Jan 29, 2015Q&A with Dave “DC” Colt
By Abigail Funk
T&C would like to congratulate Dave “DC” Colt, MSEd, LAT, ATC, Head Athletic Trainer at Northwest Missouri State University (NWMSU), on his induction into the NATA Hall of Fame last month! In this interview, Colt shares his thoughts on his most recent honor and how the profession has changed during his 27 years in and on the field.
Since 1981, Dave Colt has headed the athletic training department at Northwest Missouri State University, which currently means caring for 400 student-athletes in 16 NCAA Division II sports. After graduating from West Virginia, Colt worked as an assistant athletic trainer at Temple University for three years before attending graduate school at NWMSU. Upon receiving his master’s degree, Colt landed the head athletic training position at NWMSU.
Colt has served on the NATA Board of Directors and various committees, including the certification committee and most recently the Research and Education Foundation Board of Directors. A cancer survivor, Colt travels to area middle schools and high schools to talk to young men about the importance of completing self-exams for testicular cancer. Colt plans to transition from the athletic training room to the classroom.
T&C: What does it mean to you to be inducted into the NATA Hall of Fame?
Colt: I was overwhelmed–more so than I ever thought I would be. When I stop and think of all the people in the Hall of Fame and what they’ve meant to the athletic training profession and the NATA, there are a lot of people who have done a lot of good things, and it overwhelmed me to be included in that group because I know who they all are and I’ve always looked up to them. It’s pretty meaningful to be a part of that group.
I had to give a speech. I don’t mind speaking at all, but talking in that setting when you’re being honored was really hard. It was very emotional because it meant so much. I had to work hard at not flooding the stage. It really was gratifying.
What was the induction ceremony like?
It was awesome. One of the coolest things was that they had all the current Hall of Fame members on the stage. The ceremony started out with them behind a curtain, and they raised that curtain and all these amazing people were sitting there in their blazers. It was an awesome sight. You could see all the history right there in front of you. It was a moving experience.
We used to have Hall of Fame luncheons, and they changed the format a little bit to improve attendance. The luncheons were getting expensive and a lot of the young people weren’t going because they couldn’t afford a ticket. I don’t know exactly how many people were there this year, but it was a pretty full hall.
How did you get started on the athletic training career path?
I was playing soccer at West Virginia University, rolled my ankle, and started going to see the athletic trainer. I thought, “Wow, this is kind of a cool deal.” At that time, West Virginia was also starting a new athletic training curriculum. I was a pre-pharmacy major, taking chemistry and physics, and my grades weren’t going to get me into pharmacy school anyway, so I applied for the athletic training program and got in. The timing of everything just worked out well, and I guess the rest is history.
What made you recently go back to school to obtain your doctorate?
I’m interested in promoting this profession and I’d really love to teach full-time in an athletic training program. I teach two classes now–anatomy and physiology–each semester. I’ve been teaching all 27 of my years here. The first 18 I taught both basic and advanced athletic training courses, and the last nine I’ve taught anatomy and physiology. I like to sprinkle in a golf class or two and every summer I teach a graduate class on athletic injuries. I’m basically on a half-teaching load at the moment.
Will you leave your on-the-field athletic training duties?
Eventually, I need to leave. The on-the-field stuff is just killing me now. The job has changed so much over the years and it’s getting to the point where I’ve done it long enough and it’s time for the young people to take over.
What has changed in the 27 years you’ve been an athletic trainer?
When I started, we were a quaint little Division II school. We were competitive in most of our sports, fun to watch, and it was fun to be around the teams. But two things happened over the years. One, the NCAA changed a lot of the regulations and lightened restrictions on the athletes and their practices, so our athletes are basically practicing year-round. They’re here all the time. Even this summer, we’ll have 20 football guys in here in the mornings just doing rehab from surgeries.
The second thing is our success in football has really put a strain on my staff. It’s a great program, but people don’t realize that these student-athletes are playing all semester with no breaks. The Division II playoffs don’t allow for a week off unless you’re one of the two teams to get a bye. We’ve been lucky a couple of times and had those byes, but we basically practice from the first week of August through finals week, when we go to the national championship games. That puts a tremendous strain on my staff when you start looking at our resources and all the other sports we have to cover and making them feel valued as well. Every one of those weeks that go past the regular season, it’s not like a preseason game. Those are pretty intense times.
How do you maintain a work-life balance advice?
I think the balance needs to come from administrations recognizing the strain of this job and being able to commit more resources to staffing so that people don’t burn out. Either that or you just have to cut back on what you cover, and I’ve never been willing to do that. That’s the big dilemma right there.
Do you have any advice for veteran athletic trainers who find themselves working with young professionals just starting out?
I would say that you just have to nurture and mentor them a bit. Understand that they’re going to make mistakes and they’re going to have questions, and you’re going to have to work with them. It’s not exactly like raising a kid, but you have to treat them as your own, love them, and understand that you make mistakes and they’re going to make mistakes, but we all have to work through it together.
What is the toughest injury you’ve treated?
I think of three injuries. One was a baseball player who took a bat in the mouth. He lost all of his front teeth and broke his jaw–it was just a mess. It was really hard on the kid. The second was a very messy dislocated knee in a softball game.
And most recently, we had a football athlete who was burned in a fire. He had third-degree burns over both of his legs. He spent about six or eight weeks in a burn unit, and coming back from that was really, really tough for him and my staff. My colleague Kelly Quinlan really provided a lot of care for him and took the brunt of that one. The burns were very serious and took quite a long time to heal, but he got back on the field.
Do you find yourself providing psychological help in addition to the medical side of treatment?
Quite a bit, especially early on in the rehab process. The beginning is usually the hardest for athletes because they’re in a hurry, but they really need to take their time. That can be very frustrating for them.
What were your duties when you served on the NATA Board of Directors from 1993 to 1999?
At the time I was on the board, we were going through a big change in our educational process. We spent a lot of time looking at the education of athletic trainers and we worked with the Board of Certification to come up with one avenue to become certified. We dropped the internship route and went purely with accredited athletic training programs. That was a tough time for a lot of people because the old internship route was ingrained and it was a tradition. Losing that was tough, but it was necessary.
The internship route had very little administrative oversight. The students had a few classes they had to include in their coursework–basic anatomy and physiology and a couple of athletic training classes–but there was really no oversight over what was being taught in those classes and they learned most of their stuff via on-the-job experience. When people would go to their state legislatures and try to get licensure laws passed, the big question was, “What’s your education requirement?” And we had these two routes to become certified. To increase the professionalism of athletic training and show people that we really did have a legitimate education that matched other healthcare professions, we had to go to an accredited process.
Abigail Funk is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.