Apr 2, 2018
Setting Switch
Timothy Neal

High-wire artist Philippe Petit said, “Passion is the motto of all my actions.” Certainly, it took Mr. Petit more than passion on August 7, 1974 when he walked a high wire between the Twin Towers in New York City, but it was passion that propelled him to attempt this act.

Passion is the fuel for action. It may be stoked by circumstances, opportunities, and/or long-held desires that are finally acted upon. Passion carries individuals toward their life’s work. Such is the case for me and many others in the athletic training profession.

In my nearly 40 years as a certified athletic trainer, I have taken my passion for the profession from the clinic and transferred it to the classroom. The commitment I have to athletic training is displayed through my deep passion for instructing and mentoring future athletic training professionals as Program Director of Athletic Training Education at Concordia University Ann Arbor.

Throughout my career, continuous learning and passing along my experiences to enhance someone else’s growth have been causes to which I am committed… For this reason, transitioning from a clinical athletic trainer to athletic training education was a natural fit for me.

Throughout my career, continuous learning and passing along my experiences to enhance someone else’s growth have been causes to which I am committed. I have always had a strong desire to positively influence the next generation of athletic trainers through education. My greatest joy came not from my own work in caring for thousands of student-athletes, but in receiving great reports on those I mentored and watching them go on to outstanding athletic training careers. Even when I was practicing clinically, I always felt that I was a teacher and mentor to those I worked with and supervised.

For this reason, transitioning from a clinical athletic trainer to athletic training education was a natural fit for me. At Syracuse University, in addition to my clinical work, I was an adjunct professor teaching several undergraduate and graduate courses. I was also engaged in scholarly work. For several years at Syracuse, I produced more peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed manuscripts as an individual than the entire exercise science faculty combined.

To this day, I am committed to learning and collaborating with others in the areas of writing, research, and curriculum development. I utilize my extensive background in clinical athletic training to enhance my academic contributions in the classroom and in innovating areas, such as student-athlete mental health and wellness and caring for my fellow athletic training professionals through the NATA ATs Care program. I have been blessed to collaborate with so many athletic trainers, physicians, other health care professionals, and organizations to develop or deliver health and wellness information to a wide array of athletes and patients.

In my current position at CUAA, I am fortunate to work with a very accomplished faculty, supportive dean, and campus executive officer. Together, we are collaborating and working diligently to get the athletic training program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education in 2020.

At CUAA, going into the classroom to cover the content, enhanced through examples from my clinical background, is something I look forward to each day. My students know immediately of my passion for the athletic training profession. I can see that passion transferred to them by their enthusiasm, grades, and professional curiosity. Students we send to affiliation sites report how well prepared they are.

I am also enthused by the work of our CUAA athletic training program faculty. Our instruction and mentorship of our students is performed professionally and with rigorous standards that will help our students become effective and compassionate athletic training professionals upon graduation and certification.

Overall, going from a clinical athletic trainer to an athletic training educator has been a rewarding career transition for me. Following my professional and academic passion as an educator and mentor of athletic training students is fulfilling and helps contribute to the future of the field. I strongly encourage anyone interested in this to follow their passions and help instill qualities in future professionals that will help them find fulfillment and success in caring for patients and athletes.

Image by Bryan Hopping.

Timothy Neal, MS, AT, ATC, CCISM, is Assistant Professor and Program Director of Athletic Training Education at Concordia University Ann Arbor. Previously, he spent more than 30 years at Syracuse University, serving in a variety of sports medicine roles. Neal is also a member of the Ohio University Alumni Association Board of Directors. He can be reached at: [email protected]


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