May 18, 2016Two at a Time
More and more athletic trainers are pulling double duty by serving in additional roles outside of sports medicine. In this three-part article, authors share how they juggle jobs.
This article first appeared in the May/June 2016 issue of Training & Conditioning.
As I glance out the window at the baseball team shagging flies and the track and field athletes stretching before a run, I’m reminded of why I do what I do-the kids. Here at Indian River High School in Dagsboro, Del., I am both Head Athletic Trainer and Athletic Director. My days are challenging, often hectic, and pull me in a thousand directions. But it’s all worth it for the opportunity to watch these young men and women grow.
Of course, it’s easy for me to say that now, after eight years of doing both jobs. Getting to this point, however, wasn’t always smooth sailing.
I first came to Indian River, which usually has an enrollment between 800 and 900 students, 11 years ago for a part-time outreach athletic training position. While I was finishing up my third year, the then-athletic director mentioned his plans to retire. We discussed his possible replacement, and to my surprise, he asked if I would be interested in the position. Since I was one of the most involved people in the athletic department and had learned the ins and outs of the job from spending time with him at athletic events, he thought I’d be a good fit.
Going into athletic administration had always intrigued me, but I wasn’t considering it at the time. My initial hesitations revolved around dealing with parents, the community, and school personnel, and I wondered if the administrative duties would conflict with my athletic training responsibilities. But after giving it some thought, my desire to build a strong athletic program outweighed these concerns, so I decided to pursue the job.
First, I had to convince the school district that I was right for it. The school board did not approve me initially because they didn’t know how my dual role would work. There was a lot of back and forth over the hours I’d devote to each position, job description, teaching responsibilities, and salary. However, with hard work and great support from coaches, I was approved on my second attempt and officially started as athletic director the next day-a day that changed my life.
I think athletic trainers make good athletic directors because both jobs require excellent interpersonal and organizational skills, as well as the ability to multitask. Athletic trainers are also passionate about sports and success, which translates well to athletic administration.
A typical day for me lasts about 12 hours depending on our teams’ schedules. In the mornings, I make sure all the busses are ready for that day’s contests, check that departure times are set and teams will be ready for travel, double-check that we have officials for home events, and work on any rehabs. I make every attempt to finish my athletic director duties before lunch, but this rarely happens.
One contingency of the school board’s approval was that I get my teaching certification, as I am required to teach two sports medicine classes and one strength and conditioning class each day. They normally run from the late morning to early afternoon.
When school lets out, I mostly switch over to athletic training, with some athletic director duties thrown in. I tape and evaluate injuries for about 30 minutes each afternoon before going out to the fields for practice coverage. A benefit of my dual role is that I can now provide full-time athletic training for our high school, as I am on campus all day.
My first few years of serving as both athletic trainer and athletic director opened my eyes to the numerous administrative tasks that I never had to consider before. Combined with the sports medicine responsibilities I still had, I began to wonder: How can I get everything done and done well?
The key to my success has been managing my duties efficiently. I request that all practices fall within a two- to three-hour window after school, which keeps me from staying late to cover evening practices. The same goes for home games. While the work is greater for me after school, it doesn’t extend all night.
I’m able to provide adequate athletic training care for multiple sports during this busy period because I make myself as visible and accessible as possible. Our facilities are set up in such a way that I can usually see about 90 percent of all activity from one field, and I can always be reached via phone or walkie-talkie.
When things are really hectic or we have multiple athletic events occurring in one afternoon, my wife-who is also an athletic trainer-volunteers to provide care. She also helps with rehabs and football coverage when she can.
Despite my best efforts to minimize them, the long hours of my dual role can make it difficult for me to maintain a work-life balance-that’s one of the biggest challenges of my position. I have two small children, and although I am fortunate that my wife understands the demands of the profession, I try to be proactive in separating my home and work lives.
One of my most successful attempts yet was asking my coaches and athletes to refrain from calling me on Sundays or after 8 p.m. on any other night unless it is an emergency. This has allowed me to put my phone away and not think about work when I’m spending time with my family.
Looking past the challenges, serving as both an athletic trainer and athletic director has yielded great benefits. I take great pride in knowing I’ve been a part of many student-athlete successes. For example, during my initial year in both roles, I had my first athlete sign to an NCAA Division I school. It impacted me not only as an athletic trainer who had worked through a number of injuries with the athlete, but also as an athletic director who guided him through the final stages of the recruiting process. Since then, a number of Indian River athletes have gone on to play at the next level, and every one of them has been back to say thank you.
For athletic trainers who want to get involved in athletic administration, I recommend talking to your current athletic director. Try to shadow him or her, and ask if you can assist with any upcoming projects. I would also look into certification through the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.
Serving as both a high school athletic trainer and athletic director is not for everyone, nor would it work at every school. A colleague of mine had the same dual role at a large high school, and he has since stepped down due to burnout. While the job is certainly stressful, finding the right balance between your work and home lives can be the key to having a long and successful career.
