Article reposted from rocketminer.com
Three short years ago Rock Springs High School was one of just two 4A schools in the state that did not have an athletic trainer. Instead, the program used area doctors on the sideline for home Friday night football games in case of minor injuries.
Fast forward 36 months, things have changed quite a bit, and it has made all the difference. The Tigers now have the benefit of a full-time athletic trainer, and students are getting the chance to provide a helping hand … literally.
Kristin Watson was hired in 2014 as the first professional sports trainer on campus. Two years later, she now has students learning the trade.
Rock Springs High School student Alyssa Graham has spent the last three year competing on the varsity soccer team. She knows first-hand the importance of having someone on standby in case of a rolled ankle or quick assistance for simple cuts and bruises.
Graham dealt with a nagging injury of her own that required the attention of an athletic trainer. It was through those visits and care that the senior decided to give back by assisting her fellow classmates with the same needs.
Maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average has been important to Graham while playing goalie, wing and defense in soccer. She has also been active in Key Club, National Honor Society, 4-H and Athletes for Literacy, but she wanted to add one more activity to her busy schedule.
Graham was allowed to serve as a student trainer this football season for the first time. It’s a decision she is thankful she made and would do it over 100 times along with fellow student Rachel Hastings.
GETTING THE JOB
In her final year as a Tiger, Graham wanted to provide the same kind of assistance for the football team that Watson gave her in soccer. She wanted to make a difference for her fellow athletes.
The idea came to her back in the spring when Graham had to make her own personal visits to the training room.
“Last year, Mrs. Watson and I had a long talk about my future and possible careers. I had been going into her room during the soccer season for rehab on my knee and thought she was a miracle worker when she figured out what to do to help my knee pain,” Graham said. “After spending so much time in her room and with her, I felt comfortable talking about my future. I had also grown a love for her work environment and wanted an opportunity to see if athletic training could be my future career. She told me that if I wanted to, I could work with her during football season my senior year and I wanted to as it would help me decide a possible career.”
The seed was planted.
“I went home and told my parents, and they pushed me too as they thought it would help me decide as well,” Graham said.
At sunrise on Aug. 8, when most of her classmates were still sleeping and enjoying the end of summer break, Graham arrived at the first day of two-a-day practices. Summer was officially over for the 16-year-old, and she couldn’t be happier.
“This whole experience has been a blessing and I would not trade it for the world.”
AN EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCE
As an athlete who received treatment of her own from Watson, Graham knew what the job would entail. However, she expected, being one of three females working around dozens of teenage boys, it would be much different than it turned out to be.
“If I could go back, I would do it again. Yes, some days I do just want to go home and stay warm, but I have grown so much and seen a new side to school that I wouldn’t have had it not been for this experience,” Graham said. “Before this year, I was under the impression that football guys were just jocks and preps. I was so wrong.”
She quickly discovered her new found team of brothers were just like her.
“I have realized that every person on this team has a back story, a reason for playing and a goal in life. They are all hard workers and determined to succeed, and I feel bad for ever judging them,” she admitted. “The hardest adjustment was being around that many guys. The first day of practice, I was pretty scared because I had no clue how they were going to treat me or if this was going to be a good experience. I soon learned that I loved it and the guys are not scary at all. I also learned to let things slide off my back and not take everything to heart. The guys will mess around and sometimes I am freaked out, because if a girl would have said that to another girl, there would have most likely been a catfight or Facebook fight, but the guys just laugh and throw something right back at the other person like nothing happened.”
It’s been an experience like no other for Graham. She has gained a locker room of brothers that she would not trade away.
“They act like 2-year-olds sometimes, and I was floored by just how childish they can act,” Graham said of her first impression. “They will make random sound effects when running or say the darndest things that just make us burst out laughing. I love how goofy they are and how they are still children at the heart.”
FRIDAY NIGHT RUSH
It took just one game for Graham to find out that being a trainer is not just about pacing a sideline and waiting for someone needing an ankle to be rewrapped or helped off the field. Game day is serious business.
The trainers are in the training room by 5 p.m. That is when dozens of players file in needing a variety of pregame assistance — ankles, wrists, fingers and even shoes wrapped and taped so they can be on the field in 45 minutes for warm-ups.
“It can be super crazy. On game days it is hectic because all of a sudden everyone is in the room and that is how it is some days before practice,” Graham said. “Guys are definitely different than girls, but there is less drama, so I appreciate that. They honestly have kind of adopted me in as part of their crazy family. They look out for Rachel and I. We butt heads and we care for one another just like a family would.”
Watson and the student trainers were seen as part of the family from the start. They were part of the brotherhood.
“They treat me like I am part of the family. Sometimes we get in arguments or disagreements, but they respect me and they are goobers to be around,” Graham said. “I honestly looked forward to practice because I know that I am loved and supported on that field.”
MORE THAN JUST A LITTLE TAPE
The job of a student trainer doesn’t stop at securing a few dozen ankles before a game. The team also paces the sideline with the coaches so they can immediately attend to a fallen Tiger.
“I have learned how to evaluate an injury so I can describe it to another trainer or health professional so that they can pinpoint the injury. I have learned the basics to a spinal injury and the procedure to follow if someone has a spinal injury,” Graham said. “I have learned how to test someone for a possible concussion. I learned some rehab exercises for shoulders, backs, knees, hamstrings, shin splints and wrists. I have also learned how to stay calm in the case of an emergency and how to splint someone up if they get seriously injured.”
In the event of a major injury, medics are always on scene and would be the next contact for the trainers.
THANKFUL FOR THE OPPORTUNITY
Watson has been more than just godsend on the sideline of all sports. She has also gained the love and respect of student athletes all over campus in her short time in her big role.
“She is a great role model. She is open to talking with us about anything that is on our mind or teaching us about anything we want to know more about,” Graham said. “I have asked her for advice on college and career choices. She is kind, and I am grateful for the chance to work with her.”
With a busy final year of high school and soccer season just four cold months away, Graham will hang up her tape and trainer bag after football season. Not because she wants to, but because she has to in order to finish out her high school days the best she can academically.
“I plan to take a break and get a job after this season. I have loved the opportunity of learning this position, but I have to focus on school and a job once football is done,” she said. “I am thankful for this time I have had as I am no longer afraid of someone getting injured as I now know how to calmly handle it.”
She also admits she will always be there in time of need for a teammate needing a little help until she moves on to college, where she plans to study bio engineering, which combines the body and engineering.
“I will continue to tape ankles and help people with rehab, but only as friendly advice and help. Even though I love the environment, I think that I have decided that I want to follow my love for math and pursue a career in engineering,” she said. “I also have seen more so than ever the unity this school can have. Homecoming we had the 12th man up in the stands and we definitely had school spirit and support throughout the season. I saw that we are all Tigers, and we are united.”
‘They treat me like I am part of the family. Sometimes we get in arguments or disagreements, but they respect me and they are goobers to be around.’