Jun 24, 2016NATA 2016: Elicia Leal, Most Valuable Athletic Trainer
Check back here to read T&C Managing Editor Mary Kate Murphy’s insights from the floor of the NATA 67th Clinical Symposia & AT Expo in Baltimore. Mary Kate is armed with a pen, pad, and a list of educational seminars and will spend the rest of the week taking in the sights and sounds of the convention, sharing her observations in this blog.
Thursday, 5:02 p.m.
A few months after she was nominated for Training & Conditioning’s Most Valuable Athletic Trainer Award, Elicia Leal, MEd, LAT, ATC, got a call from nominator Dawn Allen, MS, LAT, ATC, Athletic Trainer at Leander (Texas) High School. Allen said she had bad news.
“She goes, you know I nominated you for the award, right? Well we didn’t win,” recounts Leal, Head Athletic Trainer at McKinney (Texas) North High School. “I said, ‘That’s okay, Dawn. I’m just glad that I got nominated for it. And she said, “Well . . . not really. You actually won.”
This time, Allen was telling the truth, and Leal was thrilled to receive the 2016 Most Valuable Athletic Trainer Award, sponsored by Sports Health. However, in keeping with the selfless nature with which she has served the athletic training profession for nearly 30 years, Leal’s first reaction was to think of the friends and colleagues who helped her get there.
“When Dawn said that I won, I was like, ‘We really won?’” Leal explained. “And I said ‘we,’ because it wasn’t just me—it was my friends, as well. I would never have recovered from my aneurysm and stroke without my friends. That’s true for the whole profession, too. You can’t be an athletic trainer by yourself. You have to have colleagues who help you succeed in whatever you’re doing.”
Accompanied by these friends and colleagues, Leal was presented with a plaque commemorating the award Thursday at the School Health booth. Her achievements were also highlighted in T&C May/June.
Since the article went to press, Leal has been showered with congratulatory messages from across the profession, all emphasizing how deserving she is of the honor. Her most enthusiastic supporters, though, could be found in her own school. “The people who were really, really excited about me getting the award were my CAP kids [special needs students from McKinney North’s Community Access Program],” she says. “They were so happy for me and loved getting the chance to sit in on the photo shoot for the article. I just love working with those kids.”
Over the course of her distinguished career, Leal has been feted by numerous organizations. Due to the spotlight it shines on high school athletic trainers, the Most Valuable Athletic Trainer Award holds a special significance for her. “Secondary school athletic trainers don’t get a lot of recognition,” she says. “We go to work every day to treat high school and middle school kids, but we hardly get appreciation from our districts and states. A lot of it goes to the collegiate and clinical athletic trainers. So it’s great to get some recognition of what we do.”
Despite her continued professional successes, Leal remains steadfast in her dedication to her athletes. “The one question I still ask myself every day is: What am I going to do today for the betterment of my athletes?” she says. “That will never stop.”
From all of us here at T&C, congratulations to Elicia Leal on being named the 2016 Most Valuable Athletic Trainer! Click here to read her profile in our May/June issue.