Jan 29, 2015
Most Valuable Athletic Trainer Award 2014

SportsHealth_logo_thumb.jpgHigh school athletic trainers are the unsung heroes of interscholastic sports and many work countless hours to help young people become the best they can be. That’s why Training & Conditioning, along with Sports Health, have decided to present the Most Valuable Athletic Trainer Award. The 2014 winner is Brian Robinson, MS, ATC, LAT, Head Athletic Trainer at Glenbrook South High School, Glenview, Ill.

You can view Robinson’s profile here.

However, Robinson’s was far from the only deserving nomination we received. The following athletic trainers were finalists and honorable mentions for the 2014 Most Valuable Athletic Trainer Award. To read their nomination letters–and in some cases, video–click on the athletic trainers’ names.


CHRISTINA EMRICH Praised for providing tireless around-the-clock sports medicine coverage and looking for every teachable moment for students, Christina Emrich, MS, ATC, EMT, Head Athletic Trainer and Lead Teacher for the Sports Medicine and Management Academy at Red Bank Regional High School in Little Silver, N.J., was nominated by one of her students. Also the school’s Assistant Athletic Director, she has implemented a cardiac screening program for her athletes and many of her students have gone on to study athletic training in college–two are currently head athletic trainers at neighboring high schools.

Off campus, she is heading into her sixth term as Captain of the local EMS squad and was heavily involved in the disaster relief work after Hurricane Sandy. Emrich was honored with the NATA’s first annual Secondary Athletic Training Committee/Gatorade Award in 2009, serves on the Executive Council of the Athletic Trainers’ Society of New Jersey, and is a member of the Red Bank Regional High School Athletics and New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

GLEN “LARRY” COOPER Along with bringing cutting edge care to his student-athletes for 31 years, Larry Cooper, MS, ATC, LAT, Head Athletic Trainer and a teacher at Penn Trafford High School in Harrison City, Pa., has been a champion of improving the athletic training profession at the high school level. Current Chair of the NATA’s Secondary School Committee, Cooper is a former Chair of the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers’ Society Secondary School Committee, where he helped create regulations for safer weight loss in wrestling.

He has also worked with the Brian Injury Association of Pennsylvania to develop and present free concussion education programs in all 14 of the state athletic association’s districts. In addition, Cooper developed a secondary school athletic trainer database that has been instrumental in bringing together high school athletic trainers from across the state.

PERRY DENEHY Director of Sports Medicine for the Sycamore Community School District in Cincinnati, Ohio, Perry Denehy, MA, ATC, is recognized for his ability to establish deep connections with students, parents, coaches, administrators, and community members. He made such an impression on one set of parents that when their son passed away suddenly, they asked Denehy to deliver the eulogy at the funeral.

He has also served the community as a firefighter for 25 years and works with the Critical Incident Stress Management Team, an organization that provides Southern Ohio caregivers with counseling and other tools in the aftermath of tragic situations. He spent time assisting New York City firefighters after 9/11. A member of the NATA Secondary School Committee and the NATA Board of Certification Standards Committee, Denehy was the 2002 Ohio Athletic Trainer of the Year and was voted into the Ohio Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame in 2010.

MARIA HUTSICK Nominated by two of her students, with letters of support from several teachers, coaches, and administrators, Maria Hutsick, MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS, has made what Principal Robert Parga calls “invaluable contributions” at Medfield (Mass.) High School, where she has served as Head Athletic Trainer since 2006, after more than 20 years as Director of Sports Medicine at Boston University. Along with providing top-notch athletic training services and developing innovative strength and conditioning programs, Hutsick’s calling card is her ability to connect with athletes, coaches, and the students she mentors in the sports medicine program she implemented.

Teachers at the school also laud her skills and compassion, with one commenting that “Maria changed my life when she diagnosed me with compartment syndrome after doctors had told me I had shin splints for 10 years.” Hutsick served nine years as athletic trainer for the U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey Team and is a past president of the College Athletic Trainers’ Society.

NAIRI MELKONIAN Known for her service to her school and community, Nairi Melkonian, MS, ATC, LAT, CSCS, has volunteered at the Boston Marathon since 1986 and was there when the bombing took place in April 2013. Head Athletic Trainer and Assistant Athletic Director at Austin Preparatory School in Reading, Mass., her nomination included tributes from several coaches, including Bill Maradei, a Massachusetts Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee, who wrote, “I have been a football coach for 40 years and Nairi Melkonian is without a doubt the finest, most professional, compassionate, and caring athletic trainer I have had the absolute pleasure to work with.”

Melkonian has served as a District One NATA representative since 2005 and has won an NATA Athletic Trainer Service Award. She was inducted into the Athletic Trainers of Massachusetts Hall of Fame in 2011.

