Open for Business

May 17, 2018
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, 2015 T&C Most Valuable Athletic Trainer Award, and 2014 NATA Athletic Training Service Award, he was inducted into the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers’ Society Hall of Fame in 2014. Cooper can be reached at:

Athletic directors and coaches would like the athletic training room open all the time. For athletic trainers, that would cause burn-out and a terrible environment. What is the solution?

Let me start by saying that as a teacher and athletic trainer at Penn-Trafford High School in Harrison City, Pa., my schedule might not make everyone in the athletic department happy. That is ok because coaches make their team’s practice schedule, and it doesn’t always make everyone happy, either. There will always be someone who has a complaint, legitimate or not, about someone else’s schedule.

That being said, keep in mind why we are in our position and have a purpose for opening your facility. The goal of the hours in your facility should be twofold: 1) Provide appropriate health care for all games, and 2) Provide rehabilitation services for all injured athletes. If we are able to be there for every practice too, that is an added bonus, but not a requirement.

Using those goals as my guidelines, during the academic year, my athletic training facility is open after school until the end of practices—normally around 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. On Saturdays, it is open 30 minutes before the first practice, which normally is around 7:30 a.m., until 12:00 p.m. If a coach elects to practice outside of this time frame, they are on their own. For the past 33 years, this schedule has served everyone well at Penn-Trafford, and very few practices have occurred without having appropriate athletic health care present.

Fall preseason and vacation days do present some challenges regarding athletic training room hours and can stretch you thin if you are the only athletic trainer on staff. Multiple athletic trainers at the school enable each person to better achieve a life-work balance—something that should be a priority for all athletics personnel.

During the first week of fall preseason at Penn-Trafford, our athletic training facility is normally open from 6:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. Fortunately, this schedule is only for that first week. Holidays, specifically Christmas, Easter break, or spring vacation, we are in the facility from 7:30 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. It is our opinion that all teams can get their practices completed during this time frame.

As I stated earlier, coaches can elect to not practice during this time. If that happens, they know that they are responsible for the well-being of their student-athletes. All coaches in Pennsylvania are required to have first aid and CPR training, as well as sudden cardiac arrest and concussion education once every 12 months. I am confident that our Penn-Trafford coaches have basic skills and knowledge and are very aware of our emergency action plan. As athletic trainers, we have to remember that coaches are also adults, usually teachers who are responsible on a daily basis for communication, classroom management, and student safety. 

Overall, my fellow Penn-Trafford athletic trainers and I have been adamant that we will not be in the athletic training facility seven days a week. We follow the old adage: We work to live, not live to work!



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