On a recent Friday night, Smithville High School senior Morgan Stark was stretching out the cramped leg of a Smithville football player who was laying down on the stadium’s track surface. Stark is one of a group of dedicated student athletic trainers who tend to the cuts, sprains and injuries of players, keep them hydrated and boost team spirit.
Their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed by local coaches.
“The student trainers are out here every single day in the heat, working hard,” Smithville assistant football coach Mike Schleider said during a recent practice. “They are easily one of the most overlooked but vital parts of the whole athletic program.”
The students say they enjoy being close to the game action while learning skills that some of them will turn into careers.
“Being an athletic trainer will help me down the road because I want to do something in the medical field, and I really like watching football,” Smithville sophomore Eliana Garza said.
Fellow trainer Ashlynne O’Neal, a sophomore who’s also considering a career in the medical field, added, “I just like being down on the field; it’s a better view of the action.”
“Basically, the student trainers can do almost everything I can do, but they are not at my knowledge level,” Flores said. “They take care of cuts and bruises. If it’s severe enough, I go over there, but mostly I let them handle it.”
Flores was intently watching her trainers while she spoke at a recent practice.
“I can see everything out here,” she said. “I watch and supervise. Right now, I’m just monitoring the practice. We also work well with EMS.”
At many school districts, physicians are also either on the sidelines/stands or available to call for backup.
Smithville senior Jerry Powell is a soccer and track athlete who volunteers his time to assist the student trainers during the football season, saying he values their contributions.
“Without the trainers, the athletes wouldn’t be able to do what they do,” Powell said.
Such dedication is also evident 14 miles away at Bastrop High School.
At Bastrop, the thoroughness of the athletic trainer program has gained notice among area colleges and universities. BHS athletic trainer Kris White, who has helmed the program for a dozen years and was previously an adjunct professor in sports medicine at St. Edward’s University, said officials at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin “have called and asked if I have anyone they can recruit” for trainers.
“I’ve been here 12 years, (enough) time to set up a good program,” White said.
At Bastrop, students can take can take an Introduction to Health class in addition to three years of sports medicine, all of which comprise a career-pathways curriculum. White added that two former Bastrop student trainers are enrolled in athletic trainer programs at Texas A&M and Tarleton State. Bastrop senior Bayza Johnson is one of those students who will make it a career.
“I like being with the guys, getting to communicate with them and help them,” Johnson said. “I want to be a certified athletic trainer.”
White also proudly points to current trainer supervisor Mariah Tate, a contracted athletic trainer with a state licenese who is employed by the school district.
“Mariah is the first Bastrop High School graduate who became an athletic trainer under me,” White said.
Tate passes on the compliments to her students.
“The student trainers do a great job,”she said. “They are out here with the athletes in the heat and rain, with no complaints. They are out here because that’s what they love to do. Sometimes, you have to kick them out of here and tell them to go home.”