Mar 29, 2018A Full Career
I got my start in athletic training while I was a student at Ithaca College in the mid-1970s. I took a class from Chuck Kerr, who was the Athletic Director at Ithaca at the time but had been an athletic trainer for many years at the University of Oregon. In his class, I learned about athletic training and wanted to give it a try. Kent Scriber, EdD, ATC, PT, FNATA, was Ithaca’s Head Athletic Trainer at the time and allowed me to attend football practices and games.
Next, I went on to graduate school at Indiana University. At IU, women athletic trainers were not allowed to work football or men’s basketball. This really got me upset, as I never thought of athletic training as a male profession. So I completed my class work at IU and finished my clinical rotation at Ithaca.
My first job as an athletic trainer was at Yale University. It had only been a co-ed university for a few years by the time I arrived, and women were second-class citizens. But then the head athletic trainer became ill after my first month there, and they named Daphne Benas, MS, ATC, as the first female Head Athletic Trainer at an NCAA Division I school. She took a lot of junk from a lot of people but was successful. I loved working with the athletes and traveling all over the place with teams. I worked women’s basketball, women’s ice hockey, home football games, and a variety of other sports. In addition, I spent my mornings in the athletic medicine clinic and learned a lot from the nurses and doctors.
I told [the athletes] that they could chase the money and be in a profession that pays a lot but may be boring or stick them behind a desk. I said that I am lucky because I love my job, have travelled the world, and enjoy coming to work almost every day.
After Yale, I moved to Boston and got a job as an Assistant Athletic Trainer at Boston University. I was hired to take care of all of the women’s teams, and I also worked home football games and j.v. men’s ice hockey. For my women’s teams, only basketball had a full-time coach, and we had no strength coaches, so little out-of-season training was offered. As a result, a lot of the female athletes had muscle strains and injuries, which made it look like they couldn’t handle sports. Thankfully, the university started hiring full-time coaches, and the injury rate went down.
My second year at BU, I was first on the scene when a male basketball player collapsed during a preseason practice. We had no emergency action plans back then, and rush hour traffic keep the ambulance delayed. The young man did not survive, and we were all pretty upset.
After the death of the basketball player, the head athletic trainer resigned. I was named Interim Head Athletic Trainer and then hired full time later. It was a challenging position. I was in over my head but knew that I had the whole female profession riding on my success. At the time, I think there were only three full-time female head athletic trainers in D-I athletics. So even though there were times I wanted to quit, I endured and became very skilled at the position.
In all, I spent 23 years at BU as the Head Athletic Trainer with football. I loved working with the athletes, both male and female. I am friends with a lot of them on Facebook. The athletes and my staff are what made the job so enjoyable. There was a lot of travel, long hours, and little free time, so the staff became very close.
While at BU, I became involved on the Board of Certification (BOC) for District I and got to work with the late Otho Davis, MEd, ATC, former Executive Director of the NATA and former Head Athletic Trainer for the Philadelphia Eagles, and Paul Grace MA, CAE, ATC, former Chairman and Executive Director of the BOC and former Coordinator of Sports Medicine at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We used to host the national athletic trainers’ exam for District I at MIT, and I ran the show. I got to meet athletic trainers from all levels and from all over New England.
However, women athletic trainers still had poor salaries, and the profession was not paid well or treated with respect by our administration. This really irked me, so I became active at the national level and was elected as the President of the College Athletic Trainers’ Society for several years. Our mission was to improve the life of the college athletic trainer in regards to salary, number of assistant athletic trainers on staff, and not allowing coaches to disrespect us as a profession.
After 30 years at the D-I level, I resigned and took a job at a high school outside of Boston. It was a great move, and I love the school and principal. The athletic director is a former athletic trainer, and the superintendent is very supportive. All the coaches are teachers and take care of athletes. I make more money for only 10 months of work, have very little travel, teach a class in athletic training, and have between five to nine athletic training student aides. Several of my students have graduated and gone on to become athletic trainers, nurses, and doctors. A lot of them return for care or to say hello.
Recently, I was inducted into the Ithaca College Athletics Hall of Fame. The night before the ceremony, we had a panel discussion with all of the athletes. I told them that they could chase the money and be in a profession that pays a lot but may be boring or stick them behind a desk. I said that I am lucky because I love my job, have travelled the world, and enjoy coming to work almost every day. I have many former athletes that come back and thank me and introduce me to their children. I have former staff members and students that I see and talk to.
Athletic training is not for the meek, but is a great career. There were times I wanted to quit but never found anything as good as being an athletic trainer. My advice is to fight for your rights, love what you do, take care of yourself, and take a stand. Fight the coach who pushes to get an athlete back before they are ready. Demand respect and a decent salary. Use your network for reinforcement and ideas. I have had some great opportunities afforded me because of my job. Be professional, and be true to yourself. Stand up for yourself, and ask for what you need to do your job.