Nov 21, 2016
Heavy Load
Larry Cooper

As all athletic trainers know, nothing ever goes as planned when we need it to. Sometimes, seemingly little issues can take on a bigger portion of our time and effort than we planned. In my case, that little issue has recently been laundry.

First, let me start by saying that I wear different hats during the day as a teacher and athletic trainer at Penn-Trafford High School in Harrison City, Pa. However, a common thread unites both jobs: I care for my students the same way that I care for my student-athletes. This can mean helping them succeed in the classroom, creating a safe environment for them, or preventing an injury, illness, or condition during physical education classes. It has also played a role in my current laundry snafu.

During physical education classes, we use pinnies to distinguish different teams. To prevent the start or spread of any type of viral, bacterial, or fungal skin conditions, we only let them be worn one time before they are washed. This usually means at least one load of pinnies per day.

Similarly, in the athletic training room, we use towels to wrap hydrocollator pads, clean off excess ultrasound gel, do ankle pumps, or help an athlete dry off after using the whirlpool or the ice immersion. Depending on the number of athletes that we see daily, this usually means at least one load of towels per day.

Because of my willingness to help out and use my [laundry] machines, there was no sense of urgency to repair the school’s machines. What I thought might be a day or two inconvenience lasted almost five weeks.

When the washer breaks down, it can cause a mad scramble to get laundry done in a timely fashion and elevates my concern for proper hygiene and prevention of skin issues. Fortunately, we have two washing machines and dryers at Penn-Trafford that are part of our physical education department. One is in the field house for athletics, while the second is in the school for physical education. Normally, at least one of each is working.

Wouldn’t you know it, both of them recently went out of commission at the same time. This meant I had to either suck it up, take the laundry home, and use my own machines — increasing the wear and tear on them, not to mention increasing my water and electric bills — or find an alternative.

A few years ago, this same scenario presented itself, and I took the towels and pinnies home. However, because of my willingness to help out and use my machines, there was no sense of urgency to repair the school’s machines. What I thought might be a day or two inconvenience lasted almost five weeks.

This time around, I wanted to find another option. I am a firm believer of looking at all angles before drafting your game plan to overcome an obstacle, problem, or situation. This approach has served me well.

So, I looked to our school’s cafeteria, which just had a set of washing machines installed. Now, I just have to plan my daily loads around the cafeteria workers’ usual schedules. While it’s still an inconvenience, it’s a minor one compared to taking the towels and pinnies home every day.

I am only able to “borrow” the cafeteria’s machines due to relationships that I have developed with the support personnel at our school. It’s always important to develop relationships and introduce yourself to all members of the staff at your school and treat them as you want to be treated. You never know when you can help each other out of a challenge.

Larry Cooper, MS, LAT, ATC, is Head Athletic Trainer at Penn-Trafford High School in Harrison City, Pa., where he also teaches health, physical education, and sports medicine classes. Since 2012, he has served as Chair of the NATA Secondary School Athletic Trainers' Committee. Winner of a 2016 NATA Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer Award, he received a NATA Athletic Training Service Award in 2014 and was inducted into the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers' Society Hall of Fame that same year. Cooper can be reached at: [email protected].

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