Article reposted from Centraljersey.com
Author: Bob Nuse
Shannon Koch was a sophomore in high school when she realized what she wanted to do with her life.
“I knew as soon as Carlos (Salazar) asked me if I wanted to be a student trainer,” Koch said of the former Princeton High athletic trainer. “I asked him what it was and he explained it and I said that’s what I want to do. I knew from that moment.”
20 years later, Koch is living the dream of that high school sophomore. She is currently in her 16th year as Princeton High’s athletic trainer and 20th overall as a high school trainer.
“I am very lucky that Carlos came into my life when he did,” said Koch, who graduated from Princeton in 1993 and went on to attend East Stroudsburg University. “Knowing me, I am so ADD I would probably still be in school trying to figure out what I wanted to do.”
After graduating from college, Koch spent four years as the athletic trainer at the Hun School. And while she enjoyed her time working with the Raiders’ student athletes, she always had that draw to return to her alma mater.
“I remember when I was working at Hun,” said Koch, who played soccer and lacrosse while at Princeton High. “I loved Hun. It was a great place to work. I knew every single kid that went through there from middle school to high school. But I remember walking my dogs around town and walking by (PHS) and thinking, I would love to be here.
“In my mind if they ever brought a second person on, Carlos would be the head trainer and I would love to work for him. And then when he called, it was just meant to be. It was great.”
While at Princeton, she spent three years helping Salazar as a student trainer. She knew right then that it was a profession she wanted to spend her life doing.
“I like sports,” Koch said. “I don’t like being in an office. You don’t get a much better job than this. We put in our time and we’re watching sports and helping kids. I deal with all the kids and not just with injuries. Sometimes it is psychological stuff like they are burned out with school or they had a bad test. They might be having issues at home. So they can come down and I can talk to them.”
In addition to her athletic training, Koch has been a member of the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad since high school. She will celebrate her 25th year with the squad in April. Helping people has always been at the forefront of what she has wanted to do with her life.
“I like being around the teams and the kids,” Koch said. “It’s all aspects of it. I love coming into work. If I am having a bad day the kids can usually pick up on it and they try to cheer me up. Very rarely is there a bad day here. It can be chaotic and there can be chaos, but it is fun to be here. I don’t consider it work. It’s fun.
“It went along the lines of riding the squad as well. I started that in high school. I was a lifeguard and I wanted a little more faster pace so I became an EMT. When Carlos came and asked if I wanted to do this it all kind of fell into place.”
Now she is one of the longest tenured athletic trainers in Mercer County.
“I figured Carlos would stay here until he retired,” Koch said. “So I came back and was at Hun. Carlos called me on my birthday and asked me how everything was going at Hun. He told me he was going full-time teaching and I applied for Princeton.
“It’s funny because now he comes in and asks me questions now instead of me asking him questions, which is fun.”
A former PHS athlete herself, Koch enjoys being able to see the current athletes improve and achieve their goals. Anything she can do to help the process along she is more than willing to do.
“It’s great to see teams turn around,” Koch said. “They could be having an off year or an off few years and then you see them put in the time and effort in the off-season. They are coming in and asking for advice on lifting programs and nutrition and things like that. It all starts coming together for them and they continue to progress which is good to see.”
Being ready to perform is part of the process. Koch does what she can to help keep the athletes healthy and able to be at their best.
“We get a lot of kids, especially the boys, because you get the tiny zero percent body fat kids who want to be 190 pounds and pure muscle and look like the pro athletes and their body types just aren’t there yet,” she said. “To be able help them and tell them what to eat and be able to guide them on proper eating.
“And vice versa with our wrestlers who want to cut weight, there is a safe way to do it. It’s not about cutting out food. It’s about eating the right food so there is a nice way to educate them on that.”
There have been changes in the approach to the job over the last 20 years. There is more awareness about potential injuries, which is something Koch and Princeton have always been one step ahead on.