Jan 29, 2015
NATA Hall Of Fame Roundtable

By Abigail Funk

This month, the NATA will hold a ceremony at its annual convention to induct this year’s Hall of Fame class and Training & Conditioning would like to congratulate the newest batch of inductees. To spotlight the important contributions made by NATA hall of famers, we talked to seven of the most respected voices in athletic training about their careers and the evolution of the profession.

The Participants

Tom Abdenour, MS, ATC, PES, has served as an Athletic Trainer in the NBA for over 20 years, where he is a member of the National Basketball Athletic Trainers’ Association (NBATA) and organized the NBATA/NATA Athletic Training Student Workshop. Abdenour is currently the Head Athletic Trainer for the Golden State Warriors.

Steve Bair, MEd, ATC, has been the Athletic Trainer at Overbrook Senior High School in Pine Hill, N.J., for over 20 years. He previously spent 16 years at Temple University.

Ron Carroll, MS, LAT, ATC, has been the Head Athletic Trainer at Arkansas State University since he arrived in 1976. Since 1986, Carroll has also been an athletic training instructor on campus.

Al Green, MEd, ATC, EMT, is Head Athletic Trainer at Florida Southern College, where he also serves as Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing. Green was the Head Athletic Trainer at the University of Kentucky for almost two decades prior to arriving at Florida Southern, and has worked a Pan American Games competition and two Olympic Sports Festivals.

Bill McDonald, MS, ATC, is Director of Sports Medicine at the University of Alabama, where he went to college and served as a Student Athletic Trainer. McDonald spent 15 years as the Director of Sports Medicine at Georgia Tech, and also worked the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

William Prentice, PhD, ATC, PT, FNATA, is Coordinator of the Sports Medicine Program at the University of North Carolina, where he is also a Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science and a Clinical Professor in the Division of Physical Therapy. Prentice served as Athletic Trainer for the extremely successful UNC women’s soccer team for 27 years and has been the Program Director of the graduate athletic training program since he arrived in 1980.

Richard Ray, EdD, ATC, is Dean of Social Sciences and a Professor of Kinesiology at Hope College. He served as an Athletic Trainer at Kansas State University prior to arriving at Hope. Ray serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Athletic Training and is the former Editor in Chief of Athletic Therapy Today.

What qualities do you need most to be successful in this profession?

Al Green: To be successful as an athletic trainer, regardless of the level you are working at, you need to have a sense of humor, confidence, compassion, flexibility, patience, initiative, creativity, toughness, decisiveness, and excellent communication, cooperation, leadership, and analytical skills–as well as the ability to be two steps ahead of everyone else. These are the qualities I use in some way every day.

Richard Ray: Selflessness is arguably the most important. A love for people and a concern for their problems is critical. Also, it helps if you are an analytic thinker who considers evidence in the management of patient problems. Patience and persistence come in handy!

William Prentice: A strong work ethic, persistence, flexibility, and empathy are the personal qualities that will help to make you successful as an athletic trainer.

Tom Abdenour: I think of three qualities that all successful athletic trainers share. One is conscientiousness: recognizing responsibilities and following up on them to completion. Two is competency: being skilled at what we do. And three is courtesy: treating people with a kind smile and friendship.

I also think having a role model or mentor is important. My academic mentor was Robert White from Wayne State University. And my brother Mike, Head Athletic Trainer for the Detroit Pistons, has been my big brother in this profession both literally and figuratively. None of my success would have been possible without them as mentors and role models.

Bill McDonald: A wholehearted desire and commitment to this profession and to the position for which you have been hired. Too many people indicate they have “burnout” in their jobs after a short time when they are really experiencing “flameout” due to lack of love for their profession.

Which of those qualities was the toughest for you to master, and how did you develop it in yourself?

Green: For me, it was toughness. As an athletic trainer, I am the good guy, the compassionate one who is a caregiver. But these are important qualities that can also be seen as weak in the eyes of a coach, parent, or athlete. There are times you just have to be hard-nosed and stand your ground with no negotiation. I developed toughness by realizing it was a matter of doing what was best for the athlete. This may mean “tough love” for the athlete or holding the line with a coach or parent.

Steve Bair: It was difficult at first for me to understand how important leadership is. It’s a skill gained primarily through experience and figuring out how important and useful the skill actually is.

