Jan 29, 2015Hometown Hero: Mo Sizemore
Many hats fail to slow Mo Sizemore.
By Kenny Berkowitz
Kenny Berkowitz is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.
When Maureen “Mo” Sizemore was first hired as a part-time athletic trainer at Cleveland Heights (Ohio) High School, the athletic department had three varsity teams. Eleven years later, it sponsors 22 teams spread out over six facilities located miles apart. For Sizemore, that has meant an opportunity to grow with the school and continue to feel challenged in her work.
“I love my kids, love my school, and love my job as much as ever,” says Sizemore, ATC, EMT-B. “Over the last 10 years, we’ve added new sports every year, so my job constantly changes.”
Sizemore works under contract with the University Suburban Sports Medicine Center, where she spends 12 hours a week coordinating clinics and physicals for corporations, handling daily patient care of orthopedic injuries, and supervising coverage of four other area schools as Director of Athletic Training. And she added “Mom” to her list of roles when son Jack was born this spring. Sizemore’s story is one of dedication and building. Not only has she established her career at CHHS, but she’s given back to her community and profession by earning respect for her work and by creating a program introducing the field to young people at her school.
Sizemore likes the challenge of having to balance all her different responsibilities. If she has telephone calls to return, she does it on the road as she drives from one playing field to another. If she has paperwork, she takes care of it on the bench while watching a team warm up. And at home, where she juggles care of Jack with her husband, mother, and three brothers, she uses the baby’s naptimes to catch up on her workload.
Now 36, Sizemore grew up in Cleveland Heights, attending nearby Beaumont School. A bad knee kept her out of competitive sports but introduced her to rehab. Referred to the clinic where she now works, Sizemore met her first athletic trainer, was intrigued by the profession, and started on her career path. Majoring in athletic training, she graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1990, and after moving back home, went to work for a rehab center on the city’s east side.
Three years later, Sizemore landed the athletic trainer position at Cleveland Heights and has been there ever since. At the time she was hired, she’d never worked with high schoolers before, and found herself working in a largely male environment. It was more than a little intimidating, and from the beginning, Sizemore learned to win over her students and co-workers with a combination of smarts, skills, and honesty.
“I try to always be completely honest,” says Sizemore. “Kids appreciate honesty more than sugarcoating, even when the news isn’t good. With that age group, if you don’t have their trust, then it doesn’t matter what you say.
“I don’t want to tell them they’ll be back in three days, and then have them out for 10,” continues Sizemore. “Because then the next time you say they’ll be out three days, they won’t believe you. After 11 years, I’ve learned that no two injuries are ever the same, and the speed of their recovery depends on how hard they’re prepared to work.”
For Andrew Fetchik, CHHS’s Coordinator of Boys’ Athletics, Sizemore’s greatest contributions to the school have come from her ability to communicate with students, coaches, and parents, her work setting up a program for student athletic training aides, and her emphasis on injury prevention. “I couldn’t even imagine what our program would be like without Mo,” says Fetchik. “We’ve had other athletic trainers as substitutes, such as when Mo was on maternity leave, and they all did a great job. But they didn’t have her loyalty to the students or her vision for the program.
“She meets with coaches to talk about athletes who might be at risk of injury,” continues Fetchik. “She meets with athletes to deal with any injuries they have, and if we can’t provide treatment at the school, she’ll give them a referral. She meets with her student aides, helping answer questions about college and keeping them on track academically. And she meets with parents, helping translate medical jargon for them and making them feel comfortable. She doesn’t have to do all that, but she does, and it adds up.”
To Desiree Powell, Coordinator of Girls’ Athletics, Sizemore’s outstanding qualities are her professionalism, flexibility, and dedication. “For Mo, this isn’t just a job—it’s a part of her,” says Powell. “I’m proud of the fact that she’s a female who holds her own. She works hands-on, not only with our students, but with our athletic directors and coaches as well. When people have a question, she’s the first person they call.
