Jun 6, 2023
Dan Newman has been a difference-maker in athletic training for more than 20 years
Wesley Sykes, managing editor

After more than 20 years as an athletic trainer, what matters most to Dan Newman is being a servant leader. 

“I love helping people. I like being there [for others],” Newman said. “I like being a soundboard. I really enjoy being a preceptor and a mentor for our young athletic trainers. This profession has so much to give.” 

newmanAs the head athletic trainer for Union Public Schools in Tulsa, OK, Newman’s impact on the athletic industry is felt throughout the country. He oversees a student-athlete body of more than 1,500 across 25 sports with a staff of two other athletic trainers and 15 student-training aides. He’s also involved with shaping the future of the athletic training industry as a clinical instructor for the University of Tulsa and Oklahoma State University entry-level Master’s AT programs.

And while he’s been instrumental in implementing policies relating to concussion management, heat illness, lightning safety, MRSA prevention, and adapting to the ever-changing field of technological aids, what really drives Newman is his commitment to leaving the industry better than when he arrived. 

It’s that commitment, among other credentials, that propelled Newman to win Training & Conditioning’s Most Valuable High School Athletic Trainer of the Year award. 

“Clinically, [younger athletic trainers] are entering the field more confident, but I think the biggest change I see is the soft skills,” Newman said. “How to communicate with people, and how to build relationships. Anyone can tape an ankle, but it’s what you do before you tape that ankle — talking to the athlete, talking to the coach, and creating those relationships.” 

He added, “I think we’re putting out some really great students out there. I’m excited for the future of the profession.” 

Always Prepared

Athletic trainers may never have to perform life-saving actions while on the job, but the moment one does occur, they need to be ready to act quickly and act efficiently. While we can never predict when these events will happen, having a firm understanding of your program’s protocol can be the difference in a life-or-death situation. 

Newman found himself in a similar situation back in 2017 when a student-athlete sustained a traumatic brain injury and collapsed in the athletic training room. There, Newman was able to coordinate time-sensitive medical treatment for the athlete, who ultimately lived. 

He first assumed that the student-athlete suffered a concussion, but then his symptoms began to “cascade down.” 

“Practice makes perfect,” Newman said. “You have to be reviewing your emergency action plans, you have to know your student-athletes. You just never know when it might happen.” 

It takes quick thinking and acute awareness of the situation to get through successfully. Is the elevator working that day? How is the ambulance reaching the field? Does this student-athlete have any preexisting injuries or illnesses?

These are the little details that can save necessary minutes in a life-saving situation. 

“One of my team physicians was there that day,” Newman recalled. “He’s worked in orthopedics for nearly 30 years now. And that was his first traumatic brain injury. It ultimately comes down to practice and believing in your plans and lives can be saved.” 

Long on Leadership

With two decades under his belt, Newman not only helps the student-athletes on and off the field, but he promotes the school through national committees, awards and recognitions. 

Under the direction of Newman’s leadership, Union Public Schools was honored as the 2014 National Athletic Trainers’ Association 1st Team Safe Sports School for leadership in following established healthcare safety guidelines, utilizing, and maintaining proper equipment, and providing appropriate medical personnel for student-athletes. At that time it was one of the first times, if not the very first, an Oklahoma school received this recognition. Union has consecutively been recognized as a 1st Team Safe Sports School honoree from 2014 to the present time.

He’s also an integral part of the Oklahoma Athletic Director’s conference, where he’s been regularly invited to present various topics relative to sports medicine best practices for high school athletic directors who either have access to athletic trainers or do not due to financial strains. 

“Dan has been able to connect our state’s athletic directors with resources that they might have otherwise not known about,” said Emily Barkley, director of athletics for Union Public Schools. “Dan is generous with his time and talents and is honored to share his knowledge with those in need.” 

“Being here so long, it’s the servant leadership that I enjoy,” Newman said. “It’s that mentoring aspect. I’m able to create policies, help student-athletes, and help our staff. Our profession is very valuable. It’s not just a luxury.”

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