DAVID BOGENSCHUTZ Among 10 letters of nomination for David Bogenschutz, ATC, one from a parent may best sum up the work of the longtime Head Athletic Trainer and teacher at Miamisburg (Ohio) High School: “I am proud to say that I had the privilege to learn from Bogie. I am even more proud to say that my daughter is a second generation to learn from him.”

Coaches, students, and parents extol his dedication to helping students through injuries as well as family crises. A member of the Ohio Critical Incident Stress Management Team and the Ohio Athletic Trainers’ Association Secondary Schools Committee, he also volunteers with many youth athletic leagues.

SUZANNE NANO At Gross Catholic High School, in Bellevue, Neb., about 40 percent of the past three graduating classes have majored in health sciences at college, and many of them say they have been inspired by Suzanne Nano, ATC, Head Athletic Trainer and a teacher at the school for the past 23 years. She was nominated by the school’s strength coach who lauds her as a “master at communicating with our students and motivating them” and included a video with statements from coaches, students, and administrators.

A letter from Michael Gross, MD, at Gikk Ortho Specialists in Omaha, calls her a great asset to the medical community and a role model to others. Nano also volunteers with the Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy and the Omaha Lancers ice hockey team.


Sean Ahonen, MEd, ATC, Foley (Ala.) High School

Eric Cardwell, ATC, North Hills High School, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Jason Dodd, ATC, MEd, Van (Tex.) High School

Joe Ewald, ATC, Howell (Mich.) High School

Lori Gill, ATC, Riverdale Country School, Bronx, N.Y.

Anna Griffiths, ATC, Land O’ Lakes (Fla.) High School

John Panos, ATC, Fox Chapel Area School District, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Breanne Piatt, MS, ATC, Brookville High School, Rustburg, Va.

Shaketha Pierce, ATC, Lancaster (Texas) Independent School District

Amy Rust, ATC, Tempe (Ariz.) Preparatory Academy

Kai Seshiki, ATC, Colton (Wash.) High School

Michael Shetley, ATC, Appomattox (Va.) County High School

Therese Sparn, ATC, Clarksville (Tenn.) High School

Melinda “Mindy” Therriault, ATC, Bunnell High School, Stratford, Conn.

Behind the Award

For more than three decades, Phil Hossler, MS, ATC, Head Athletic Trainer at East Brunswick (N.J.) High School, has advocated for high school athletic trainers. From serving as President of the Eastern Athletic Trainers’ Association to working as Co-Director of the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association’s athletic training program to writing for numerous publications, he has been a champion for the profession in many ways.

Two years ago, the four-time athletic training Hall of Famer took his efforts in yet one more direction by helping to create a special award specifically for high school athletic trainers. Now in its second year, the Most Valuable Athletic Trainer Award, sponsored by Sports Health, honors one high school athletic trainer who goes above and beyond by providing outstanding medical care to high school student-athletes, while also giving generously to his or her larger community. Hossler came up with the idea and worked in conjunction with Training & Conditioning and Sports Health to get it off the ground.

“Being an athletic trainer at the high school level is a difficult and multifaceted job,” Hossler says. “We are versatile sports-medicine professionals because we need to have expertise in dealing with a variety of injuries and conditions, and because we are handling young athletes going through different levels of emotional and physical growth. In fact, the job often requires as much knowledge of psychology as physiology. We also must be accessible and able to work well with coaches and parents whose child who may be injured for the first time or struggling with a recurring injury.

“This award is a great way to highlight the important work high school athletic trainers do all over the country,” he continues. “We are being perceived as knowledgeable professionals at an increasing rate every year. Athletic communities realize the valuable commodity that they have in the school.”

Hossler has served as two-time President of the Athletic Trainers’ Society of New Jersey, Co-Director of a statewide workshop for student athletic training assistants for 13 years, and Medical Director for the more than 6,000-member New Jersey Garden State Games for 15 years, among other appointments. In addition, he has published many articles in NATA journals, written five sports medicine-related books, and regularly contributes columns to a variety of magazines and newspapers.

Reaching out to those less fortunate is also a priority for Hossler. Over the course of his career, he started an annual clothing drive and a program to collect toys and clothing for a local shelter. “Because athletic trainers are devoted to helping others, volunteer work in the community is something that comes naturally to many of us,” Hossler says. “I enjoy giving my time in many different areas.”


To be considered for the award, an athletic trainer must work with high school athletes (in either a school or clinic setting) and have the following qualities:

  • Have earned the respect of coaches they work with and student-athletes they care for
  • Go beyond their job description to support student-athletes
  • Put in extra effort to make the athletic training program the best it can be
  • Serve the local or larger community through community service

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