Aug 2, 20192019 Most Valuable Athletic Trainer Award winner: Chris Snoddy
Chris Snoddy’s “we not me” attitude can be found at the heart of any great athletic trainer. Physical care is one thing, but to truly protect student-athletes it takes a village that can create a safe environment for everyone on campus.
“When I think about the cornerstones in my career or maxims to live by, I always go back to the (Zig) Ziglar quote: ‘You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want,'” said Snoddy, MA, LAT, ATC. “That ties into what our profession should be. Athletes want good health, they want to play, and at my school we’ve been able to make that happen.”
Over the past 20 years, Snoddy has built the athletic training program at Goodpasture Christian School in Nashville. Snoddy, along with Chelsea Hodges, LAT, ATC, provide care for nearly 300 athletes on 24 different teams, but they’re also on campus to provide assistance to anyone in event of an emergency. The duo was awarded National Athletic Trainers’ Lifesaver Recognition after rushing to the aid of a parent who, in 2015, suffered a heart attack while watching his son’s basketball practice.
Serving others defines the job of an athletic trainer, and Snoddy was given a sense of that at a young age. He recalls an incident in high school, when he was a team manager for his school’s football team and one of the linemen collapsed during a summer workout. The coaches ordered Snoddy to call for an ambulance, so he sprinted to the school, down the hallway, and burst through a door into the secretary’s office. He can still remember the look on the secretary’s face.
“She looked at me like, ‘Boy, you’re in trouble for slamming in here,'” Snoddy said. “I told her a player isn’t breathing, and she picked up the phone pretty quick after she realized there was a problem.
“We actually became pretty good friends after that, but she was ready to kill me that day after I hit the door hard.”
The ambulance arrived, and the player had to be lifted over a 2-foot drainage ditch to be loaded into the back. The coaches sent Snoddy to the hospital with the player, and the team returned to practice. At the hospital, Snoddy used a payphone to report back to the school with updates on the player’s condition.
“You need to give more than you get, and a lot of athletic trainers do that.”
Snoddy may not have thought so at the time, but the incident could have planted the seed that sent him on the path to becoming an athletic trainer. The idea of giving back and putting others first has become a central part of his philosophy throughout his career.
“You need to give more than you get, and a lot of athletic trainers do that,” Snoddy said.
Athletic training has come a long way since then, and Snoddy recognizes the strides that have been made since his days as a young athletic trainer at Lipscomb University, where he began his career. The most obvious is the sports medicine community’s understanding of concussions, which has vastly strengthened the means for identifying and treating athletes who have suffered debilitating head injuries.
There’s also the availability of care, and the prevalence of athletic trainers at the high school level. Snoddy remembers the days when the overwhelming majority of high schools worked with local clinics to get access to athletic trainers. The athletic trainer would drop by, see whoever needed attention, then move on to the next school.
“Now we’re kind of there every day,” Snoddy said. “We’re established, we have a room, we have supplies. A lot of times, you may be the first person to see an athlete when they come in and the last person to see them at the end of the day.”
Snoddy is deeply committed to the profession. He’s a past two-term president of the Tennessee Athletic Trainers’ Society and played a key role in creating the state’s concussion law protecting young athletes. He has served in leadership roles with the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, and the organization in 2012 honored him with the Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer Award. He’s worked at STAR Physical Therapy in Nashville for the last 13 years, while serving as an athletic trainer at Goodpasture Christian School.
Snoddy’s imprint at Goodpasture Christian runs deep. When he arrived at the school in 1999, it had a single ice machine, which was located in the cafeteria and hard to access since the room closed after lunch. The athletic training space was only accessible by walking through the football locker room, and the school’s only modality was a broken whirlpool.
“The good news was we had winning teams, and they were planning to build a 16,000-square-foot field house, so I kind of knew I was at the right place at the right time,” Snoddy said. “I started asking about the new athletic training room, and finally they started asked me for suggestions on the athletic room, weight room and laundry.”
Snoddy found himself with a golden opportunity on a bus while traveling to an away football game. The head coach showed Snoddy the blueprints for the new field house, and Snoddy was ready with questions and ideas to make sure the school was truly building something that would allow for the best care for all athletes.
One of his questions was to see the door schedule for the new facility, and he quickly identified a problem.
“We had a 150-square-foot storage facility that opened to the outside, and it only had a single door,” Snoddy said. “I said, ‘You can’t get a Gator through a single door,’ and a coach asked, ‘What’s a Gator?’
“I thought, ‘This is great. This is that golden teachable moment.’ Once they understood what it was and how it helped our athletes, then it appears. I’ve got tons of these stories over the years.”
Snoddy’s Gator story illustrates his point: It takes a village. Whether it’s the janitorial staff, coaches, school administrators or board members, Snoddy believes the best way to serve athletes is through collaboration.
Ultimately, Snoddy hopes more schools nationwide will find ways to provide appropriate care to their student-athletes through an athletic trainer. He’s encouraged by the direction schools are headed, but it all starts with building a community — one that understands sports medicine and the value of athletic training.
“I would love for that to happen (nationwide),” Snoddy said. “Keeping students safe and athletes safe is a huge thing, and athletic trainers are certainly the best defense and best offense to make sure that happens.”