For 28 years, Jim “Doc” Lioy has roamed the sidelines, dugouts and courts of Sturgis High School.
Now that the school year has ended, Lioy is officially retiring as the head athletic trainer for the Trojans. As a key, progressive leader in the athletic training world when it came to high school, Lioy leaves behind a legacy at SHS as one of the best programs of its kind in the state.
Countless student athletic trainers learned their craft under the scope of Lioy in both the classroom and training environments.
“My family and I felt it was time to move on, the teaching and athletic training component combined really put a lot more responsibility on this position,” Lioy said. “As you get older you start to re-evaluate where you are and the options in front of you. I’ll miss it; I’ll miss the day-to-day routine and making an impact on kids’ lives every day. I’ll miss the challenges of different things that come at you and the problem solving involved in athletic training.”
The athletic training program at Sturgis has certainly evolved into one Lioy and the school take great pride in, and while Lioy has been a spearhead for the organization, he understands it takes a great foundation.
“It doesn’t occur without support. It’s not just me, I can’t take 100-percent credit for this, it has to be people on the periphery supporting and helping,” he said. “Protocols, rules and regulations have changed in the years since we started this, but in a good way, I think.”
Lioy will enter the private sector, working for Advanas Foot & Ankle Specialists in a management and marketing position. The retiring Lioy said he’s looking forward to the new avenue in life and working for Advanas, which has several offices within the region. While he’s still not completely sure where he will be centered within the organization, having the opportunity to continue taking on challenges and changing lives piques his interest.
Since beginning the program that stands today as one of the best in the state there have been many changes to athletic training, especially at the high school level. The MHSAA has been making bigger strides and moving forward on concussion management and heat monitoring laws, a pair of ideas Lioy and his staff over the years have been out in front of before they were mandatory.
“We’ve been on the forefront of a lot of that only because we decided a long time ago that we wanted to be progressive, we wanted to emulate a college level, a professional level organization that provided that top level injury management healthcare,” Lioy said. “When I first started, people didn’t know quite what to expect, even the coaches weren’t sure but what helped them is they were able to concentrate on coaching, we were able to monitor their athletes if they were injured.”
Lioy attended William Paterson University in Wayne, located in his home state of New Jersey. The product of Hackensack, Lioy played one year of college football for the Pioneers, but admitted he was attending the university for its athletic training program and not to be a star on the gridiron.
Even so, this year will be the third for Lioy, dating back to when he was nine year old, that he won’t spend time during the football season on the sidelines. He said he’s still not sure what he will do with himself on Friday nights now that he won’t be around the Sturgis program, but he is confident he can fill his time with something constructive.
So with that, Lioy knows it’s going to be a bittersweet next few months, if not years. Lioy talked about missing the day-to-day interactions with students, making an impact on their lives and sparking interest in those looking for a career in healthcare and exercise science. There’s certainly more demand on the position from both a teaching and athletic training perspective. Under Lioy injuries at Sturgis were always handled with care and attention, having the athletic training staff integrated into practices and sporting events helped the overall programs.
“We get a lot of positive information from parents that are so glad that someone is out there watching over their children, but that’s what we do,” Lioy said. “A lot of the parents over the years have really supported us and that positive feedback was always important.”
While Sturgis built an environment that would rival some small colleges for athletic training, many schools have reached out to Lioy trying to get a better understanding of how they do what they do.
Lioy said they get calls, emails, Facebook messages and the like from other schools looking to learn from their program. Sturgis has been able to keep injury rates down under Lioy’s tenure and he credits a good portion of that to “pre-habbing injuries,” which involves teams and coaches utilizing preventative programs and using the weight room during the pre-season.
As the chair of the Michigan Athletic Training Society in the past, Lioy often was asked about Sturgis’ ability to keep injuries from derailing sports teams. He said there are several great athletic programs throughout the state and while Sturgis isn’t the only one, Lioy does have a great sense of pride for what they have been able to build.
“I think we did some good things, we built some great relationships, both personal and professional, and anytime someone asks you for advice, that is the ultimate compliment,” Lioy said. “It doesn’t matter what the subject is.”
Lioy said without a supporting family, especially his wife Jackie, he wouldn’t have been able to spend the quality time and effort at his job. During his time as head athletic trainer he was able to watch both his son Joey and daughter Jamie play multiple years of varsity sports while on the job.
“That was a blessing, when you can be with your kids every day for six years at work, that’s a tremendous advantage and I think they both handled it real well,” he said. “But now that I’m leaving, it will be different. This wouldn’t have been able to happen without my wife Jackie. She raised our two kids basically by herself from Wednesday to Saturday morning, those were the busy times.”
The daily grind of getting to the high school before 7 a.m. and helping student-athletes rehab, in addition to teaching, is now over for Lioy. He will still stay busy during his days with Advanas, but as the leader and architect of such a successful program, his legacy and impact on so many lives will forever be felt.
During his 28 years at Sturgis no matter how his day was going, he told everybody he was “fair-to-moderate,” as he always kept his successful program in perspective.
Lioy leaves Sturgis with his mark on athletics and a storied program that has few equals in Michigan high schools.
That’s a fair-to-moderate achievement.