Article reposted from Greencastle-Banner Graphic
Author: Joey Bennet
Rex Call and Mary Bretscher have several things in common.
Besides living across the street from each other in Greencastle, they both share a love for DePauw University athletics and have been a big part of its success for several decades.
Now, they share another item as they are both officially retired from the university.
Call joined the DePauw faculty in 1980, departing to do graduate work at the University of Pittsburgh before returning four years later. He has served as director of sports medicine and taught in the kinesiology department with the rank of associate professor.
Bretscher came to DePauw in August 1974 after earning a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Western Michigan. In 1978, she obtained a master’s degree in physical education from Indiana.
She started the DePauw women’s swimming and diving program in 1974 and built it into a regular participant at the national championships.
When Call started at DePauw in 1980, he was the only athletic trainer for the entire athletic department, which he estimates had 17 competing teams.
In his last year, Call had a staff of four assistant trainers and other part-time trainers were also utilized.
He says the combination of the increase in the number of sports (now 23) and an increased value placed on the field of sports medicine for that change.
“We just developed a philosophy of really providing comprehensive and equitable care for every student athlete in every sport,” Call said. “The growth of women’s athletic programs has been extensive, as well as the growth of the athletic department in general.”
Call said the number of coaches with multiple programs under their care is much less than when he started, and more overall students are competing with the fewer instances of multi-sport athletes.
“They train year-round in every sport,” he said. “The time and educational commitment from athletes in each sport is tremendous.”
Call credits great support from athletic administration — including Tommy Mott, Ted Katula and Stevie Baker-Watson — with giving him the ability to make positive changes and additions to the entire training program.
“They were really concerned and value importance of sports medicine program in athletic department,” he said. “They really wanted to further health and well-being of student-athletes. That allowed me to just grow the program and to provide comprehensive sports medicine care for many DePauw student-athletes over the years.”
Call has many accomplishment of which he is proud, but one at the top of the list was the effect he had on the career choice of student trainers and others he helped mold.
“We have had a number of students to go on to become doctors, physical therapists, physical trainers and physician assistants,” he said. “We have former students in every major professional sports league. I’m really proud of that, along with the many other athletic training staff members I mentored and had the privilege of working with over the years.”
Call noted that DePauw has a really rich history of athletic trainers who preceded him:
* Ralph Berlin (head trainer from 1962-64), head trainer with Pittsburgh Steelers for four Super Bowl championships
* Mickey Cobb (head trainer from 1966-68), went on to be head trainer for the Kansas City Royals
* Russell Miller (head trainer from 1968-70), later became head athletic trainer for the University of Michigan and the Detroit Tigers.
Call himself had a tour in the professional ranks. During his time at Pittsburgh, he helped out the Buffalo Bills in their preseason camp at Fredonia State in New York.
High schools lagged behind even longer than colleges in developing strong sports medicine and athletic training staffs, and Call helped fill that void at Putnam County schools for many years in the 1980s and 1990s.
“Very few high schools had athletic trainers or access to them,” he said. “I worked very closely with all the county schools and couple of high schools outside the county to get access to and to contract athletic trainers.”
Call noted that North Putnam was the first local school to have an athletic trainer, dating back to Leroy Blocker in the 1970s.
“Coaches would call to bring a high school athlete to DePauw for me to evaluate and make recommendations for,” he said. “That was another thing that I would say was an accomplishment.”
The sport which has obviously changed the most in terms of athletic training during Call’s career has been football.
Concussions previously were largely ignored or downplayed, but now are treated with much more severity due to the highly-publicized deaths of several former National Football League players.
Call said the NCAA requires each school to have a plan for such injuries, and he is proud to have developed DePauw’s.
“We now have evolved to where we have a specific concussion management plan that details our policies and procedures on how we will handle a concussion that occurs to an athlete,” he said. “That was a really big change.”
He said the school now does “impact testing” to help determine when an athlete recovers from a concussion.
“Before that, subjectively on what the athlete told you and also on your clinical examination,” Call added. “Computerized tests now give us another bit of evidence to make good decisions on when the athlete has recovered from the concussion.”
Call recognizes that all coaches want injured athletes to return to action as soon as possible, but he was happy he did not have to deal with any of them who wanted him to approve players who were actually not ready for action.
“I was fortunate through my years to work with outstanding coaches who really cared about their athletes on and off the field, and cared about the health of their athletes,” he said. “I always the support of our coaches and they respected my knowledge and my expertise, and they wanted their athletes to play but yielded to our decisions if the athletes were ready to.”
Call and his wife just had their ninth grandchild born on Tuesday, and they plan to spend time with them besides doing some traveling — including a recent trip to Ireland.
In 2002, he received the College/University Athletic Trainer of the Year Award by the Indiana Athletic Trainers’ Association.
Call is a member of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, Great Lakes Athletic Trainers’ Association and the Indiana Athletic Trainers’ Association. He is a preceptor for the Indiana State University Athletic Training Education Program and provides clinical education and supervision for several Indiana State athletic training students assigned to him each year.
