Sep 25, 2017
AT to AD to AT

This article first appeared in the October 2017 issue of Training & Conditioning.

Many athletic trainers like to take on new challenges. John Chandler, MA, LAT, ATC, is one of them, and in 2001, he made the leap from Head Athletic Trainer at Coe College to Athletic Director. He went on to lead the NCAA Division III program to more than 40 championships in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and oversaw several significant facility renovations and construction projects.

This spring, however, Chandler jumped back. He resigned as athletic director and is once again on the athletic training staff at Coe, overseeing men’s and women’s soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, and track and field. Along with these duties, he also teaches clinical classes for the school’s athletic training students.

What first inspired Chandler to make the move to administration? During his stint as head athletic trainer, he held the dual position of assistant athletic director. When the previous athletic director left, Chandler took over to try something new. He learned that some aspects of the role were very different than his athletic training responsibilities.

“It was extremely important to me to provide coaches and staff with the resources to give our athletes a great experience,” he says. “But as an athletic director, I also had to deal with fundraising, facilities, budget, recruiting, and meetings that take a lot of time. You want to make everyone happy, but you learn you can’t always do that. So you just try to make decisions that are best for the department.”

Now that he has transitioned back to athletic training, Chandler’s passion for working with student-athletes is his sole focus once more. “Oftentimes as an athletic administrator, you don’t have day-to-day interaction with student-athletes and coaches,” he says. “I wanted to get back to teaching and working more closely with them.

“I get to travel with the teams again, as well,” Chandler continues. “You can learn a lot about the student-athletes this way, and I am there to care for them when they are away from home. That was one of the things I missed the most during my time as athletic director-being somebody they could turn to when they need something.”

By staying at Coe, Chandler has been able to hit the ground running. “Any time there is a new coach or member of the support staff, it takes some time to build rapport and trust with athletes,” he says. “But as athletic director, I saw them at practices, contests, and SAAC [Student-Athlete Advisory Council] meetings. So other than the first-year students, most of our athletes already know who I am.”

However, the athletes do need to understand he’s now filling a different role. “I discuss my background in athletic training with the teams I work with,” Chandler explains. “I share my goals and plans for providing a safe environment for them and getting them back onto the court and field quickly after injury.”

Chandler will be working in a different capacity with coaches, too, many of whom he hired. With them, he has taken a similar approach, communicating his role and responsibilities as well as theirs.

“We had discussions about how I’m going to interact with them and the requirement of reporting injuries,” Chandler says. “They know that the athletic trainer and team physician have the final say on whether an athlete will participate.”

While Chandler enjoyed his tenure as athletic director, he knew a return to athletic training was always a possibility, so he maintained his certification. In addition, he kept his finger on the pulse of the profession by covering events when athletic trainers were not available and reading industry publications.

Now, he’s eager to show what he’s absorbed over the years. “Athletic trainers are doing the same things we did 16 years ago, but we are doing them better now because we have more resources,” Chandler says. “For example, rehabilitation time for an ACL tear has decreased since I last worked with the injury. We are much more aggressive with injuries, while still making sure the athlete is safely returned to play.

“When I was previously an athletic trainer, my goal was to learn something new every day, and that is still true,” he adds. “There is always something you can do differently or learn to do better.”

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