College and University

University of the Pacific Athletic Trainer Featured


College and University

University of the Pacific Athletic Trainer Featured

Article reposted from
Author: Kristen Birtwhistle

Like the elusive, stealthy panther, athletic trainers are masters of concealment, often going virtually unnoticed until their skills in treating and rehabilitating injured athletes are needed. At that moment, the unique blend of medicine, therapy, and psychology comes into play — an orchestrated mix of physical and mental music.

With her unique brand of quiet observation and confidence, Annette Martinez, University of the Pacific’s highest ranking woman in the athletic training program, knows when the time is right. It is her job to take measure of every motion, errant movement, or mechanism of injury for the 300 plus student athlete population at Pacific. She is a highly educated and experienced Stockton product whose uncommon voice ensures that Pacific’s student athletes are healthy and ready to compete.

Behind the scenes, in the locker and training rooms and on the sidelines of the 18 teams under the Pacific athletics banner, Martinez serves as the Associate Athletic Trainer. Since 2007, she has been supporting student athletes, often being the first and last to arrive for games, gym time, and treatments. The executive power and clinical decision making rights that she and her colleagues hold means that she is the final say as to when an injured player may continue to play. She is the ultimate maestro.

While much has changed for women athletic trainers since the National Athletic Training Association was formed in 1950, men still overwhelmingly dominate the field in the top athletic training jobs. In a study conducted by Women in Collegiate Sports, roughly 17 percent of Division 1 schools had head athletic trainer posts held by women. And within the West Coast Conference, only one other woman holds the coveted title of head athletic trainer.

Across the board, there is a general imbalance in the number of women who hold leadership level athletic training jobs in sports. While more than 54 percent of the 43,000 members of the National Athletic Training Association are female, over two-thirds of the head athletic training jobs at universities are occupied by men. And within the business of professional sports, it was not until 2002 that the first female, Ariko Iso, was appointed as a head athletic trainer by the Pittsburg Steelers football organization. Today she is the head athletic trainer for Oregon State’s football team. A decade later, the Steelers remain the only NFL team to employ a woman in a head athletic training role.

While landing a head athletic training position is statistically elusive for women based on “cultural, old-school thinking,” Martinez’s own work experience during her tenure at Pacific reveals a much more forward thinking, progressive, and innovative culture of acceptance and support: “It never dawned on me that being a female in this field was problematic. It never deterred me.”

Opportunities earned

Martinez has a strong collaborative partnership with Head Athletic Trainer Chris Pond. “She thrives in this environment,” states Pond. “She has a voice of reason and concern but has the ability to be able to make the tough decisions.”

“At no point have I ever experienced any prejudice as a female or as a Latina,” Martinez strongly points out. “I had great support from both Lynn King and Ted Leland,” she said, referring to the former and current athletic directors. Today, she oversees the majority of all women’s sports programs, operates the clinical portion of the athletic training program, leads a staff of eight and actively instructs in the classroom mentoring many of the graduate assistants. She is the liaison to academics program, is second in command and is a sought after lecturer in the health sciences department.

Long before getting the call from Pond to join his staff back in 2007, Martinez’s passion for the field of sports medicine and physical therapy was conceived at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School. She was a self-admitted poor athlete but was inspired by the actions of trainers who sprinted towards injured athletes.

“I remember seeing this girl run out onto the mat to help a wrestler, “Martinez recalls. “The next day I went to the athletic director and told him I was interested in doing what she did.” With no formal program, Martinez volunteered to help the student athletes before heading towards higher education with the goal of pursuing a career in athletic training.

As Martinez laughingly states, “I did all my adult education on one street. I went from high school to Delta College to UOP on Pacific Avenue for my education while living on the east side of Stockton.” Raised as a “Tiger fan” and inspired by her father, Felix Martinez, who has been an avid Pacific sports fan since 1958, she grew up essentially in the eye of the Pacific Tigers. Martinez completed her undergraduate degree, eventually obtaining a Masters at Fresno Pacific College while taking career steps to successfully complete the highly challenging National Athletic Training Association certificate exam. Simultaneously, she worked as a physical therapy aid at local physical therapy clinics. “When Annette puts her mind to it, she can do anything,” states her father. “I am very proud of her.”

Rigorous requirements

Many people do not know that the academic track to become an athletic trainer is very similar to an undergraduate pre-medicine or pre-dental student. It is highly science based with equal time spent on medical and surgical observations, orthopedic and physical therapy internships and community service. The rigor required to pass the test is high, while the pay bands and longevity for athletic trainers is low compared with physical therapists.

Martinez’s vision is to increase the respect about the field among those outside athletic training. “People often think we are water boys, personal trainers, or physical therapists … We must bring respect for the profession to the media, to coaches, to our parents so they have a greater understanding of what we do. Our knowledge base is on par with other allied health professions, but the pedigree is not as well recognized.”

The catalyst to transformational change within the profession also inspires Martinez to mentor and support young women who might enter the field. “As a Mexican, there are not a lot of us in this profession. I know I can show other young girls that you can go to school, come from Stockton, and be a good product of your community. I am both female and a minority — I am showing young Latina women that you can get into a world that is dominated by men and still be successful and respected. I am giving back to my community. So much of my own success was based on the sacrifices that my mother and father made for me. Because of my family and their sacrifice, I have been able to become the professional that I am.”

Martinez is currently very content as an associate athletic trainer. “I have great autonomy, I am able to teach, and I have a lot of opportunities at Pacific. My mentor Chris Pond and I have made changes at Pacific. I continue to grow and learn while leading.”