Randy Gonzales has seen his career come full circle.
And on any given day, Gonzales gladly goes full circle. There are track, baseball and softball practices. On Saturday, he made the trek to St. Amant for a baseball game.
Gonzales doesn’t call a single pitch or offer advice on how to clear the top height in the high jump. The Woodlawn athletic trainer takes care of the athletes who complete those feats.
“I figured I’d get back into it some day,” Gonzales said. “But I thought it would be after my children finished playing sports.
“When Brett Beard was the football coach he asked me if I’d come back and be the athletic trainer. My wife pointed out that I’ve never been the kind of person to sit around. She said the kids would be fine. So I did it.”
Gonzales’ path is not a traditional one, but it makes the time he spends with the athletes and students a little bit sweeter. When Gonzales introduces two of his student aides to a visitor in the Woodlawn training room, he also quizzes them.
“Did you know this is National Athletic Trainer’s Month?” he asks. Both teens smile shyly and say ‘No.’ ” Gonzales smiles back and says, “See, you learned something.”
Indeed they did, just as they do when working with Gonzales at an event or through one of his sports medicine-related classes.
Gonzales does ponder the past and present. He served as the athletic trainer at East Ascension from 1986-91. After a year working in a clinic, Gonzales was the Tara athletic trainer from 1993-96.
From there, he moved to the Monroe area and did accident reconstruction work for an insurance company. Gonzales had previously taught social studies classes and took on that role again when he returned to the Baton Rouge area, first at Baker and then at Woodlawn.
“I’ve been at Woodlawn as a teacher since 2008,” Gonzales noted. “I was a department head. I’ve always taught social studies, history or civics. This is something I love.
“I know people question what an athletic trainer does. If you look at the definition of athletic trainer, it says it’s someone who engages in the prevention, recognition, evaluation and management of athletic injuries. The key part to that is prevention. That’s what I focus a lot on.”
There’s no shortage of things to do. Class 4A Woodlawn has 400 student-athletes who compete in 22 sports. Gonzales also is teaching his first sports medicine courses at WHS this year. He credits Broadmoor’s Tim Gonda, who still works part time in retirement, for paving the way to teach sports medicine courses.
He also gives credit to David Bourque, now the head athletic trainer at Denham Springs, for setting up the current training room at Woodlawn and his mentor, longtime Southeastern Louisiana University athletic trainer Robert “Doc” Goodwin.
It’s another full-circle thing. Gonzales taught sports medicine at Tara. At the time, sports medicine courses were considered physical education. Now they’re career and technical courses.
Gonzales teaches sports medicine I and sports medicine II courses, along with courses in medical terminology and an emergency medical responder course. He has between 60 and 75 students.
“Having those courses considered career and technical now is big,” Gonzales said. “A career and technical teacher doesn’t count against the school’s regular faculty total and Mr. (Scott) Stevens (Woodlawn Principal) was able to hire another teacher.
“Because there are certifications involved with the emergency responder class, kids might be able to get an extra 30 or 50 cents an hour at a fast-food job. Or they want to go on and take classes to be an EMT (emergency medical technician).”
Gonzales had hoped the sports medicine classes would bring more aides, the new term used for student trainers. But it’s been a double-edged sword.
“A lot of my students are athletes,” Gonzales said. “They’re playing so they can’t help in the training room. But it’s good because now they have a better idea of what their body is going through and how to fix it before it gets broke.
“There is the difference between being hurt and being injured. Being sore and hurt is OK, but being injured with an ankle that you can’t walk or you can’t throw because of your shoulder is not.”
One of Gonzales’ student-athletes, sophomore basketball player, Xavier Roberson, enters the training room. He’s been rehabbing an ankle injury. Gonzales gets Roberson started with balancing exercises on a small ball. To mix things up they toss a basketball as Roberson perfects his balancing act.
Gonzales’ goals reach beyond Woodlawn. He recalls a time when most schools in the East Baton Rouge school system had athletic trainers on staff. That trend changed through the years, and Gonzales is the only full-time trainer at an EBR system school.
At some point, Gonzales hopes to pitch some ideas to EBR’s athletic coordinators Armond Brown and Lynn Williamson. Partnering with LSU and/or a local physicians group to utilize residents and other up-and-coming professionals are among his ideas.
“You’ve got a lot of people in the system who understand athletics and want good things as the system grows under Mr. (Warren) Drake (EBR superintendent),” Gonzales said. “There are possibilities.”
Gonzales is focused on Woodlawn’s possibilities. One goal is to get WHS to reach the Safe Sports School status guidelines set down by the National Athletic Trainers Association. St. Amant and University High are currently the local schools to meet those standards, Gonzales said.
Another is to keep working with students like Roberson, who wants to become an athletic trainer.
“People say ‘What do you get out of this,’ ” Gonzales said.
“It’s when a player gets to go out back out on the field and catch a pass or score a basket. That’s my moment.”
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