A yell echoes through the practice gym of Alumni Coliseum. Interim Director of Sports Medicine Jake Ryan immediately shoots his head up, stopping his ongoing conversation with strength and conditioning coach Jon-Michael Davis to mend redshirt junior JaVonte Hawkins’s muscle cramp.
Despite the triviality of muscle cramps, Ryan treats every injury like one would be a broken bone; asking how the player feels and exercising the wounded area. Ryan is expected to care for every student-athlete whether it be torn ACL or dislocated shoulder.
“I enjoy interacting with athletes and watching them succeed, but above all my job is to keep them healthy for life,” Ryan said.
Ryan said he works closely with coaches, team doctors, and students-athletes to ensure that each player gets as much help as possible.
“Communication is key,” Ryan said. “I try to email a report to the coaches every morning and speak with them before or after practice about specific players.”
Athletic training, Ryan said, has as much to do with psychology as anatomy. Though anatomy is used to locate the injury, trainers must have the ability to know the person injured and what works best for them.
“I have to treat the athlete as much as the injury,” Ryan said. “An injury may hurt more to some athletes than others and I have to make sure I keep that in mind while treating them.”
An Eastern grad, Ryan learned the importance of mentality while earning his master’s degree in sports psychology at Murray State University.
After earning his master’s, Ryan worked for two years as a trainer for the Bluefield Orioles, a minor league team who were, at the time, affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles. Ryan said that although he loved his time with the Orioles, working in professional baseball any longer would have caused him to stop enjoying the sport.
He then spent his following years at Concord University and Georgetown College before arriving at Eastern in 2011.
Though Ryan is in his fourth year at Eastern, he has only held the position of Interim Director of Sports Medicine since late July. In addition to being the men’s basketball trainer, Ryan now overlooks all sports, schedules meetings with doctors and athletic performance teams and handles athletes’ health insurance, bills, and claims.
He also works closely with two student trainers studying in the athletic training program every semester, helping them get hands on experience working with student-athletes.
“I always tell them if you can’t tape an ankle, the athletes won’t trust you,” Ryan said.
Jazmin Holbrook, a student trainer working under Ryan this semester, said Ryan has taught her a lot about keeping the dynamics of the training room professional.
“I love Jake,” Holbrook said. “I would work with Jake for the next three years if I could.”
Assistant Athletic Trainer Tara Bailey, who was hired at the beginning of the 2015 academic year, said working under Ryan has been a huge learning experience.
“It’s kind of a blessing to have Jake as my first boss. He has been a real help guiding and mentoring me in my first position,” Bailey said.
Although he says his workload is heavier than before, Ryan can still be found at every men’s basketball practice—including those at 6 a.m..
“I have only missed two practices in my entire career,” Ryan said. “One when I was sick and one when I was snowed in and couldn’t get there.”
Ryan said that when the permanent role of sports medicine director is posted, he plans on applying.
“I love my job,” Ryan said. “I don’t think I can sit behind a desk or work in a cubicle every day, I love traveling and getting to know people.”