NATM2016Secondary School

A day in the life of a high school athletic trainer


NATM2016Secondary School

A day in the life of a high school athletic trainer

In honor of National Athletic Training Month this March, I talked to high school athletic trainer Amy Virden, MS, ATC, CSCS about her role in treating and keeping young athletes safe.

How long have you been an athletic trainer? Where are you currently employed?
I’ve been an athletic trainer for over 25 years. I’ve worked in various settings.  I’ve been a physician extender, a clinical athletic trainer, a Division I collegiate athletic trainer and a Division III collegiate athletic trainer.  I am currently a high school athletic trainer.  I work for Lehigh Valley Health Network and am contracted to Saucon Valley School District in Hellertown, Pa (outside of Allentown).  This is my 7th year here.

What are your hobbies?
I love to do anything outdoors and in nature, i.e. kayak, fish, camp, hike, and bike.

What type of education do you need to be an athletic trainer?  Where did you go to school?
Athletic trainers must have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree.  Many choose to go on to obtain a graduate degree.  I have a Bachelor’s degree from Marietta College, in Ohio and a Master’s degree from Ohio University.

Was there anyone who influenced you to become an athletic trainer?
Before college, I had never even heard of an athletic trainer. I was a collegiate basketball player and when one of my teammates went down with an injury, I was fascinated by the athletic trainer who took care of her.  From that moment on, I knew that was what I wanted to do for a living.

What is your favorite thing about being an athletic trainer?
It is hard to choose just one thing.  Maybe that’s the answer.  There is such variety in my day that it is impossible to get bored.  I love that no two athletes are alike and no two injuries are alike.  The way one athlete responds and recovers from an ankle sprain can be totally different from the way another athlete responds and recovers.  Because of this, I learn something new every day.  I love the connections that I get to form with my athletes, coaches and parents.  I get to share in the successes of my athletes, whether it is on the competition field or in the training room.  Lastly, but certainly not least, I love sports.  I get to watch sports from the best seats in the house.

How many different teams do you work for as an athletic trainer at your school?
At my school I cover both high school and middle school teams.  There are a total of 52 teams at both levels and they are covered by two athletic trainers.

How do you manage to juggle working with so many different teams at one time?
That is a challenge.  Certain teams are higher risk for injuries than others.  I often have to prioritize where I will physically be located during my workday.  I make sure that all other teams have easy access to me at all times in the event of an injury.  I can travel from one field to the next quickly using my golf cart.

How many hours per week do you generally work?  Is one season more work than another?
I work anywhere from 40-45 hours six days per week.  Each season is different.  Fall is unique because of my Friday night football games and the fact that I travel with the football team to all of their games.  In the winter, because so many teams are competing for limited indoor space, I have many late nights.  The spring is probably the lightest season in terms of hours.  Because all the teams can be outside practicing at the same time on their own fields, my workday is shorter.

What are your favorite sports?
Although I love all sports, I really enjoy working football.  I think that is the sport that keeps me on my toes most often.  There is such potential for serious injury in that sport that I find it challenges me on a level that no other sport does.

What is your professional goal (for advancement)?
This is a great question but I might not answer it in a way you might think.  My goal for professional advancement is to advance my profession.  I try to advocate for athletic training whenever possible.  I try to set a good example of what an athletic trainer can bring to an athletic department, a school district and a community.  Sports are dangerous and the presence of an athletic trainer can mitigate the risk of injury.  I strongly feel that an athletic trainer is a necessary member of an athletic department and certainly not a luxury.  I believe that if a school cannot afford to hire an athletic trainer then they cannot afford athletics.

Is there anything you would like to share with someone who is thinking about becoming an athletic trainer?
Do it.  If you like sports and have always wanted to work in service to others, do it.  That being said, it is not an easy path to become an athletic trainer.  Many colleges have selective admission into their athletic training educational programs.  The coursework is challenging and fairly science heavy.  Each student must demonstrate proficiency in a variety of practical applications on the field, then pass a national certification exam to work as an athletic trainer.  It might sound demanding but it is worth it.  I feel very lucky to have a career where I am rewarded every single day.  Some rewards are obvious, such as wins or championships.  Some rewards are a little more subtle.  I find great reward in seeing my athletes reach their potential in developing their talents and interests.  By keeping them healthy and safely on the playing field, I feel I have contributed to that. I wouldn’t trade my job for anything.