Mann joins 11 athletic trainers in the KATS Hall and is the second woman inducted

People who do great work are usually the ones most surprised when they’re honored for it.

A lot of the time, they don’t really see all the great things they’re doing for others. They’re too busy keeping their head down and doing work. So when Joan Mann said she was surprised to find out she was being inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Trainers Society Hall of Fame last month, you have to believe her.

“I was never in such a shock in all my born days,” she said. “There are big-time people in this. A couple of National Athletic Association representatives and everything else. I was kind of surprised. It’s a big honor, it really is.”

But it’s an honor that is well-deserved, as anyone who has been treated by Mann could attest.

Mann, one of just 12 athletic trainers in the Hall and just the second woman, was the full-time athletic trainer for 21 years at Boyle County. She taught at the school for 33 years and taught for a total of 38 years before retiring in 2010. In addition to being the full-time trainer, Mann taught a sports medicine class.

She was still teaching at the high school when then-superintendent Tom Mills hired her as the first full-time athletic trainer in central Kentucky. Mann said she was encouraged to become a trainer by West Jessamine trainer Dean Geary and former Centre College athletic trainer Gary Wilkerson.

There were very few full-time athletic trainers at the time, so at age 40 Mann became a sort of trailblazer. It was definitely a challenge. But it was one she enjoyed, being able to help an injured athlete get back on the field.

“It was a challenge to figure out what was wrong with a kid, how to take care of them and get them well enough to where they could play a sport they loved,” she said. “That was as great a win you could have, seeing an athlete get back on the field safely to play, thus seeing the joy in their eyes as they were once again part of the victories.”

She also enjoyed some of the “weird” things she saw.

“I had the weirdest injuries,” said Mann, who jokes than former Boyle and Kentucky star Jacob Tamme owes her a percentage of his NFL money for her work with him in high school. “I’ve had a spleen injury, I’ve seen a punctured lung and one kids actually got kidney stones on the sidelines,” she said. “One kid got a temperature of 106 degrees, I got real lucky saving him.”

And she never sugar-coated the demands placed on an athletic trainer, demands most people probably do not realize.

“I told the kids in my class, if you don’t like athletics and don’t mind being the first one in and the last one to leave, you’re in the wrong field,” she said.

Mann still believes that every school should have a full-time trainer.

“They talk about not being able to afford one, but my thing is can you not afford to have one? I really believe that kid in Louisville (Max Gilpin in 2009) would not have died on the field because a trainer would have handled it differently,” she said.”Not that we’re perfect, we’re not, but we recognize things and we deal with it because coaches are divided. He wants to be a coach, he doesn’t want to be the first-aid responder.”

As great a trainer as she was, it was not the only thing Mann was successful at. A former basketball coach she was the Advocate-Messenger Girls Basketball Coach of the Year in 1982.

Mann also officiated softball, basketball and volleyball for more than 30 years. In 2002, she was named the KHSAA Outstanding Softball Official. And she still officiates volleyball matches, is a trainer for the Bluegrass State Games and even fills in at Boyle and Centre College when needed.

“I don’t want to be bored,” she said.

Mann also holds one more distinction, she’s the only woman in the Boyle County Football Hall of Fame, elected in 2008. She’s as proud of her five state champion football rings as anything.

“It was always my dream to win a state tournament in basketball,” she said. “That never happened, but thanks to Coach (Chuck) Smith, I got five rings.”

Mann said she is appreciative of everyone she worked with and for at Boyle, and loves seeing her former student trainers succeed. Mann said she had about 500 kids take her sports medicine class and had more than 300 student athletic trainer aides at Boyle.

“Four of my student assistants are now trainers; that is kind of fun too,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of great students. I have one that’s a physician’s assistant, nurses, physical therapists, one is a mortician, there’s a psychologist, several are teachers. The kids were awesome. I can’t say enough about my kids that took my class.”

Current Boyle trainer Jeremy Johnson, who worked under and then succeeded Mann, said she has had a “profound impact” on his career.

“The most important thing that I learned from her was how to be an athletic trainer. She taught me how to be caring and compassionate with patients. She also showed me how important it was for high school students to have a full time AT. I would not be a high school athletic trainer without Joan’s guidance,” he said. “Joan has done a wonderful job promoting the profession of athletic training.”

Of course Mann, said she would never have gotten to where she is if it were not for the all of the people she worked with over the years.

“God blessed me with so many great people in Boyle County, who made the job of caring for the young athletes so easy, from local doctors, school personnel, fellow teachers, personal friends, coaches, athletes, parents, and my family that I couldn’t possibly thank them all,” she said. “But there is one special group that I would like to personally thank and they are the approximately 200 student athletic training aides who helped me come rain or shine,” she said. “Without them the athletic training program would not have been as successful.”

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