Also a Parent

April 14, 2017
By Larry Cooper

Larry Cooper, MS, LAT, ATC, is Head Athletic Trainer at Penn-Trafford High School in Harrison City, Pa., where he also teaches health, physical education, and sports medicine classes. Since 2012, he has served as Chair of the NATA Secondary School Athletic Trainers’ Committee. Winner of a 2016 NATA Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer Award, he received a NATA Athletic Training Service Award in 2014, was inducted into the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers’ Society Hall of Fame in 2014, and was named Training & Conditioning's Most Valuable Athletic Trainer in 2015. Cooper can be reached at: cooperl@penntrafford.org.

One of the things I treasure most in my life is my family, especially my children. Lucky for me, I work in the same school district where my children attended school. For some, this might not be ideal, but it has worked out for me with many positives.

I often hear fellow athletic trainers who are also parents say that they don’t get to spend enough time with their children. Fortunately, I have been able to spend a ton of time with my three girls. I had each of them in physical education classes, sports medicine classes, as athletic training student aides, and as student-athletes. It was really cool for me to see them in all of these different situations and see how they interacted with friends, teammates, peers, adults, and opponents, sometimes all on the same day.

At first it was difficult, and probably more for me than them. It was a daily effort to not overstep my self-imposed boundaries so that I didn’t create issues at home AND school. I felt this approach would serve all of us best and make it a positive experience for everyone.

I wrote about my experience as both a parent and athletic trainer in a previous edition of Training & Conditioning magazine, so I thought we would look at the issue from a different angle for this particular article. Throughout their high school careers, my daughters were never asked about their thoughts on attending school where their dad worked. So I asked. While I thought I knew their take on the experience, I have to tell you, their answers blew me away.

Throughout their high school careers my daughters were never asked about their thoughts on attending school where their dad worked. So I asked. And I have to tell you, their answers blew me away

Here’s what they had to say, with my youngest daughter first and the oldest last:

I am the youngest of three girls. All of us had the amazing opportunity to have our father as our teacher. For any other student, this would be a child's nightmare. However, the relationship that I have with my family, and especially with my dad, has made me appreciate this opportunity far more. My dad is a wonderful man, a strong leader, a wise father, and an excellent teacher. His job caused him to be busy most of our lives, so no amount of time spent with him was enough. Being able to see my dad at school helped our relationship grow much stronger and allowed me to spend more time with him. It was an honor to learn from him as my teacher. I had a lot of fun in his physical education class and was challenged in his student athletic training course. I was able to appreciate and understand his job more since I was there to witness it. I would not have wanted my high school experience to be any other way.

I loved it! I liked being able to see my father at school and spend more time with him. Most people can't say that their dad was their teacher. I don't think I would be interested in as many sports as I am now if I wasn't able to experience them on the sidelines with my dad. It gave me a better understanding of everything that goes on behind the scenes, all of the hard work that goes into it, and how dedicated my dad was/is to his job. Sure, he intimidated guys, but I wouldn't change it for anything!

Being in the same high school with my dad was a truly amazing experience. Most kids I knew at that point would have hated to have their dad as their teacher or even be in the same school as them, but I am grateful for the experiences that we had together. I had so much fun being in the sports medicine class with my dad. I learned so much in that class, and I am sure I will never forget it. I also think my favorite part was seeing him every day in a different setting other than just at home. We were able to eat lunches together occasionally and see each other in passing between classes. When I look back on the four years that I spent in high school, the biggest part I remember is that I was able to share those years with my father. I am truly blessed that I have a father who is not only my father but also a friend, a mentor, a teacher, and my hero.

As you can see, it was positive for all involved, and we learned so much about each other in the process. Keep in mind, it takes self-control, patience, and sometimes you can’t have elephant ears, but all in all, it is well worth it. I wouldn’t trade it for ANYTHING!

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