READY FOR MORE
By Jaime Kent
Jaime Kent, MS, ATC, is Head Athletic Trainer, Associate Athletic Director, and Senior Woman Administrator at Livingstone College. She was named the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association’s 2015 Senior Woman Administrator of the Year. Kent can be reached at: [email protected]
I have wanted to be an athletic trainer ever since I was in high school, so I pursued this passion fervently through college, graduate school, and into the professional arena. Now at Livingstone College, I’ve been fortunate to develop from an athletic trainer to someone who also wears many other hats. Although I’m still an athletic trainer at heart, I’ve enjoyed the chance to learn and grow in my additional roles.
In 2008, I started as Head Athletic Trainer at Livingstone, an NCAA Division II school. I had the opportunity to create the institution’s athletic training program from scratch, so I spent two years making it everything I wanted it to be. Once it was complete, I was ready for a new challenge. I offered to oversee strength and conditioning for the men’s basketball team and, after its success that season, added the volleyball and softball teams the following year. Still, I was eager to do more on campus.
In the summer of 2012, I got my chance. Livingstone hired a new athletic director, Andre Springs, who recognized my desire to expand my professional skill set. He designated me as Senior Woman Administrator (SWA)-a title held by a female in an athletic department who is responsible for advocating for women’s sports and ensuring equal distribution of resources across men’s and women’s teams.
On paper, it might not seem like the skill sets of athletic trainers and SWAs overlap, but in my experience, they definitely do. As an athletic trainer, I bring something to the table that other administrators simply cannot-I know the athletes on a personal level. In the athletic training room, I see them at their most vulnerable, so I know what they are struggling with in school, socially, or on their teams. This information helps me make more enlightened administrative decisions and offers a different perspective during discussions with other administrators.
In addition, my dual role gives me a platform to promote athletic trainers and student-athlete well-being. As SWA, I have a seat at the table during NCAA and conference deliberations, so I can highlight the needs of athletic trainers, as well as medical issues facing student-athletes.
Besides serving as athletic trainer and SWA, I’ve delved into other fields at Livingstone by advising the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), serving on the athletic department’s compliance panel, and organizing operations for men’s basketball. Most recently, I was appointed Associate Athletic Director in January. My unique perspective into athletes’ lives makes overseeing community engagement, NCAA and conference initiatives, and team logistics seem like a natural extension of my athletic training duties.
I’ve greatly enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had at Livingstone, but taking on multiple roles is not without its challenges. For starters, it’s difficult to find time for everything.
Scheduling my day into segments helps me figure out what I need to get done and when. The athletic training room is less busy in the mornings, so I do most of my administrative paperwork from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. From noon through 4 p.m., I focus on rehabilitations, athletic training room duties, and practice coverage. I work with football and men’s basketball exclusively, and my associate athletic trainer and I alternate coverage of the other 12 sports. Then during the evening, I tie up any remaining administrative or sports medicine loose ends.
I’m also big on making lists. As soon as I discovered electronic Post-It notes on my computer, it was like my whole life finally made sense. Before I leave work, I write down all my to-do items for the next day in color-coded notes-I have a color for each of my respective duties. I list each task in order of importance, and I start the next day with my most difficult or time-consuming item.
Yet, no matter how regimented my day is or how many lists I make, I’ve learned that I shouldn’t try to do everything myself. I could never meet all of my work responsibilities without the help of people around me, so trusting and relying on my colleagues has been critical.
To help manage the sports medicine department, my associate athletic trainer takes on additional duties. Recently, I put her in charge of insurance, which is something I always did. She has enjoyed the challenge, and it has made her more qualified for her next job. Delegating my administrative duties is more difficult, but I’ve had success assigning tasks that don’t require my specific expertise.
It’s challenging to delegate, but it’s something I continue to work on. Not only does it make my life easier, but it also allows other staff members to develop, which makes everyone happier.
Beyond delegating, I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. Sometimes, being a woman in a male-dominated industry makes me feel like I am on an island, and I have to prove to everyone that I can do everything independently. Yet, in reality, I do a much better job when I ask for assistance with difficult tasks. For example, when I first took on my compliance role, I sought guidance from fellow SWAs who were also compliance directors. It was a prime example of women supporting women and having great success.
In athletics, maintaining a work-life balance is tough, and my multiple roles make it even harder. My best attempts to find harmony have revolved around shifting my schedule in ways that better accommodate my personal life. For example, my fiancé travels a great deal for his job, so when he is out of town, I try to accomplish as much at work as possible, staying late or coming in early as needed. But when he is in town, I don’t bring work home unless it is absolutely necessary. This allows us to stay focused on each other and make the most out of the time we have together.
After years of juggling many roles at Livingstone, I’m an advocate for athletic trainers stepping into the administrative side of athletics. Unfortunately, the opportunity to do so is fairly rare. Others in athletics often pigeonhole athletic trainers, so many feel like they are unable to move up.
