Mar 31, 2019
Creating a high school student athletic trainer program
By Maria Hutsick

I came to my current job from the university setting. I always had a staff and athletic training students at my place of employment. However, moving to the high school level none of this was available. I had to do everything and each year and, as the student-athletes realized the skill and experience I had to offer, the numbers increased.

college athletic trainer
Photo: Sgt. Katie Eggers

That’s when I started to think about beginning a student-mentoring program. I began with one student. That student was very intelligent and went on to become a certified athletic trainer at the college level. Since then, I have been fortunate to have created a solid student athletic training program at my school. I have several students who are certified athletic trainers and are planning to go into the health professions. My alumnae are nurses, physical therapists, athletic trainers and studying to become physicians. I have several students who are majoring in a double major of AT/PT and will be certified in athletic training and a doctorate in physical therapy.

My students attend the athletic training camp at Springfield College in the summer and have had a great experience there. I also teach an elective class in sports medicine/athletic training. The class teaches basic anatomy and injuries in sports, from concussions to dislocations. We also teach how to apply tourniquets in light of our current school shootings and living in the Boston area post marathon bombings.

The class has labs for practicing taping, and a chicken lab where students dissect a chicken quarter because the chicken has the same structures as a human knee. They dissect the ACL, PCL, meniscus, patella and fibula. We also have two field trips to a local university and to one of the many professional sports teams in the area. In addition to the field trips, I have several speakers in the healthcare professions come to class to discuss their jobs.

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The class is very popular, and I now have a group of six students that come almost every day after school. They learn how to tape and help with the rehabilitation of the injured athletes. They also travel with me during football season and to playoff games. Some of the students play a sport and come to the athletic training room before and after practices.

I have intelligent and dedicated students who have been a tremendous help in the care of our student-athletes. They know and understand about confidentiality, and they can only work under my direct supervision.

The students are interested in healthcare and are part of our team. They gain confidence and learn how to stand their ground when people challenge them. They learn how to deal with all types of people and stressful situations. I have had this program for 12 years, and each year it grows and becomes more popular. The students who leave here are usually equivalent to a sophomore or junior athletic training college level student. They learn and are able to perform many skills that college athletic training majors learn their second or third year.

The students are well respected by the student-athletes and coaches. They learn a lot of skills besides the athletic training lessons and go on to successful careers. In Massachusetts, we have an annual Thanksgiving Day game, and many of the alumni come back for the game and spend time in the athletic training room. We bring coffee, food and have a reunion — it’s a lot of fun.

I would encourage anyone who is interested in teaching and mentoring students to begin a program for their school. It’s incredibly rewarding, keeps me current and helps to develop our future.

What to consider when starting a student trainer program:

  • Put out flyers to see who may be interested
  • If you can, get on a teacher’s contract and create a class for the students to take as an elective. I have 75 students who want to take it each fall, and I take 44. I only allow 10th, 11th, 12th graders to enroll.
  • It takes a full year to get the class approved and into the list for students to enroll.
  • My class comes through the wellness department.
  • I’m also on a teachers contract but only teach the AT class.
  • Line up speakers from various areas of healthcare, nurse, MD, PA, PT, S&C other ATs.
  • I plan two field trips — we’ve gone to MIT, Boston College and may go to Holy Cross. I also have former graduate students who are ATs for the Bruins and Celtics. The class has been to Bruins games and to TB12, where a former student is in charge.
  • I order a book but keep it in the classroom. Everything is available on Google Classroom.
  • I have Powerpoints on each joint and all injures.
  • I only give quizzes and have labs.
  • Labs are taping, general med, functional movement screen and basic rehab.
  • Students are welcome to come after school and see if they like the AT room. They know that school comes first and can have the day off to study. Many of my students are on the National Honor Society.
  • Chicken lab is a big hit. I have them dissect a chicken quarter and they find the ACL, PCL, meniscus, patella and fibula. We go to a science lab to do the dissections.
  • I provide shirts for the students and, if they are licensed, they get a kick out of driving the Gator.
  • They know they cannot work without my direct supervision. Students don’t cover practices or games without me being present.
  • They learn soft tissue and basic rehab. They help because the weight room is across the hall.
  • I have more than 15 students who are now athletic trainers at the college level, PTs and nurses. One student is double majoring in AT/PT.
  • I also have a graduate student doing a clinical rotation from Bridgewater State.
  • Having students keeps you on the cutting edge, and it’s fun and rewarding.

Maria Hutsick, MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS, is Head Athletic Trainer at Medfield (Mass.) High School and former Director of Sports Medicine at Boston University. She is a past president of the College Athletic Trainers' Society and was honored with an NATA Athletic Trainer Service Award in 2010.

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