Certified athletic trainers are not only on the sidelines at games and practices to keep student athletes safe — they also work to serve as a support system in the community.
National Athletic Training Month was recognized this month, with the motto “Your Protection is our Priority.” Recently, all schools covered by a Pardee Medicine athletic trainer in Henderson, Buncombe and Haywood counties received the Safe Sports School Award from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.
Crystal Shirk and Barbara Speight are both certified athletic trainers, or ATCs, with Pardee Medicine, and their roles come with several components.
Criteria for the job includes working with student-athletes, parents and coaches, and creating a positive athletic health care environment. They work with athletes on safe and appropriate practices and are there to work with any injuries and follow-ups needed. ATCs also provide prevention strategies, education and consultations.
ATCs with Pardee Medicine work in Henderson, Polk, Buncombe and Haywood counties. In the schools, an athletic trainer is at every game and is constantly working with the schools to ensure the health of the athlete.
Speight is an ATC regional manager for Henderson and Polk counties and an athletic trainer at Rugby Middle. Shirk is an ATC regional manager for Buncombe and Haywood counties and an athletic trainer for Charles D. Owen High.
Women now have a slight majority in the certified athletic training field, according to the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer.
Numbers provided by Pardee’s Sports Medicine team paint a similar picture. Of the 17 ATCs, 10 are female and seven are male, according to Shirk and Speight. A majority of the coaches the ATCs work with are males, however, they added.
Both Shirk and Speight are moms. “I know as a parent the value of knowing someone is watching a caring about my child,” Speight said.
What stands out more is that three Pardee ATCs have saved lives during sporting events, according to Director of Pardee Sports Medicine Dwayne Durham. One was a fan, and the others a coach and a referee. All had heart attacks, but survived.
Shirk is one of the ATCs who has saved a life. During a basketball game, she rushed to the aid of a coach and was able to start life-saving measures in under a minute, she said.
For Shirk, one of her favorite parts of the job is being able to care for the athletes.
“We are helping them not only physically, but socially,” she said. “I want to be a positive role model.”
Speight, a Henderson County native, sees the opportunity to build relationships in the community as one of her most-loved parts of the job.
“I’m so passionate about this area,” she added.
Both Shirk and Speight must keep up continuing education and certification in their roles as ATCs.
A typical day is hard to nail down in the life of an ATC. Days can range from 4 to 15 hours, and can be filled in the clinic or out in the field.
As for the future of the field, Shirk sees it either continuing to expand or having more of a focus.
“Whatever happens, we will have the knowledge base to handle it,” she said.
Speight sees the field continuing to grow with better awareness of mental health and positive body image. Concussion awareness is another push she sees going forward.
The emotional care component part of the job might not be the most known, Speight explained, but is a huge part of being an ATC.
“That’s a lifelong thing,” she said. “It is not just fixing a broken bone.”
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