Family Time

May 29, 2018


By David Csillan

David Csillan, MS, LAT, ATC, is Athletic Trainer at Ewing (N.J.) High School and a member of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s (NJSIAA) Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. He also serves as the NATA District 2 Secretary, Secretary Vice-Chair of the NATA District Secretaries/Treasurers Committee, and the NJSIAA Liaison with the NATA and NFHS. Csillan was inducted into the Athletic Trainers’ Society of New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2008 and received both the NATA’s Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer Award and Athletic Trainer Service Award in 2016. He can be reached at:


Being an athletic trainer in the secondary school certainly has its ups and downs. Long hours are put in during the week, and Saturdays are usually reserved for evaluations and treatments of the week’s injuries. Unfortunately, such a schedule leaves very little time to spend with family. While most parents leave work to watch their sons and daughters compete on their school’s athletic teams, the athletic trainer packs a medical kit, loads the golf cart, and goes to work. Every day is like Groundhog Day. Pack the kit. Load the cart. Go to work. The routine becomes particularly difficult when your own children become high school athletes, unless your children are also your athletes.

I have two boys, five years apart. As one graduated high school, the other entered as a freshman. 

Reflect, for a moment, on a holiday when your family came together to enjoy a good meal, share funny stories, and sometimes ask for advice in handling a difficult situation. Lunchtime, Monday through Friday, served as my holiday.

During the school day, the lunch bell would sound, signaling students to make their way to the cafeteria. Fortunately for me, my boys detoured to the athletic training room. Upon entering, I’d hear “So, what’s on the menu today?”  On most days, the midday meal consisted of one of many varieties of cold sandwiches followed by a snack and a drink. On other days, a hot service of pizza, cheesesteaks, or hamburgers made the list. Although infrequent, there were even times when leftovers from our previous dinner made it to the table.

My boys dictated the topic of discussion. We covered everything from their opponent at the day’s game to the health issues of family members. Jokes were shared as equally as the reasons for composing an English paper in MLA format. Nonsensical YouTube videos were scrutinized no different than political speeches.

The routine started out slow and picked up in frequency as the school year progressed. Every day was like a Pavlovian Groundhog Day. Lunch bell rings. “What’s on the menu today?” Discussion ensues. When the day ended and I closed up the room, my boys returned to help put away the coolers and prepare the room for the next day.

It’s important to note that our meetings were never planned—they just happened. And, over time, it became a tradition similar to a family holiday gathering.

Apparently, there was a mutual need for me to spend time with my boys and for them to spend time with me. Yes, I’ve fallen victim to the athletic training profession as do many of us. That has meant late arrivals to daily family dinners, a change in weekend plans, and covering events on holidays when the rest of the world was on vacation.  These are some of the reasons why we proclaim that athletic training is a lifestyle, not a job.

With this in mind, it’s important for athletic trainers to make the most of their time off the playing field in order to strike the best family-work balance. For me, it was as simple as a daily lunch date with my sons.

Both of my boys have long graduated, moved away, and begun careers of their own. Cooper is a couple of thousand miles away, while Jordan is within an hour. There are days when my phone rings at just about noon. I pick up the receiver to hear, “Dad, it’s Jordan. Let me in. I have lunch.” When Cooper visits, he’ll drive to watch a basketball game, then come to my room to help put away the coolers and prepare the room for the next day.

For those athletic trainers with families, especially sons and daughters in the same school, consider inviting them to your room for lunch. Believe me, they’ll actually think it’s pretty cool. Upon arrival, greet them with a surprise lunch, pull up a chair, and get ready for an interesting discussion. Oh, by the way … ”What’s on the menu today?”

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