“There are several other career-related things I wanted to get to during my time at DePauw, but didn’t have time,” he said. “I’ll be able to focus on those as well.”
Bretscher came to DePauw in 1974 after graduating from Western Michigan.
“I was brought in primarily to teach [kinesiology], but I was also told they are looking at starting a women’s swim program someday,” she said. “When I interviewed, I had in the back of my mind that if I got hired I start one right away. So I did.”
The beginnings of the DePauw women’s swimming program sometimes get lost on today’s athletes, who train and compete in the beautiful Lilly Center.
“At that time, we were in Bowman Gym (built in 1921),” Bretscher said. “t was a three-lane, 20-yard pool. It was basically a bath tub.”
In going through the program’s records over the past year, while on a “pre-retirement sabbatical,” Bretscher often wondered why she could not find a team photo of that first-ever squad.
Then she remembered.
“We only had nine people who swam, and only four of them lasted the whole season,” she said. “I was constantly recruiting people to come out and swim; none of them was recruited to come to DePauw to swim.”
Whereas coaches todaytake stopwatches and clipboards to high school and other club team events to find the best athletes to fit into their programs, Bretscher said the early recruiting was a little different.
“In those days, the method was to go to the student life offices and look through the freshman files to see who swam in high school,” he said. “I would find them, contact them and see if they wanted to come out. I was basically begging people.”
Bretscher recalls several anecdotes from the early days that today’s swimmers cannot accurately imagine.
She would take her team to Greencastle and South Putnam high schools to practice, but those schools understandably put their own athletes ahead of the guests. South Putnam, for example, had a policy where the locker room that DePauw athletes were allowed to use would be occupied by the opponent if any other activity was taking place.
“On those days, guys and girls would have to take turns going into filter room to change,” Bretscher said. “People who graduated then have a lot of funny stories.”
At Bowman, Bretscher soon learned that if the water level got to be too low that it would create waves and make swimming tougher than it already was.
She figured if she could plug up the drain where the overflow water escaped, that her swimmers could have a better practice session.
“I started doing that using socks, field hockey balls, golf balls and whatever we could find,” Bretscher recalled. “Once the drain was plugged up, the pool level continued to rise because it was not draining.”
The only drawback was remembering to unplug the drains.
“Numerous times I woke up in the middle of the night and had to go back there,” she said with a laugh. “Fortunately it never flooded too badly. Those were good times, tough. My first All-American [Midi Smyth] came from Bowman Pool.”
The Tigers moved into the Lilly Center in 1982, and Bretscher said her program and many other benefited from the move.
During her career, she coached three of DePauw’s 18 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship recipients and five student-athletes who have earned a total of eight Academic All-America awards.
Her teams earned the College Swimming Coaches Association of America Team Scholar All-America award all 25 years of its existence. Additionally, 23 student-athletes earned a total of 48 CSCAA Scholar All-America Awards.
In the pool, 33 student-athletes earned all-America or honorable mention all-America honors during Bretscher’s tenure. Additionally, Bretscher coached Midi Smyth who was the NCAA Division III 100-yard backstroke national champion in 1985 and is one of four DePauw individual national champions in any sport.
DePauw swimmers competed in 27 of the 31 NCAA Division III Championships since the national meet began in 1982, and the Tigers scored in 20 of those Championships.
Only 26 other Division III programs have scored in at least 20 meets. Two teams earned top-10 finishes and six finished in the top 20. Bretscher’s 1985 squad finished seventh in Division III, while the 2008 team was ninth.
Bretscher has many proud accomplishments from her DePauw days.
Besides Smith, she also coached the school’s first-ever female NCAA post-graduate scholarship winner [Nancy Gritter].
“I am proud of the number of post-graduate scholarship winners who came out of my program,” she said. “That speaks highly to the fact that they were great athletes who were also great students.”
Stressing academics with her students was a vital part of their well-rounded successes.
“I would like to think I kept the whole total picture in mind, and they were here to go to school first,” she said. “What they were going to do when they graduated was more important than how swimming went. I told them ‘you are a person before you are a swimmer’.”
Bretscher started swimming at age nine in Texas.
“In the late 1950s, there weren’t a lot of athletic opportunities for women,” she recalls. “Swimming was a big one, and the Amateur Athletic Union was the group that sponsored swimming.”
She liked to swim, and belonged to club that eventually started a team.
“I kind of fell in love with the sport,” she said. “Our family moved around a lot, and when it was time for college I was living in Chicago. Many colleges didn’t have NCAA-sponsored swimming programs, but Western Michigan did and that really interested me.”
Bretscher noted that most college swimming teams were sponsored by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, including her first eight teams at DePauw.
“I always thought I would teach,” she said.
Bretscher retired from coaching in 2012, and continued as an associate athletic director until 2015.