re blessed. If you enjoy it, I guess you’re doubly blessed.”

It’s like hitting both ends of a one-and-one with a game on the line.

Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0368.

About the Author