2024 Most Valuable Athletic Trainer Award Honorees

Join us in celebrating the 12th year of our Most Valuable Athletic Trainer Awards, where we honor exceptional athletic trainers who have exemplified dedication and excellence in sports medicine.

These incredible individuals go above and beyond, earning respect and supporting those they care for. They mentor others, drive innovation in the field, and give back to their communities.
Thank you to our sponsors for making it all possible, School Health, Mueller Sports Medicine and Kestrel Instruments!

Erin Leaver

Erin Leaver has been a member of the athletic training staff at Waynesburg University since the fall of 2014, working closely with many of the university’s athletic teams. She currently serves as head athletic trainer, working with the football and track and field teams. She is a sitting member of Waynesburg’s “Care Team” which is charged with identifying students of concern and intervening as early as possible. As a member, one of Erin’s key accomplishments thus far has been the attention she has brought to student-athletes’ mental health challenges as well as being an advocate the profession and the education and skills ATs possess.

Erin manages Waynesburg’s yearly “No Sew Blanket Day” for its department where we create blankets for Project Linus. She is always giving back to both our institutional and local communities—most recently volunteering on a trip to Costa Rica to assist with the construction of a house and a school classroom.

Leaver is a Pittsburgh area native, having graduated from Hampton High School, and attended Anderson University (IN) and California University of Pennsylvania.

She received her B.A., from Anderson University; and her M.S., California University of Pennsylvania.

Jeremy Howard

Jeremy Howard is Training & Conditioning’s first-ever Most Valuable Athletic Trainer, Non-Traiditional winner. He works as the Florida Army National Guard’s (FLARNG) State-level Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) Integrator and Chief of Training serving over 10,000 Army National Guard Soldiers. His efforts in improving the health and fitness of the force have earned the state the 5th healthiest National Guard force two years in a row. He’s additionally worked with the Army’s H2F Program to redesign doctrine for Pregnant and Post-Partum soldiers to ensure the doctrine is more inclusive for all components of the Army.

Jeremy is a volunteer leader in both the National Strength Coaches’ Association (NSCA) and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), he has served for five years on the NSCA’s Tactical Strength & Conditioning Professional Development Group (TSAC PDG) as a Leader as well as on Florida’s State NSCA Team as the Tactical Representative. For NATA he serves as a member of the Council on Professional Development (COPA) for the military setting and is a member of the Athletic Training Association of Florida’s (ATAF) ATsCare Team.

Melissa Portela

Melissa Portela is one of the Athletic Trainers at O’Connor High School in Arizona. She has taken the lead role in the school’s AT department. Melissa plays a vital role in their athletic department and in their Career and Technology Education department. Melissa teaches the Sports Medicine curriculum as well as the school’s NASM class. In both of those classes, she has her students active in the training lab teaching, demonstrating, and having students practicing their skills related to athletic training/sports medicine. She is also a preceptor to Grand Canyon University Athletic Training students. She takes on 2-3 of the clinical students each semester and provides them opportunities to use their skills and work on their proficiencies.

She rallies her students to get behind and support local community service efforts like toy drives, canned food drives, childhood cancer awareness, and diabetes awareness campaigns.



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