Hal Hilmer loved sports while attending Ohio’s Kirtland High School.
“But my love of sports did not match my athletic abilities,” he says with a laugh. “So I got into athletic training during my high school years.”
And he has never left.
This Friday night, Hilmer will be honored for his highly successful 36-year career as Hersey High School’s athletic trainer.
The ceremony will take place between the girls and boys varsity basketball games in the Ken Carter gymnasium against visiting Prospect.
The boys game will be first, tipping off at 6 p.m.
“What can I say about Hal?” said Hersey activities director John Novak. “He has been great for 36 years. He’s really cared about the kids and Hersey athletics.”
Hilmer, whose career at Hersey tipped off in 1979, has earned numerous accolades during his tenure.
In 1986, he was named the Illinois High School Athletic Trainer of the Year, an award for contributions to the profession of athletic training.
In 1997, inducted into the Illinois Athletic Trainers Association’s Hall Of Fame.
“The best thing about Hal over his 36 years is not only his commitment to Hersey, but his commitment to the kids year in and year out,” said Hersey girls athletic director Julia Barthel. “Hal spends more time at Hersey than any coach and he does it with class and dignity.”
This year, Hilmer is one of several honorees for the 2016 National Athletic Trainers Association’s Athletic Trainer Service Award.
While serving at Hersey, Hilmer has served on a wide range of committees and projects designed to improve the health and safety of the students and District 214. They include establishing the purchase and placement of automated external defibrillators throughout the buildings of District 214.
Hilmer also assisted with the creation and management of various athletic training workshops designed to further the knowledge and interest of Dist. 214 students in the field of athletic training.
Hilmer credits his success to a “very understanding and supportive wife” since 1993.
His wife, Debbie Compton Hilmer, was on Forest View’s state championship bowling teams in 1977 and 1978.
Whenever his job has permitted, Hilmer has enjoyed watching his two sons Kevin and Michael play multiple sports at Palatine High School. Michael was the talented kicker for the Pirates football team this fall that advanced to the state quarterfinals.
Hilmer graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1979, earning his bachelor’s degree in health education with a minor in athletic training (at the time, only a minor degree was available in athletic training).
He continued at Miami (Ohio) University in 1979-1980, receiving a master’s degree in health education and he was responsible for assigning undergrad student athletic trainers to cover intramural and club sports.
Hilmer applied throughout the United States for jobs in athletic training.
“I do not even remember sending in an application to District 214,” he said. “I was asked to come in for an interview with 30 others for six position openings and was offered the position of health teacher and head athletic trainer at Hersey.”
After two years, all of the newly hired athletic trainers were going to be RIFed.
“However, doctors in the area and parents of students that we had cared for, came to our defense and convinced the 214 Board of Education to retain us but in a different capacity (resource for health teachers and the physical education department, handling their injured or ill students).
The job evolved into the present day system of modified physical education.
While at Hersey, Hilmer has served as a volunteer athletic trainer at the Prairie State Games from their inception in 1983 to 1994.
He has held offices of secretary (1984-1989), president-elect and president (1992-1996) for the Illinois Athletic Trainers Association, Inc.
During his tenure on the board of the IATA, he oversaw the enactment of the Registration of Athletic Trainers (which legitimized the profession of Athletic Training in Illinois in 1986) and the Licensure law in 1989 that licensed anyone who met the educational and continuing education requirements for becoming a certified athletic trainer.
Hilmer served on the National Athletic Trainers Association in several different positions.
From 1983 to 1989, he was district director overseeing the certification process for athletic trainers in the Midwest.
From 1989 to 1991, he was the chairman of the NATA secondary school athletic trainers committee. He was responsible for handling issues relevant to the secondary school athletic trainers in the United States.
“Hal has been the constant behind-the-scenes force who helps our athletic teams be successful,” said Hersey girls basketball coach Mary Fendley, who has averaged 20 wins a season the last 18 years.
“During our run to the state finals (Class 4A fourth-place finisher in 2010), we had things come up for various reasons from the beginning to end of that season and Hal would always get the girls back quicker than anyone could imagine.”
It certainly will be hard to imagine the Hersey training room without Hal Hilmer in charge.