This From the Sidelines column appeared in the August 31 edition of the News Journal:
I have seen Kelly Bryant in action at Whitley County athletic contests more times than I can count. It is a safe bet that a good portion of the folks reading this column already know who she is, but just in case you don’t, she is the much beloved athletic trainer for Whitley County Schools.
Actually, Bryant’s official job title is “Training Room Coordinator.” In addition to those duties, she also teaches physical education and health at Whitley. As a trainer, it is her job to administer safety and first aid to athletes in all sports. She is also responsible for making sure that all athletes have turned in valid, up-to-date physicals and parental consent forms, and in the case of a sports-related injury, she ensures that injured players get to the right place to receive the proper care. She also follows up with each of those players in order to make sure that he or she sticks to the doctor recommended rehabilitation program, and she is the one that makes sure a player is formally released to compete before they can step back on the court or the field.
When you consider the fact that Whitley County currently offers football, basketball, baseball, softball, track and field, cross country, volleyball, soccer, bowling, wrestling, golf and cheerleading to its students, you begin to realize just how much time Bryant has to sacrifice in order to make sure that her job is being done properly. It is a big undertaking, but she says the relationships she has forged over the last 20-plus years has made it all worth it, and then some.
“We provide a lot of support for our athletes,” Bryant said when I spoke to her before the start of the Whitley County versus Corbin boys soccer game this past Monday evening. “I don’t think I could ever work for another school system that provides for their kids like Whitley does. I’m very proud of that.”
“This has probably been the most rewarding thing that I’ve ever done,” Bryant continued. “I love teaching, but I reach more kids through the training program. I have made a lot of friends, and I have several kids who have been my student-trainers that I still keep in touch with. I know they would be there for me if I needed them.”
Bryant, who is also lovingly referred to as “Miss Kelly,” said that it was former Superintendent Lonnie Anderson who first approached her about becoming an athletic trainer several years ago. At that time she was working in the school’s Family Resource Center. She agreed to give training a shot, so Anderson sent her to the University of Florida. She remained there for “quite a while” before returning home and working alongside a fellow trainer from the University of Kentucky. The rest, as they say, is history.
During her time serving as an athletic trainer at Whitley, Bryant has had the opportunity to treat countless student-athletes, including several current teachers and administrators in the school system. WCHS Principal Bob Lawson and Athletic Director John Siler are just two of the many former Colonels that have fond memories of their former trainer.
When asked to talk about Bryant’s worth to the school system, Siler said, “When I was in high school she always took care of us. As a player, you always knew that you could go to Miss Kelly. Now, as an administrator, I know that I didn’t fully realize just how lucky we were to have her.”
Siler continued, saying, “She provides tremendous care for our athletes. She was at the hospital just last week checking up on some of our injured kids. She goes far above what her job requires her to do. We truly are fortunate to have her. She’s really like a mother to these kids when they’re on the field or on the court. She takes great care of them, and you would be hard pressed to find just one person that does as much as she does. I can’t say enough good things about her. We are fortunate to have Kelly Bryant on our sidelines.”
No doubt, Bryant does a tremendous amount of work to ensure that all Colonel athletes are adequately cared for, but luckily she does have some help. She has four paid student-trainers who assist her in her day-to-day duties. This year, she has one senior student-trainer, ReighAnn Oliphant, who is planning on one day possibly following in her coordinator’s footsteps.
“I love Miss Kelly,” said Oliphant. “She cracks me up, and I’ve had such great experiences with her. She loves the kids. She is always so friendly, so loving and so caring.”
In closing, Bryant said, “It has been an absolute pleasure to take care of these kids. They’re wonderful to me, and I appreciate them all. I just can’t say enough. They’ve always been there for me, and I hope that I have always been able to be there for them.”
I would like to personally congratulate “Miss Kelly” on her many years of faithful service to the student-athletes at Whitley County, and wish her the very best of luck in the future. I have seen firsthand just how important her work on the sidelines is, so this week’s From the Sidelines is being dedicated to her.