Simmons has been a certified athletic trainer for 35 years
Pennridge School District physical education teacher, health instructor and athletic trainer Roberta Simmons said she’s not used to being in the limelight, but when it came to chatting about her passion for sports, physical fitness and being the recent recipient of the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers’ Society 2015 Distinguished Merit Award, she was willing to step out of the shadows.
A longtime member of PATS, Simmons was given the Merit Award in June in Gettysburg at the organization’s yearly convention. The award is given annually to an athletic trainer that has a “minimum of 15 years’ experience and has demonstrated distinguished professional achievement in the practice of athletic training,” according to GOPATS.org, the organization’s official website.
“To be recognized by your peers for your accomplishments for the things you have done throughout the years is pretty amazing — it’s touching,” she said during an interview at Pennridge High School Sept. 2.
“The Hall of Fame will be next,” she joked. “But I think there is time for that.”
Simmons has been a certified athletic trainer for 35 years. She began her career in athletic training in the 1980s working as an assistant trainer at the collegiate level before moving into a clinical outreach position at Southern Lehigh High School through the Orthopedic Associates of Allentown.
Since 2007, Simmons has been a 10th-grade health and physical education teacher and substitute athletic trainer at Pennridge High School, which is a job she talked about with zeal.
“My students are my kids,” she said with a smile. “They keep me going.”
However, years before Simmons was stretching-out sore student-athletes, taping sprains and massaging leg cramps, she was a student-athlete herself.
She was a member of the swim team, cheerleading squad and could be seen charging down the fields during field hockey games at Upper Perkiomen High School and Lock Haven University, her alma maters.
However, multiple injuries to her left knee and five knee surgeries later, Simmons’ field hockey career came to an end in college, she said
“I know both ends of the spectrum,” Simmons said. “When you play hard and you play fast, something is bound to happen down the line. Sometimes we don’t look out for ourselves at a young age and that’s when an athletic trainer comes into play. We want the best for student athletes and we try to give them the best insight we can. Not just what’s good for today, but what’s good for them down the road.”
As a trainer, Simmons said her job is to focus on the athletes and making sure they are the best they can be and that goes for high school players and professional athletes, some of whom she had the opportunity to work with as a volunteer athletic trainer during the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, as well as the 1996 summer games in Atlanta, Ga., for the USA teams.
But no matter whom she works with, Simmons said her aim is always to prevent injuries through performance enhancement and education, she said. One of the biggest mistakes many athletes make, especially student athletes, is not getting enough sleep and not drinking enough water, she said.
And with that, Simmons shared one piece of advice she is always offering students: “Your body is a fine car, the best sports car you’ve ever gotten. You need to take care of it. Fuel it right, take care of it and it will treat you right.”