Lessons Learned

August 21, 2018
By Maria Hutsick

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: [email protected].


I have been an athletic trainer for 40 years. It sounds like a long time, but wow! I needed all the roads that I took to become as skilled as I am today. However, some of the lessons I learned would have been helpful had I learned them earlier in my carrier. They are:

  • How to be a better teacher in the classroom. For most of my career, I worked at the NCAA Division I level, so I didn’t have much time to develop as an educator. Currently, I teach a sports medicine course at the high school level, and I am a much better teacher now as a result of evaluations and learning more student-centered ways of teaching.
  • That if you hire good people, you will have a good staff. I had to learn to hire based on how the person would fit with the staff and what type of recommendations and experience they had. Where they went to school is not that important. The type of person they are is more important. A person of good character can learn and be trusted, which is very important in our line of work.
  • That we deserve days off. Now I know there are ways to work the schedule so no one on staff misses a family event or an opportunity for something important to them.
  • That you can say no to a coach. This is an important lesson especially for younger athletic trainers. The coach and administration need to respect you as a person and professional. Coaches changing practice times to fit their schedule at the last minute should not be tolerated. You need to inform your administration that if you cannot be present that the practice should not be allowed (at least at the college level). You cannot work 24-7 and be a good professional—you need to have down time to refresh yourself and stay healthy. Make it clear that you are not a doormat to be taken advantage of.
  • That you must always back up your staff and students. Back them up no matter what. No one messed with my staff or students. If they did it once, they didn’t do it again. My staff knew I would give them hell later perhaps, but no one outside of our group was allowed to disrespect a staff member or student. Even at the high school level, the coaches and athletes know they have to respect and treat my high school athletic training student aides with respect. I teach my students not to take any foolishness or disrespect from coaches or athletes. Many of my students become more confident and assertive in their work as a result.
  • That low-paying jobs are unacceptable. If you read a job description that wants you to do everything but spit nickles and pays $30,000 or less for 12 months, this is an insult to you as a professional. If you have to take the job, don’t stay at the place for long. Gain experience and tell them when you leave that the salary is unacceptable. You have a master’s degree and passed state and national boards. You deserve a living wage.

Athletic training is not for the faint of heart. But if you are honest, work hard, demand respect, and learn a few lessons along the way, it is a great way to make a living.

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