Aug 15, 2018
New Here
Larry Cooper

As the school year starts back up, the newly graduated and certified athletic trainer may find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Instead of going back to college, they might be starting their first professional job. This is an exciting time! But it can also be a time of trepidation, with the knowledge that school loan payments need to be started soon, the possibility of moving, family responsibilities, social expectations of your time off, and more. Understand that most of us in the profession have gone through the same things — myself included. So, the topic of this month’s article is advice that I would give the new graduate ready to embark on their first athletic training position.

First, let me start by saying congratulations on passing the Board of Certification exam. That itself is a huge accomplishment. The learning, however, is just beginning. The knowledge you now seek is not found in textbooks or observing in the athletic training facility, though. The information you need now is found in your employer’s policies and procedures, their orientation process, your state’s rules and regulations, your standard operating procedure, your emergency action plan, and your physician’s orders, along with a myriad of other documents that will guide you in your practice setting.

Second, do not be overwhelmed! The people that you are working with or for all started off just like you and are willing to help, mentor, guide, and assist you. All you have to do is ask. This is where you need to learn how to communicate. Do not use text, email, or messaging as your primary means of communication. Learn the value of face-to-face meetings and telephone calls. The importance of communication cannot be understated.

You are a role model, and you need to have that in the front of your daily duties EVERYDAY. Be mindful that you have the attention of some impressionable people. Be conscious of that when you speak to them.

In addition, who to communicate with about your question is just as important as how you communicate with them. It goes without saying that you need to respect everyone and their position in the organization.

Third, take time to relax. Find something to do outside of your job. You will be immersed in your job so heavily that you will need to turn the brain off once in a while. This also means taking care of yourself. Find an activity that relieves stress, makes you feel better, makes you use the other half of your brain, and makes you smile, laugh, or forget about your job for an hour or so. Not only will you come to cherish this outside activity, it will boost your immune system, inspire your creativity, and increase your energy.

Fourth, learn from those around you. Experience is a great teacher, and it helps you so that history doesn’t repeat itself. Mistakes are great teachers, too, but remember that they are only mistakes if you do not learn from them.

Fifth, you are a role model, and you need to have that in the front of your daily duties EVERYDAY. Be mindful that you have the attention of some impressionable people. Be conscious of that when you speak to them. They listen and retain more of what you say and model in front of them than you will ever know.

Sixth, this goes along with the fifth piece of advice, but have clear-cut boundaries with the people that you call your patients. Be consistent in your approach to them and with them and don’t make exceptions because they will come back and cause issues.

Seventh, take time to cherish the profession. You will witness some amazing feats of physical ability sprinkled with emotional highs and lows — take the time to enjoy them. These scenarios not only help you find purpose but also understand your patients.

Finally, you have picked an awesome profession, so find time to volunteer and give back. By doing this, you will gain more from the experience and relationships that you develop than you ever put into them.


Larry Cooper, MS, LAT, ATC, recently retired after 27 years as Head Athletic Trainer at Penn-Trafford High School in Harrison City, Pa., where he also taught 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, 2015 T&C Most Valuable Athletic Trainer Award, and 2014 NATA Athletic Training Service Award, he was inducted into the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers' Society Hall of Fame in 2014. Cooper can be reached at: [email protected].


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