Nov 16, 2018
When AT Days Are Done
Larry Cooper

Retirement: it is a word that brings a smile to most everyone who hears it. It conjures up images of lounging on the beach, fulfilling your desires of wanderlust, and relaxation. While it is something that we all work toward, when the day comes for you to turn in your keys and walk out for the last time, it is beyond surreal. While working, you have purpose. People rely on you and expect you to do your job without being micro-managed, be dependable, be reliable, act on their behalf, and be responsible. That is done for years — it’s what you do each and every day. Believe me when I say, you don’t turn that off overnight. In my case, not even in three months.

At the end of the 2017-18 school year, I retired from Penn-Trafford High School in Harrison City, Pa., after serving as Head Athletic Trainer for 27 years. No longer are there constant distractions, places to go, being pulled from one athlete to the next or multiple events, calls to make, paperwork to be completed, and doing everything according to everyone else’s schedule.

Your concern for people’s well-being remains, your desire to help others is still there, and the desire to be a good role model does not end. The thing that does change is the pace at which you approach your days. Now you get a chance to help those that may be less fortunate, whether it is circumstances that they brought on themselves or by just plain bad luck.

In my circumstance, I have a desire to continue to help by volunteering. There are a few things that I have done in the short time that I have been retired and a few more that I will add to the schedule, all the while being cognizant that I don’t become as busy as I was before. All of these pursuits have given me a sense of satisfaction that was similar to what I found each and every day as an athletic trainer.

While working, you have purpose. People rely on you and expect you to do your job… Believe me when I say, you don’t turn that off overnight.

I had a friend recently say that retirement is when you stop working for a living and work on living. This can be true to different degrees for different people. For this very reason, I am glad that I have hobbies, activities, and interests that challenge me, invigorate me, and help fulfill the desire to help others. For instance, I take time to work out each and every day.

I’m finding that I work at a little slower pace now and notice that there are more things in this world than athletics. As athletic trainers, we can get so consumed by the athletics that make us so busy that we forget about the outside world. This outside world can involve family, relaxation, travel, reading, theater, and food. It can also be more, but I think you get the picture — we have a very narrow view/focus as we do our jobs and sometimes take for granted what Kenny Chesney calls the “good stuff.”

Surprisingly, retirement has stirred up many emotions for me. All of these emotions are hard to suppress, but I am working on it. Besides missing the interaction with the students and athletes, I knew that my interaction with a lot of my fellow teachers was going to be minimized, and that made me sad. That’s because I worked with some incredible human beings that became dear friends.

It also became apparent that my interactions with the athletic trainers of surrounding schools would come to a screeching halt. This really hit home because they are my brothers and sisters — friends with a similar kindred spirit. The same can be said but to the Nth degree about my athletic training co-workers, those individuals that I spent an insane amount of time with and got to know like family.

On the complete other side of the coin, I couldn’t wait to spend more time with my family — my unwavering supporters. They sacrificed so much so that I could pursue my passion and try to make a difference in our profession. They are really happy that I am going to be around more. My wife deserves to have me around every day — to travel, to go on long walks, to sit at the beach, or just to swing on the back deck. When you add the fact that we will be grandparents in the coming year, the timing was perfect.

While I may be retired, I am not done as an athletic trainer. I am still working as a tireless advocate for our profession and especially the secondary school setting. My involvement level is not different, it is just from a different location. I am still working on the same issues but from a different office and with fewer distractions.

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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