To alter this perception, I advise athletic trainers to move out of their comfort zones and consider broader perspectives. They can start by volunteering for different committees-I was on the campus safety and food services committees when I first came to Livingstone, and I volunteered to coordinate the Athletic Hall of Fame banquet. By volunteering for events other than games and practices, athletic trainers can expand the roles administrators see them in.
During my eight-year tenure at Livingstone, I have learned so much and grown immensely. The passion that I felt for athletic training as a teenager has not dissipated-it has just shifted. While athletic training will forever be my first professional love, administration has offered me the chance to make new strides for athletic trainers and student-athletes.
WORKING ON WELLNESS
By Craig Deverell
Craig Deverell, ATC, is Athletic Trainer at Shelbyville (Ill.) High School and Wellness Coordinator at Shelby Memorial Hospital. He can be reached at: [email protected]
Over the past several years, I have lost more than 80 pounds in a quest to improve my personal well-being. Knowing firsthand how good health can change lives, I was inspired to tackle wellness on a broader scale in my community. By serving as both Athletic Trainer for Shelbyville (Ill.) High School and Coordinator of the Wellness for Life program at Shelby Memorial Hospital, I’m able to meet this goal.
I came to Shelbyville in 2013 to fill an outreach position as Athletic Trainer for Shelby Memorial and Shelbyville High School. Soon after, I began working to build the Wellness for Life program, and as I became more involved, I was promoted to coordinator.
My days start at Shelby Memorial, and I usually head to the high school in the mid-afternoon to provide injury assessments or event coverage. The hours for school coverage are determined at the beginning of each sport season, and then my hours at the hospital are scheduled accordingly. As a result, I can provide athletic training coverage at the most appropriate times for the high school, while continuing my role at the hospital.
Becoming the Wellness Coordinator at Shelby Memorial evolved from my passion to provide community members with a comprehensive program to improve their overall health. To get Wellness for Life off the ground, my department manager and I began researching similar programs across the country. We thought about what would work for our hospital and community, facility, and available equipment. We also had to figure out how to tackle new daily challenges, such as balancing our patient load, support from our current employees, and bringing in new clientele.
After we got the support of hospital administration, we officially founded the Wellness for Life program. The multilevel initiative provides wellness opportunities for individuals who wish to work independently, as well as those who need one-on-one guidance from professionals to assist with diet, exercise, and medical management. We piloted it with hospital employees to determine individual client needs and how the program would function on a day-to-day basis.
In the two years since creating Wellness for Life, it has grown dramatically. We see multiple clients every day and had to double our facility to accommodate the increased demand.
Recently, we’ve also added the national initiative Take Shape for Life to our hospital’s offerings. It is a comprehensive lifestyle modification program that combines habits of health, pre-packaged meals, and healthy foods along with health coaching to improve overall wellness. Since Take Shape for Life is a turnkey program that does not involve managed health care or ICD coding, I’ve been able to manage its implementation effectively.
From my dual experience, I’ve found that community-wide wellness programs are a perfect place to use my athletic training skill set. If you think about it, athletic trainers already promote wellness on a daily basis by creating heat illness/hydration programs, educating athletes on sleep and nutrition, performing concussion treatment protocols, or helping an injured athlete return to play. Plus, our medical knowledge, adaptability, and experience working with diverse populations make us good fits for these programs.
Athletic trainers who work in hospitals or sports medicine clinics can create programs similar to Wellness for Life by following a few steps. First, determine what your community needs are. Take a look at what other wellness services are offered in your area and determine what you like and dislike about them. Ask yourself: Is there anything I can improve on? Also, identify price points to figure out any fees for service.
In addition, I would strongly suggest offering the program to a small group to start. Only Shelby Memorial employees could participate in Wellness for Life at first, which helped us streamline scheduling, new-client orientations, and accounting. Since we worked out the bugs with our employee population, we had a smooth transition when we extended Wellness for Life to the rest of the community.
If you do pursue a dual role in athletic training and wellness, have a plan in place to manage all of your responsibilities. I find it easier to balance my work and home lives when I write everything down. I prefer to work from paper calendars, scheduling work and life activities up to three months in advance. My work calendar keeps track of my daily patient load, Wellness for Life client attendance and dues, high school sporting event and athletic training room coverage, and any other professional duties. I transfer the most important information to another paper calendar that I carry with me at all times. This second calendar also includes family events, Take Shape for Life, and my workout schedule.
Another helpful tool resides in my pocket-my smartphone. I use it to text clients, check multiple email accounts, and make calls whether I’m in the office or out on the field. Being easily accessible is important, especially since I travel between two sites every day.
Of course, another advantage of my smartphone is that I can shut it off when I want to be inaccessible. I generally make myself available for 12 hours a day and turn my phone off during workouts and family time.
For athletic trainers, taking on additional roles can easily lead to burnout if you are unable to manage everything on your plate. When determining whether to increase your workload with a new position, think about the support you will receive from your employer, fellow colleagues, and family. Their encouragement-or lack thereof-can make a tremendous difference in your longevity. I have great backing from these three groups, and it’s been crucial to maintaining my passion in the midst of many daily responsibilities.