May 25, 2017
Getting Involved
Larry Cooper

So you want to get involved in your local or state athletic training association, but you are unsure of where to get started. I’ve got good news for you — it really is not difficult at all.

The first step is to let it be known. Somehow, someway, you need to let someone in a leadership position with the association know you want to be active in some capacity. Understand this might mean going outside your comfort zone. Alerting someone of your willingness to get involved can be accomplished through a letter, an e-mail, a face-to-face meeting, or a phone call, but you have to be able to put yourself out there. No one else knows of your intentions, your desire to help, or what your passion is.

After you make the first move, don’t sit by idly. Give it a few days and then follow up. This time, you might want to make it more personal — not through an e-mail or letter. Also understand that you might not get to serve on the committee you want right off the bat. More often than not, it will take some patience before you land on the special committee that you’ve had your eye on.

Keep in mind, there will always be political agendas, egos, and personalities that you will need to deal with, but the rewards will always far outweigh the negatives. You will learn lessons that you will be able to apply in all aspects of your life and develop friendships that will stand the test of time.

Once you’re officially part of the association, now what? The saying “baptism by fire” is a great way to get schooled for some. I personally would suggest that a small, gradual level of involvement would be best. That way, you can learn from those with more experience, different backgrounds, or, at the very least, different perspectives.

It might also be good to focus on listening at first, rather than acting. My parents used to tell my siblings and me: “If your mouth is open, your ears are closed.” I guess after hearing that a few hundred times, it sunk in. Listen, observe the meeting and committee dynamics, and process what is going on. This ability to observe and learn will help you in all aspects of your life. Obviously, we all have different personalities, and sometimes it takes us awhile to find our comfort zone. But before you know it, your voice will be heard, and, with experience, your perspective and insight will be sought.

Let me say that every committee, board of directors position, task force, writing group, or planning committee that I have been involved with has brought different challenges and benefits. Keep in mind, there will always be political agendas, egos, and personalities that you will need to deal with, but the rewards will always far outweigh the negatives. You will learn lessons that you will be able to apply in all aspects of your life and develop friendships that will stand the test of time. It will teach you to deal with the political agendas and nuances of individuals or groups involved with policy change, rules, regulations, or laws. In addition, it will help you appreciate the amount of effort, time, and work that people before us have invested.

The best advice that I can give you about joining an athletic training association is to forget about any personal goals. When you are an elected or appointed member of a committee, board, or task force, you have an obligation to think about every situation, not just yours. This ability to think globally helps promote the profession, your setting, and your association. It also helps you realize that in the big picture, your position is probably not as bad as it may seem. Hopefully, the reason you got involved was to make a difference or to make things better.

Another life lesson passed down from my parents was: “Leave things better than you found them.” I would like to think that I have taken these words to heart, and you can too. All you have to do is get involved, at whatever level you want. Find what drives your passion and get to work. I assure you it will be a learning experience that will benefit you for years to come, but, more importantly, the friendships you make are forever.


Larry Cooper, MS, LAT, ATC, is Head Athletic Trainer at Penn-Trafford High School in Harrison City, Pa. Since 2008, he has been a member of the NATA Secondary School Athletic Trainers' Committee and was named chair in 2012. He has helped author a number of NATA position statements and is a frequent presenter at national and regional conferences. In 2014, he received the NATA Athletic Training Service Award and was inducted into the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers' Society's Athletic Training Hall of Fame. And in 2015, Cooper won the Training & Conditioning Most Valuable Athletic Trainer Award. He can be reached at: [email protected]


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