Dec 2, 2016
Much Appreciated
Larry Cooper

Most of us learn early on that if you treat people right, they treat you right. Then when we grow up, we get a job and realize that there is — for lack of a better analogy — a pecking order in the real world. People often start treating those higher on the food chain a little better so that it can benefit their agenda. Some people will befriend those in the ranks around them, but even fewer will remain cordial and cooperative with everyone. Contrary to popular belief, the latter behavior, my friends, is the way to success — by being cordial and cooperative with everyone. You never know when you may need some help or assistance from someone, and he or she from you.

With that being said, I hope that at some point in your personal or professional life, you have had at least one pleasant dialog with your support personnel. I am a firm believer that you reap what you sow. Everyone that you come into contact with has a story to tell, and you both have the skills and abilities to help each other. To illustrate my point, let’s look at a scenario or two from the world of athletic training.

When the Waterboy is running fine, you don’t give it a passing thought. Fast forward a day or two, and the Waterboy has a defective battery or is experiencing mechanical failure. Who do you call? The maintenance crews — the ones who are often forgotten about, the ones who never get recognized. They are there for everyone and always perform in the background without any fanfare. If you have been kind to them and had conversations with them about your job and duties, they will understand the urgency you feel when you ask for their repair expertise. If you have never even given them the time of day or tried to establish a rapport, they can’t possibly understand the significance of you wanting it repaired yesterday.

[Support personnel] are there for everyone and always perform in the background without any fanfare. If you have been kind to them and had conversations with them about your job and duties, they will understand the urgency you feel when you ask for their repair expertise.

The same goes for your ice machine. We all have them, we all need them, and we are all smiles when they are working. If they miss a cycle, we all panic. The same goes for your golf cart, your washer and dryer, your misting fans, and the list goes on.

It’s for these reasons that you should never wait until you need something to develop friendships with your support personnel. By that time, it will be too late, and they will be keenly aware of why you are being so nice to them. Have I made it perfectly clear how much we rely on these support personnel?

So what to do to establish these relationships? Try being yourself and talking with them when they are at games, in your school, or in your athletic training facility. For example, do you notice the one maintenance man walking with a limp? Ask what’s going on or even offer to take a look at his bad ankle. This shows your skill set as well as your people skills.

While getting to know them on a personal level, you can also share your swag with them. They love hats, T-shirts, or sweatshirts. Share the wealth, and you will have a friend in your corner for years to come.

A strategy I started a few years ago is buying pizza for all of our maintenance staff before the first home football game of the season. It says thank you for all of their help getting through fall camp and starts the fall season off on a good foot. They are so appreciative of the gesture and know that I am grateful for everything that they do.

When you show your support personnel that you appreciate them, you are more likely to get along with them and get through the school year with minimal issues. Remember, everyone wants to be treated with respect and shown that they are valued.


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 Athletic Training Hall of Fame that same year. Cooper can be reached at: [email protected]


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