Dec 27, 2017
Clinic to the Classroom
Amber Giacomazzi

Becoming a faculty member can be a rewarding transition for a clinical athletic trainer to consider. This role allows them to share their experiences and mentor the next generation of athletic trainers.

Many of the skills a clinical athletic trainer needs to excel in the field can be applied into the classroom and collegiate setting. For instance, clinical athletic trainer must be good at planning, evaluating, communicating, implementing programs, and gaining the trust of coaches and athletes to produce positive relationships. In the classroom, those same qualities translate into being an educator, leader, mentor, advisor, and researcher. In addition, collaborating with colleagues, giving constructive feedback, and working well with others, are responsibilities of both the clinical athletic trainer and the athletic training faculty member.

Any clinical athletic trainer knows that not every injury or situation is textbook. Hearing real-life stories from the instructor better allows the athletic training student to understand and learn what to do in those situations.

Further, athletic training faculty members need to promote learning in the classroom, lab settings, and in establishing the clinical experiences of their athletic training students. They must learn to assess their students and change their style of teaching to accommodate their students’ needs. This is where the experience of the clinical athletic trainer becomes very valuable.

While educators still need to teach to professional competencies and construct content that will help the athletic training student pass the BOC exam, real-life experience brings life to the content. Any clinical athletic trainer knows that not every injury or situation is textbook. Hearing real-life stories from the instructor better allows the athletic training student to understand and learn what to do in those situations. The students are also more likely to then ask questions and be involved in discussion. This, in turn, allows the clinical athletic trainer to become a great role model not only on the field, but in the classroom, as well.

Becoming a faculty member doesn’t mean an athletic trainer loses their grip on the pulse of the profession, either. As an athletic training faculty member, you are required to participate in both service and scholarship. Attending or being involved in conferences and workshops is vital. In doing so, you are able to stay involved in the profession and remain current on the needs of the profession, both in education and on the field. Publishing peer- and non-peer-reviewed articles in athletic training demonstrates that the faculty member recognizes that scholarly work helps advance the profession.

Clinical athletic trainers interested in making the transition to education might wonder how much experience is needed before taking the plunge. While there is not a required amount, I believe at least 10 years at the collegiate setting would give the clinical athletic trainer substantial knowledge and experience in their areas of instruction. They would also then be able to convey that knowledge in a variety of ways to the athletic training student.

In my 11 years as a clinical athletic trainer, I gained adequate field experience, which has proven valuable as I transitioned into a becoming a full-time faculty member. During my first 10 years as a certified athletic trainer, I juggled three jobs — I worked in a physical therapy clinic, served several community colleges as an athletic trainer, and filled in as an adjunct faculty member. Over time, I realized that my students were excited to hear about what injuries I managed the night before. Teaching the content of the course became easier when I had the experience to bring the material to life and into the real world.

Currently, I am a full-time Assistant Professor in Health and Human Performance at Concordia University Ann Arbor. While I greatly miss collegiate athletics, my current position allows me to work with a different population and still be current clinically. Unique to other universities, we have a fully operating athletic training clinic at CUAA where injured CUAA student-athletes needing long-term rehabilitation can come in and receive one-on-one care from athletic training faculty members. This then provides opportunities for athletic training students to work alongside the faculty in developing their clinical skills.

A career as an athletic training faculty member is a great transition for a clinical athletic trainer who is looking to give back to the profession. It gives them a chance to mentor future athletic training students and bridges the gap between educators and the needs of athletic training students.

Image from CC0 Creative Commons

Amber Giacomazzi, MS, AT, ATC, CAT(C), is an Assistant Professor in the Health and Human Performance Department and Athletic Training Program at Concordia University Ann Arbor. She is one of only a handful of athletic trainers certified by the professional groups of two countries (NATA in the United States, and the Canadian Athletic Therapists Association in Canada).

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