Jan 29, 2015
A Diverse Tomorrow

Leaders in the effort to attract more minorities to athletic training discuss ways they’re helping shape the future of the profession.

Close your eyes and picture a large group of athletes. Chances are, the image in your head includes individuals of many different sizes, shapes, and colors. It goes without saying that athletics today is as ethnically and racially diverse as the country itself.

Now, close your eyes and picture your most recent regional athletic trainers’ association gathering, or remember the people you met at the last NATA Annual Meeting. Again there are probably many shapes and sizes. But the racial makeup may not be very diverse–according to the NATA’s latest figures, 86 percent of certified athletic trainers in the association today are white.

The NATA has made a commitment to increasing diversity in the profession, and the association’s Ethnic Diversity Advisory Committee (EDAC) is taking the lead in those efforts. In this article, three members of that committee will discuss projects that are helping build a more diverse future. They’ll also talk about why diversity should be important to every member of the field.


By Elicia Leal

Elicia Leal, MEd, LAT, ATC, is Head Athletic Trainer at McKinney (Texas) North High School. She is the District Six Representative to the NATA’s EDAC and serves as Chair of the Southwest Athletic Trainers’ Association’s Ethnic Diversity Committee. She can be reached at: [email protected].

In our efforts to increase ethnic diversity and advocate for the profession of athletic training, the EDAC held its first Career Day at the 2001 NATA Annual Meeting. The event, which has since become an annual tradition, is a shining example of how we further the EDAC’s motto: “Service, Advocacy, and Unity.”

The goal of Career Day is to reach out to minority high school students who may not understand the field of athletic training. Some are athletes who have received services from an athletic trainer at their school, but perhaps never considered athletic training as a career option. Others are simply students with an interest in medicine, or sports medicine in particular. We hope that by exposing them to the profession and giving them an opportunity to meet and talk with athletic trainers, we’re planting seeds that will grow into a diverse crop of future entrants to the field.

As the EDAC member in charge of Career Day, I feel very fortunate to take part in such an important educational project. Career Day provides high school students with a truly unique window into the field: They see what the NATA Annual Meeting is like, get their feet wet in networking, review the latest information about the broad array of athletic training career opportunities, and even learn about current athletic training research.

Attendees also get to hear the convention’s keynote speaker, and see the latest sports medicine products as they visit vendors in the exhibit hall. It’s an eye-opening opportunity for participants, and one we hope will help guide them as they plan their future.

We host a luncheon for the students with a special guest speaker, who offers a message that’s just for them. The talks are always unique, but perhaps the most memorable one was given a few years ago by Kevin Carroll, former Head Athletic Trainer for the Philadelphia 76ers and the creative genius behind the wildly popular yellow Livestrong bracelets. We had trouble finding a venue for the luncheon that year, until the NATA President offered use of his own suite at the convention. We were so pleased to see support for our efforts coming all the way from the top.

As with any ongoing project, Career Day is constantly evolving. We’re always talking about ways to broaden our outreach while not spreading ourselves too thin. At the first Career Day in 2001, we had 12 students, and that number seemed ideal, so we have stayed with it. The modest size allows each participant to receive more personal attention, and it keeps the logistics of the day manageable. We also have a limited budget, and since we provide the students with lunch and a few other perks, such as T-shirts, we need to control our costs. If you saw a group of young, wide-eyed students walking around in matching shirts in St. Louis this year or Atlanta the year before, now you know why.

Despite the limited size of the Career Day event, we want to share our message with the largest audience possible–and in 2008, we took an exciting new step in that direction. The students we recruited in St. Louis came from the local Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club Adams Park Unit, and we decided we could reach more young people from the club if we visited them directly. Three of us from the EDAC went to the club and gave a presentation on athletic training, which was attended by an ethnically diverse audience of around 40 students and several staff members.

I believe that event generated a lot of interest in the profession. All the young people knew about sports and high-level athletes, but it was the first time most of them had ever gotten a “behind-the-scenes” look at the support that goes into preparing athletes to succeed and treating them when they’re injured. We’re already planning a similar presentation connected with next year’s convention in San Antonio.

In the coming year, we’ll be working to implement a tool that will help us track the progress of students who have participated in Career Day to see if any decide to pursue an athletic training career. By keeping in touch with these young people, we hope to better understand what they find most appealing and what we can do in the future to make our outreach even more effective.

In 2009, we’re also planning to add 12 college athletic training students to the Career Day mix. We were fortunate to have several students from Marquette University volunteer to assist us this year in St. Louis, and they said that not only did they enjoy helping the high school students, but they themselves learned a lot from the presentations on career options in athletic training.

Making college students a regular part of the Career Day program will be a great way to bridge the gap between the high schoolers and college-age people about to enter the profession, hopefully prompting mutually beneficial mentoring relationships to form. Plus, the extra help may allow us to bring in more high school students for the event.

I feel our work is opening doors to a largely untapped population and plays an important role in securing a bright, diverse, and exciting future for the profession of athletic training. I welcome contact from any NATA committee chair who would like to collaborate with the EDAC on Career Day, and from any athletic trainer who is interested in volunteering their time toward our effort. Once you feel the intoxicating energy and interest these students bring with them, you may find that you’re hooked for life.


By Keith Garnett

Keith Garnett, MS, ATC, LAT, PES, CES, is Assistant Athletic Trainer for the Houston Rockets and the current Chair of the NATA’s EDAC. He can be reached at: [email protected].

As the EDAC’s motto states, we are dedicated to service, devoted to advocacy, and committed to unity. We aim to identify and address issues relevant to all ethnic minority groups, both in the NATA and in the health care arena at large. We advocate sensitivity and understanding toward ethnic and cultural diversity throughout the profession and the association, and strive to enhance the growth and development of the NATA and diversity in our field.

