Maria Hutsick, MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS, is Head Athletic Trainer at Medfield (Mass.) High School and former Director of Sports Medicine at Boston University. She is a past president of the College Athletic Trainers' Society and was honored with an NATA Athletic Trainer Service Award in 2010. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before I became the Head Athletic Trainer at Medfield (Mass.) High School, I spent nearly 30 years as Director of Sports Medicine at Boston University. One of my favorite parts about the position was the vibrant athletic training student aide program. The program not only gave us skilled hands as the students progressed to their senior year, but it also kept the athletic training staff up to date on our profession. Students challenge you as a professional, want to learn, and ask many questions. Most are open to learning and love to work with a skilled professional.
When I left BU and came to Medfield, I soon realized that I could not treat athletes and get all of the teams ready on time by myself. So I started another athletic training student aide program here. I began with one student, and that soon grew to 10. Now, it’s a very strong program. I mentor the students after school and teach them how to tape and do basic rehabilitation and evaluation. They are on the sidelines with me at games, and they travel to all away football and playoff games.
A crucial piece to the athletic training student aide program is that all their work is done under my direct supervision. I have informed my students that they work under my license and cannot do anything if I am not present. I also make it clear to the coaches that the students work under my direct supervision and cannot operate alone. The students in no way are used as help—they are there to learn and be part of a team.
In recent years, I have taken college students majoring in athletic training into my after-school mentoring program, as well. I am one of their clinical rotations. This keeps me active and forces me to teach and remain up to date.
Besides the after-school mentoring program, I was able to get a course in athletic training approved as an elective at my high school. I teach one class in the fall and one in the spring. I have one teaching assistant who also serves as one of the students in the mentoring program. The class is very popular with both students who want to learn about injuries and those who are interested in a health care profession.
The class has two field trips. One takes us to BU, where the students meet with the athletic trainers and students there and tour the facilities, including the academic and strength training centers. The Medfield kids learn about what it takes to be a NCAA Division I athlete and what it is like to major in athletic training.
The second field trip allows us to go to Patriot Place and visit the sports medicine department at the Brigham and Women’s/Mass General Health Care Center. There, the students go through the rehabilitation equipment and watch a biomechanical analysis of one of their classmates performing a skill.
In addition to the field trips, students in my athletic training course are exposed to health care professionals who speak in the class about their jobs and what type of schooling they went through. We have had physical therapists that run their own business, nurses, physician assistants, and nutritionists. We’ve also been able to Skype with others in the health care professions.
It is a little more work to teach the athletic training class and mentor the students. However, I love it. They are fun, keep me up to date, and are a big help. We are like a team in that we have shirts and jackets that identify us. They are very hard working and take pride in being in our group. It is well worth the time and effort to have a program in place. I would recommend this type of program to anyone at the high school level. The rewards far outweigh the extra effort.
And the rewards carry for years. Four students from my athletic training student aide program or athletic training class are currently in the field of athletic training at the college level, and several more are at colleges majoring in nursing, physical therapy, or medicine. I also have several students who are majoring in athletic management who say their time with me in the athletic training room was valuable because they learned how to handle stress and work with people.
Furthermore, every Thanksgiving Day, Medfield has a 10 a.m. football game with our rival. This is a time when all of my alumni students come back and are with us on the sidelines. It is fun, and we get to catch up on all of the current activities in their lives. It’s proof positive that the student program goes well beyond the walls of my high school.