May 4, 2017Part of the Process
By David Gable
David Gable, MS, LAT, ATC, is Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine and Head Athletic Trainer for Football at Texas Christian University. He can be reached at: [email protected]
As medical professionals, watching injured athletes we spend so many hours with in the athletic training room return to and be successful on the field or court can be so fulfilling. Their success is our success. Although most of the time we work in the shadows behind the scenes, in some ways we win our own championship each time an athlete returns to competition.
But there are still team goals as well. No matter what level or sport you are affiliated with, all teams have the same dream. At the end of the day, it’s all about the quest for the playoffs and a shot to play for a championship. And let’s be honest, very few athletic trainers at the college level get to experience the thrill of winning it all, but deep inside, we all want to win the national championship.
Recruiting is the first step in the quest for a natty at the college level. Compared to the countless hours coaches spend on the road looking for those elite athletes who can change the program or take it to the next level, the role of the athletic trainer in recruiting may be small. But I believe it is very important.
On weekends at Texas Christian University, teams often welcomes recruits to our campus for two days of tours, dinners, and a chance to get to know all of the great people our university has to offer. Sports medicine is part of the experience, and I believe we take just as much pride in our role as everyone else involved.
Our weekend normally starts off with a staff meeting to discuss incoming prospects, so we get to know them a little before we actually meet them. Coaches have developed long-standing relationships with potential players during the process, but for the sports medicine staff, this is often our first and only chance to meet them. Personally, I like to know something about them before we meet so we can have a conversation. Potentially, we could spend the next five years with these kids, so it’s good to know their history.
After the meeting, we all meet up with the prospects for breakfast. One good thing about recruiting is that you will never go hungry over the weekend! Breakfast is a meet-and-greet along with introductions, and the head coach welcomes everyone to campus.
Following breakfast, tours begin, with sports medicine being one of the stops for the prospects and their families. For the athletic training staff, preparations for this visit actually begin on Friday, as the facilities are detailed and prepared to show off to everyone. We take great pride in our facilities and what we have to offer. I believe our program offers everything beneficial to the health care of a student-athlete. Bells and whistles can be nice to look at and are necessary to an extent, but I have never been quite sure how a fogging window or waterfall contributes to a strong rehab program.
Once the prospects and their families arrive, I am fortunate to address them as a group to share our story, our role, and everything we have to offer. I really enjoy this time, as it is an opportunity to promote our program and my staff.
Student-athlete care is number one for us, and part of that is gaining the trust of players and their families. Mom, dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and extended family have been caring for the athlete’s medical needs for 18 years, and now they must trust us to take that over for them. I want them to know we plan to treat their son or daughter with the same care as we would want them to treat our children. Once the player enrolls with us, we are all part of the same family. Families are always welcome to call or come by when they are in town, and it is always great to get to know them. Everyone is encouraged to make themselves at home, look around, and ask questions.
Once I have finished our talk, we take the prospects aside to discuss their medical history and find out a little more about them. Some have numerous questions, and some are quiet, just taking it all in. I believe a lot of them are amazed at the facility and all we have to offer from a sports medicine perspective. A lot of these kids are not used to being in an environment where there is such an emphasis on sports medicine, as many come from schools that have limited access to daily health care. We are fortunate to have strong support from our coaches and administration, which allows us to offer the best health care available to our incoming student-athletes. Once we have finished our one-on-one time with the prospects, the tour is wrapped up, and they move on to another department.
Although we spend more time preparing for the visit than we get to spend with the athletes during the actual visit, I believe we do make an impact on the recruiting process. Some would be surprised at how much time a student-athlete spends in the athletic training room once they arrive on campus, not just for an injury, but also for injury prevention, counseling, and recovery time. That’s why I believe our role in recruiting is important. You need to know your athletes, not only for their athletic ability or the injuries they sustain, but as individuals. Eventually they graduate and go from being one of your student-athletes to one of your friends. And along the way, we all work together for that same goal: the national championship.