“She relates to the kids very well,” continues Powell. “They respect her as the person in charge, but at the same time, they connect with her as a human being. She’s a role model and a mentor—especially for her student aides. And she’s always willing to go the extra mile, even now that she has a baby.”
Cleveland Heights coaches echo their administrators’ sentiments. “With Mo, you never have to worry about your athletes, because she’s very thorough, very dependable, and very knowledgeable,” says Jim Cappelletti, who has been Head Boys’ Basketball Coach for the last 35 years. “She’s always available, and makes sure every coach has her cell phone number. She supervises our weight room, and as a result of her emphasis on stretching and flexibility, we’ve had very few injuries. She’s made a big difference to our athletic program, both on and off the court.”
Cappelletti also praises Sizemore’s athletic training student aide program. “Mo practically adopts the kids that work with her,” he says. “She does a great job of training them and making sure they do exactly what she needs.”
Sizemore typically has a staff of 15 to 20 athletic training student aides who work beside her at both home and away contests. Over the past six years, she has earned a reputation for working particularly well with at-risk students, bringing them onto her staff of student aides, encouraging them to consider a career in athletic training, and steering them toward good sports medicine education programs. Starting work in the summer, she sets high expectations for all of her aides, with a three-strikes-you’re-out policy if they can’t handle the job.
“Some of these kids have never been given the chance to be responsible for anything,” says Sizemore. “So when they’re finally trusted to do something on their own, without someone watching their every move, they tend to do very well. Giving them the chance to try something new and letting them know that people have faith in them to do a good job can make a big difference.
“They also know what they do is important, and that without them, we could not be effective,” continues Sizemore. “That’s gratifying for them to know, and it keeps them coming back and working hard.”
After starting her program with a series of PA announcements, Sizemore now recruits her student aides through word-of-mouth, assigning them a range of tasks, from handing out ice bags to taping ankles, and always supervises them directly. Establishing rules from the very beginning, Sizemore encourages them to bring their friends onto the team, and expects each of her seniors to find and mentor at least one new aide before graduation.
“She’s a good boss,” says senior Brittany Watts, Head Student Athletic Training Aide and a member of the girls’ basketball team. “She’s helped me find something that I like to do, that I’m good at, and that I can do in the future. She’s moved me closer to finding a career.
“She is always there for us, if we ever have a problem,” continues Watts. “I trust her—everyone trusts her—because she tells it like it is. If we’re having trouble with homework, or having a hard time finding a job outside school, she helps us. And she trusts us with the responsibility of helping other people.”
Sizemore also plans activities that allow her aides to meet their peers at the other schools covered by the Sports Medicine Center. She and her staff have taken aides on field trips to college athletic training rooms and held a tape-off contest at the clinic.
“The contest was great. Everyone got very excited, and it was wonderful for our high school students to see other people taping in different ways,” says Sizemore. “There are a million ways to tape an ankle, and as long as you can explain what each piece of tape does, all of them are right. Actually, it’s fascinating to see what each kid can come up with, and as long as the outcome is beneficial, I don’t nit-pick the approach. What matters is that people have confidence in them that it’s going to come out right.”
Sizemore also donates her time and knowledge to the community. In 1999, she worked as the Co-Director for Athletic Training Services at the AAU Junior Olympics in Cleveland, organizing volunteer coverage for 3,000 student-athletes. And in 1996, she worked as Staff Athletic Trainer at the Olympics, providing coverage for track and field, volleyball, weightlifting, and women’s gymnastics.
Now, she is enjoying the challenge of balancing work and parenting. “It’s actually made me work more efficiently,” she says. “I do better when I have to do three or four things at once—I’m just that kind of person.
“Working as an athletic trainer is different from working at any other job,” continues Sizemore. “There are always things to do, and you can’t really put a definition on what is ‘above the call.’ Every kid is worth 100 percent of your effort, and if you’re going to help them, you have to do whatever it takes.”
Award Winner: Maureen “Mo” Sizemore
- Athletic Trainer, Cleveland Heights High School
- Director of Athletic Training Services, University Suburban Sports Medicine Center