Since the creation of our committee in 1986, we have identified several focus areas, including the lack of ethnic-minority NATA members, the lack of athletic training education programs at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and the low number of minority athletic trainers overall. Athletics at virtually every level has made great strides in the past few decades in terms of diversity, and athletic training quite simply hasn’t kept up.

We feel diversity is so important to our profession because it will allow us to better mirror the populations we serve, thereby making us more responsive to their needs. Today’s athletes come in all races and from all cultures, and we believe they find comfort in knowing that those who provide care and treatment might share a similar background.

One initiative the EDAC has created to advance this goal is Ethnic Diversity Enhancement Grants. These grants are available to educational institutions looking to increase diversity within their athletic training programs. (Later in this article, you’ll see one example of how the grants can be put to use). At our Web site (www.edacweb.org), under the “Grants” section, you can read about the criteria and process for applying, and download an application.

We’re also excited about a project to create two new scholarships that will assist minority athletic training students as they work toward an advanced degree. We are hoping these scholarships will become endowed, ensuring that they’ll be awarded annually for many years to come. Under our current plan, we will award them each year at the NATA’s Annual Meeting to applicants who have been accepted into a master’s or doctoral level athletic training program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education.

We are working on other scholarships as well. A former recipient of the Bill Chisolm Professional Service Award (given annually by our committee to someone who has advanced the professional development of ethnically diverse athletic trainers) recently offered to help create a scholarship in connection with the NATA Research and Education Foundation (REF). The details are currently being worked out between the EDAC and the REF, and we hope the first scholarship under this program will be awarded at the 2009 convention in San Antonio or the 2010 convention in Philadelphia.

Our committee is also interested in creating scholarships for minority undergraduate students. We are still developing this idea, and our current plan is to begin awarding at least one annual undergraduate scholarship in 2010.

If we want to secure a diverse future for the field of athletic training, we need to make the investment–that’s what these grant and scholarship programs are all about. They’re helping us stay true to our mission as a profession, and provide the best possible environment for ourselves and the athletes we serve.


By Dr. Marnie Vanden Noven

Marnie Vanden Noven, DPT, MS, MPT, is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the College of Health Sciences at Marquette University and the District Four Representative to the NATA’s EDAC. She can be reached at: [email protected].

Marquette University began an internship program for athletic training students in 1988, and athletic training became an academic major in 1999. In its short history, our program has demonstrated a commitment to building an ethnically diverse student body through steps such as progressive admissions policies and hiring minority faculty. But recently, when I looked at the ethnic makeup of our incoming athletic training classes, I realized we still had more work to do.

In 2006, with help from an EDAC grant, I created the Athletic Training Ethnic Diversity Initiative within our athletic training education program at Marquette. The goals of this initiative were to improve recruitment and retention of minority students in athletic training, and to increase awareness of diversity issues among our students, faculty, and staff.

For recruitment, one major step we have taken is ramping up our participation in career, health, and college fairs, targeting schools with different demographic profiles. We have also visited high schools and even elementary schools with diverse student populations, speaking to health and science classes about the field of athletic training. Through these efforts, we are hopefully reaching some students who might otherwise have never known about the athletic training profession or that they were interested in sports medicine.

On our own campus, we’ve collaborated with several other offices and departments. In addition to our work with the admissions office to ensure that ethnically diverse applicants have every opportunity to join our program, we have developed partnerships with the Health Careers Opportunity Program, the Educational Opportunity Program, and the Associate Provost of Diversity at Marquette. By tapping into their resources, knowledge, and experience, we have increased our profile among minority students on campus and attracted a more competitive applicant pool. We’ve learned a valuable lesson from these partnerships: When working for diversity, you don’t have to do everything on your own.

The retention efforts of the Athletic Training Ethnic Diversity Initiative have included the creation of mentoring and tutoring programs. Incoming freshman athletic training students are now paired with juniors, who provide support in the classroom and clinical settings and offer guidance on adjusting to college life and their new course of study. We have also created a journal club, in which students from our ATEP can share thoughts on their progress and provide mutual support as they learn and grow in our program. It’s also a great way to make personal connections that will enrich the student experience and help members establish a small network even before they graduate.

As another part of the initiative, we’ve added diversity awareness to our General Medicine in Athletic Training and Athletic Training Seminar courses. In these classes, we discuss cultural differences and how they might show up in athletic settings, how certain medical conditions may affect ethnic populations differently, and strategies for making sure the athletic training room is a place where everyone feels comfortable.

In my opinion, the biggest highlight of the Athletic Training Ethnic Diversity Initiative was introducing our students to two powerful voices on the subject of diversity. René Revis Shingles, PhD, ATC, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Education and Sport at Central Michigan University, and Elicia Leal, whom you’ve already met in this article, visited Marquette last April to speak about issues related to ethnic diversity in sports medicine.

Students from the athletic training, exercise science, and physical therapy programs attended the presentations, and faculty, staff, students, and certified athletic trainers from all around our area were invited as well. Our visitors covered topics such as cultural competence, the benefits of culturally competent care, and the barriers athletic trainers must be prepared to overcome.

This project has been successful because we’ve gotten everyone on board: our faculty in the ATEP, our department as a whole, and the university community. Coordinating all parts of the initiative took time and a great deal of effort, but we feel it’s for a very worthy cause.

I strongly encourage anyone who is considering a similar project to actively pursue it. EDAC members from each district are available to answer questions and provide input and support for ideas aimed at increasing diversity awareness and the recruitment and retention of new members to the profession. For our department, it has been a very rewarding process, and the relationships and precedents we have established have truly strengthened our athletic training education program.

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