Every year teams clinch championship victories, individual athletes are recognized for their outstanding performances, coaches are awarded for their consistent leadership and names go down in the record books.
Behind all of that glory, there is a small group of people who will never win a championship trophy, never see their name in record books, but are a major component to the success of so many teams and individuals. That group of people are your Athletic Trainers.
It is a profession that is stressful, time-consuming, and severely underrated by many in the medical world. Many people do not know what actually goes into being an athletic trainer. The time commitment and sacrifice they put in to make sure each of their athletes are healthy and ready to compete.
If you’re a college athlete, you have most likely been in the athletic training office. Whether you are there taking the annual concussion test, doing rehab for an injury, or simply just there to get ice for your water bottle, people are constantly coming in and out of the training room each day.
At SUNY Oneonta, there are three women who take extreme pride in everything they do for the athletic community, even if they do not always get the appreciation they deserve.
Alicia Simmonds became Oneonta’s Head Athletic Trainer three years ago. Before attaining her current position, she was the Assistant Athletic Trainer at Fredonia State University where she also taught classes in the Sport Management and Exercise Science Departments. She graduated from Wingate University in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training and then continued on to California University of Pennsylvania where she received her master’s a year later.
Alicia is assisted by Katrina Marshall and Alexis Caponi. Katrina is a 2010 graduate of Ithaca College receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Athletic Training. While attending the California University of Pennsylvania for her master’s, she served as an Intern Athletic Trainer for NCAA Division I Binghamton University. In 2011, she received a Master’s of Science Degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion with a concentration in Injury Prevention and Performance Enhancement. She then became an Assistant Athletic Trainer at Marywood University in Scranton, PA before joining the Red Dragons athletic training staff in 2013.
Alexis is a native Oneonta who joined the athletic training office this past fall. She graduated from SUNY Cortland in 2007 with her Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training and then went on to receive a Master’s of Education Degree from the University of Virginia in 2009. She spent four years teaching high school sports medicine programs and was also an Approved Clinical Instructor for the CAATE Accredited undergraduate athletic training programs at Gardner-Webb University and UNC Pembroke. Before coming to SUNY Oneonta, she worked at neighboring Hartwick for two years where she worked primarily with the Division I Men’s Soccer Team. She also served as the Strength and Conditioning Coordinator and taught the Sports Health class as part of the NYS Coaching Certification.
Together the three of them treat Oneonta’s 21 Athletic teams. The average athletes they treat per day equates to 60-100 athletes during crossover periods in seasons and 30-60 during a non-transition period. They each log between 50-60 hours each week, and traveling on the weekends, adds another 20-25 hours to the clock. Alicia says that even when she is in the hotel sleeping, she is still “clocked in” because it is her responsibility that each athlete is safe and healthy. If someone wakes up in pain in the middle of the night, she is the one who will be there to take care of them.
With all of their commitment to the department, it is sometimes difficult to balance both work life with home life. Being an athletic trainer sometimes means missing out on important life events because they cannot always take time off when they want to. It can be very difficult to plan anything beyond 48 hours. Even when there is a death or illness in the family, they cannot always call in, or they will not call in, because that would mean added pressure to their co-worker’s busy schedules. “We do not want to make our ever changing schedules any harder than they already are,” stated Marshall. Alicia and Alexis also have motherhood added into the mix. With all the traveling they do, there is not always a lot of time to spend with their own families.
“Most people do not know what we do on a daily basis, and many will never understand it until they lived in our shoes. That is probably the most frustrating part of the job,” Marshall added.
There is not only caring for athlete’s needs, but also taking care of the administrative side to their work. Making sure certain legal protocols are performed, taking care of inventory and paperwork, attending meetings every week. In their line of work there is not always much time for a lunch break, so eating while wrapping feet has become a daily routine.
However, none of that compares to the absolute worst part of their job: the moment when they have to tell an athlete that their athletic career is over.
“It is hard to balance free time and this sometimes feels like a thankless job, but nothing compares to telling an athlete they are done forever,” said Simmonds.
Imagine having to look an athlete straight in the eyes as you tell them that they can never again play the sport they have put so much time and energy into because they have suffered one too many concussions or have been injured too many times. That is the most heartbreaking scenario they have to face in this profession.
There is a great level of sacrifice our athletic trainers have made in their lives in order to cater to the needs of their athletes, but even through all the hardships they may face, they will all agree that it is one of the most rewarding jobs out there.
“We don’t always get thanks from coaches, parents, or even the athletes themselves, but when we do we can see just how appreciative they are and it helps to remind us why we deal with the ‘not so great parts’ of the job,” said Caponi.
For Alicia, it is the relationships she has built with athletes, coaches, and parents over the years. Even after being three years out since working at Fredonia, she still getsthank yous from her former athletes. They thank her for not only helping them physically, but also serving as their mentor. “I have been referred to as a ‘Mom away from home many times by athletes,” she says. Even in this hectic atmosphere, they always make time for athletes who just need to talk to someone. “There are moments when an athlete just needs to vent, and we are always willing to shut the door and listen.”
Katrina adds, “Our greatest rewards are being able to make an impact in someone’s life. To be there in the toughest times, to help push and pull someone to get through those times and then see them in their glory.”
Our Athletic Trainers are the ones that will push you through those rigorous exercises, or remind you to not give up when you feel like you want to. All because they want to be there on the sidelines when your team wins a championship title. They want to see you reach your goals. They want to be the shoulder to cry on when times are tough. They want to watch you play in your senior game after an almost career ending injury. They want to build relationships with you and watch you succeed outside your playing arena.
“Seeing an athlete that you’ve been working with for a long time make their way back to their sport and succeed and do well is unbelievably rewarding,” commented Alexis.
So, the next time you are in the Athletic Training office, whether you are getting wrapped or doing your rehab exercises or using the ice baths, thank your Athletic Trainers for everything they have done and will continue to do to help you succeed on the field, on the court, on the mat, or in the pool. One thank you will go a very long way.