Jun 30, 2021
2021 Most Valuable HS Athletic Trainer of the Year Honorable Mentions
Wesley Sykes, managing editor

At Training & Conditioning, we are proud to share that our ninth annual Most Valuable Athletic Trainer of the Year award received the most nominations and honorable mentions in the history of the award.

We received more than 200 nominations for worthy high school athletic trainers ranging from Alaska and Hawaii to Maine and Florida Whittling the list down to a single winner has been a difficult task. And, sure, the recognition of one’s hard work on a national level is amazing, but for those that just missed out, it’s not a repeal of what you’ve accomplished. The acknowledgment that means most should be those with whom you interact on a daily basis — your student-athletes and their families, your coaches, your administrators, and your fellow community members.

Training & Conditioning is proud to announce Ashley Labrador, the athletic trainer at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk, CT, as its 2021 Most Valuable Athletic Trainer of the Year recipient.

Below is a snapshot of some of the honorable mention candidates we received this season.

Andrew Kelly,  William Monroe High School, Stanardsville, VA

Andrew Kelly

Andrew is among the most respected people in the hallways of William Monroe High School. His relationship-based philosophy has built a strong level of trust with coaches, students, parents, and administrators alike. 

“Once we were allowed to resume activity this fall with the COVID-19 restrictions, Andy developed and ran conditioning for all our athletes two days a week. The community has embraced what he does and he often gets contacted by staff and community members about their personal injuries or workouts,” Brian Collier, William Monroe athletic/activities director, said. 

Kelly teaches the school’s sports medicine and personal training classes and is additionally certified in strength and conditioning, and regularly leads off-season programs for his student-athletes. In fact, four of his former sports medicine students have gone on to become NATA BOC certified athletic trainers. 

“My own daughter sprained her knee at practice for her travel team and I called him late at night. He told me where the knee brace was in the training room and looked at her first thing in the morning. It was really cool he knew it was not an ACL just by looking and examining her knee. We followed his directions and she was back with her team in a few weeks,” Jon Rocha, William Monroe’s head football coach, said. “He does the same with my football players.”

Collier added, “his work ethic and genuine caring about the people in the school and community is second to none.”

Erika Miller, Lakewood High School, St. Petersburg, FL

Erika Miller

Erika Miller is more than just an athletic trainer, she’s woven into the fabric of the Lakewood High School community. She works with all of the coaches here to make sure that all of the kids are concussion tested at the beginning of the season. Miller works with her student trainers for them to recognize the signs of an athlete that might have a concussion and what to do with those athletes. And, being in Florida, she’s worked with the school to establish and implement a lightning safety protocol. 

Additionally, Miller has worked tirelessly to not only create but build the athletic training program at the school. 

“During her time at Lakewood, she has started the Athletic Lifestyle Management Academy which has allowed her to build her student training program,” Laura Mudd, Lakewood High School’s assistant principal, said. “Throughout the program, the students become first aid and CPR certified, they go out to elementary schools and teach basic first aid to the students there, they are at all of the home games, and they take certification tests which they can carry to college and into their careers.”

Miller also aided in starting the first high school food pantry for Pinellas County schools. In conjunction with All Children’s Hospital, Lakewood High School is the first in its area to have a fully-stocked pantry, a refrigerator, and a freezer for students to take home fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. The pantry also provides personal care items, clothing, school supplies, cleaning supplies, and other necessities students and their families may need. 

“When COVID hit, and school was closed, she arranged for the families to drive up to the school, so we could still ensure that our community was being helped. This year, we have 100 full turkey dinners being donated to the school by a former student, and she is arranging for them to be given out to the families of our kids here at school and out into the community,” Mudd said. “She truly makes a difference for not just our athletes, but the school and our community.”

Lisa Walker, Springville High School, Springville, UT

Lisa Walker

With 26 years worth of experience at Springville High School, Lisa Walker has a number of awards to speak to her proficiency in athletic care. Among the awards include, Korey Stringer Institute (KSI) Lifesaving Education Award, KSL Teacher Feature, UHSAA Wrestling Appreciation, UATA High School Athletic Trainer of the Year, UATA Hall of Fame, and the RMATA Distinguished Service Award. 

It’s with that experience that Walker hopes to pay forward to the next generation of trainers — mentoring BYU athletic training students and helping them find work post-graduation. With her background in helping to write the state’s heat safety plan, she was able to implement a comprehensive plan in ensuring the health and safety of student-athletes when the COVID pandemic hit. 

“She was instrumental in formulating a plan to test all high school athletes on a biweekly basis in order to allow sports to continue for high school athletes in Utah. Testing continues with conference calls a minimum of four times a week,” Jill Thackeray, Health/PE teacher at Springville, said. “She works with the state superintendents to ensure that athletes statewide have equal opportunity to COVID testing.”

In the school, Walker teaches Emergency Medical Response and Sports Medicine classes. Out of the school, she has held such leadership positions as the Utah Athletic Trainers Association secretary, treasurer, and president, among others. 

“She is the MVP of Springville High School athletics and goes above and beyond her job description in supporting students, athletes, coaches, and other athletic trainers, putting in the extra effort required to make athletic training the best it can be,” Thackeray said. 

Shaun Carmody, Cheyenne Mountain High School, Colorado Springs, CO

Shaun Carmody

Simply put, there is no quit in Shaun Carmody’s passion for providing athletic healthcare. Those who work with him say he’s never in need of respite from his work, despite a field that often comes with a high burnout rate. In fact, it’s his warm approach and personality that make him a standout with his peers and student-athletes.

“The people he treats know that he has their best interests in mind, but they also know they have an important role to play.  He has an amazing gift for connecting and communicating with people-they know he is concerned about them without his having to be overly paternalistic,” Dave Adams, Cheyenne Mountain tennis coach, said. 

That approach extends to his training staff as well, and he naturally models what he wants his mentees to demonstrate when attending our school’s athletes. He has a calm demeanor and he communicates his expectations clearly but in an encouraging manner. 

“Outside of what he does for certified athletic trainers, Shaun is a wonder to watch with his athletes and the next generation of athletic trainers. Shaun’s ability to show compassion and knowledge for his athletes is truly a wonder to watch,” Brianna Valdez-Van De Casteele, ATC, Rampart High School, said. 

Ross Talpey, Upper Cape Cod Regional Vocational Technical High School, Bourne, MA

Ross Talpey

In a short amount of time, Ross Talpey has earned the trust and confidence of his student-athletes and coaches at Upper Cape Tech. With a measured approach, Talpey takes the time to understand every student-athletes’ needs, both in the long and short term. 

His philosophy allows athletes to prevent injuries through training programs, educates them on the importance of healthy eating and lifestyles, and helps injured athletes recover and return to play.

“Ross has earned the trust of the administration, students, coaches, and parents through his dedication and hard work. When people think about the character of UCT sports it shows our athletes are a direct reflection of Ross,” Billy Macuch, Upper Cape Tech boys basketball coach, said. 

» RELATED: Meet the 2021 Most Valuable High School Athletic Trainer of the Year — Ashley Labrador

In addition to serving as the Rams’ ATC, Talpey also serves in the Army reserves. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he was deployed throughout the state of Massachusetts and administered testing to nursing home facilities. Nevertheless, Talpey still provided care for his UCT student-athletes, volunteering his time during school vacation week to rehab students in time for tournament games. 

“With his full schedule, Ross even donates his time to extend the hours of our weight room at the school,” Macuch said. 

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