Ray: Patience! It took me a long time to develop the patience I needed to persist in the face of patients who wouldn’t comply with my treatment directives or coaches and co-workers who had differing perspectives on how to manage injuries. I became defensive and tended to take things personally when I couldn’t get the kind of cooperation I needed. As I grew older, I gradually became aware that there are often multiple ways to handle problems and that dialogue and collaboration can go a long way toward a mutually beneficial solution.

Prentice: I think that to some extent, you either innately possess those qualities or you don’t, but for me, being flexible and adjusting to situations I couldn’t always control took the most effort. Working as an athletic trainer forced me to adapt and realize that there are a lot of things you have control over, but you can’t always have everything scheduled and planned out and expect that it’s all going to go as planned.

What is your favorite memory from your career?

Ron Carroll: My favorite memory was the day I received a phone call and letter with notification of my selection into the NATA Hall of Fame.

Ray: A few weeks after I was inducted into the NATA Hall of Fame, I received an envelope in the mail at my office. There was a letter inside from a student-athlete I had treated two decades earlier, congratulating me on my recognition. He went on to thank me for working with him on his chronic shoulder injury during his senior year in college–an injury that had prevented him from completing his high school swimming career and from participating during his first three years of college. He told me that without my help and encouragement, he never would have been able to swim.

Though I barely remembered him, he wrote that he wanted me to accept the gift included with the letter. I shook the envelope a bit harder, and out slid the conference championship medal he won in his senior year. I have the medal framed and sitting in a place of honor in my office where I look at it every day. I tell every one of my students about it, because the moral of the story is that you’ll often be unaware of how you are impacting someone until years later.

Bair: My favorite memory is Granger Hall coming back from an ACL repair in 11 months in 1987 and scoring 30 against Villanova!

McDonald: After 49 years, there are so many memories that it’s difficult to isolate one, but if I had to pick I would have to say the 1992 Sugar Bowl, when a group of “overachievers” beat the best ranked team in the nation and won the NCAA National Championship in football. These were some dedicated and committed young men who cared enough about each other and everyone connected to the program to achieve what many people considered the unachievable.

Abdenour: A road win in the playoffs when our superstar had a truly phenomenal game on a sore knee. We were the toast of the NBA for those couple of days and that was fun.

If you could change one thing about the athletic training profession, what would it be?

Bair: I would love to see coaches and administrators have to work their schedule around mine.

Prentice: I would like to have everyone accept the fact that athletic training, like physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, etc., is an allied health profession and to have athletic trainers realize that they are not second class citizens in that regard.

Ray: We athletic trainers can be a bit slow to embrace change–even changes that are good for us. We are comfortable in our traditions that are honorable and valued, but sometimes this keeps us from reaching our potential as a profession. I’d like to see us embrace change in a more constructive way so we can stay nimble in the face of a healthcare environment that is moving very, very quickly.

Green: The one thing I would change is the profession’s lack of recognition. This is especially important today with the confusion between athletic trainers and personal trainers. Athletic training is a great profession, but it is also one that is a best-kept secret.

Carroll: I would like to see federal recognition of athletic training with uniform state legislation and 100 percent of athletic trainers with NATA membership and involvement.

McDonald: I would hope that athletic trainers could establish more personal relationships with the people with whom they come in contact with each and every day.

What have you learned through experience that you wish you’d known when you started your career?

Carroll: Book knowledge is not everything. Contact and networking with other athletic trainers, medical providers, vendors, politicians, etc., are important as well.

Prentice: Persistence is really the key to success for anyone, regardless of the profession in which they choose to work.

McDonald: I wish I had known and lived by the statement, “People do not care what you know until they know how much you care.”

If you could be an athletic trainer for just one athlete or team, who would you choose?

Green: I would choose the San Francisco 49ers during their dynasty. I was friends with their athletic training staff and know what a great experience it was for them.

Carroll: My ego would have me say my favorite professional or national championship team, and my softer side would say a team or individual who does not have access to an athletic trainer. But my real dream job choice would be in the White House, U.S. Capitol, or U.S. Healthcare Administration Complex so that I could have the greatest amount of influence on the needed recognition for athletic training.

Prentice: For 27 years, I was fortunate to serve as the Athletic Trainer for our women’s soccer program at UNC. As it turned out, this program became the most successful in the history of any NCAA sport, as the team has now won 20 national championships. I was able to work with the same two coaches during that entire time and have many longstanding personal relationships with former players and their families. I could not have asked for a better experience.

Abigail Funk is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.

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