Article reposted from Owatonna.com
Author: Jon Weisbrod
In the summer of 1990, TC Carlyle came to Owatonna with one intention: to leave.
After spending one year in Albert Lea, the Iowa native had reluctantly accepted a position at the Owatonna hospital and was either going to find another job south of Minnesota or head back to the college level.
“I didn’t want to come any further into Minnesota,” Carlyle said with a smile on Wednesday afternoon. “In all honesty, when I first got here, I had planned on staying for one — possibly two — years, and then I was going to go someplace else. And 27 years later, I’m still here.”
Carlyle has become such an integral part of Owatonna it seems unfathomable that he almost didn’t stick around.
It would be difficult to find an individual outside of the coaching realm who has made a greater impact within the sports community than Carlyle, or “TC” as everyone calls him.
The certified athletic trainer, who works for the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Center via Allina Health at the Owatonna Hospital, is the architect of the state’s premier athletic training student assistant program. He is passionate, professional, and more than anything else, well-liked.
Whether it’s a b-squad volleyball match in front of a few dozen parents or a varsity football game on the grandest of Friday night stages, Carlyle is there, focused with his student assistants and displaying a level of professionalism unmatched in the state of Minnesota.
Though Carlyle’s work is profoundly appreciated within the tight-knit clutches of the locker-room, it often goes unnoticed by the masses. He has set the standard so high for how to operate an athletic training program that people in Owatonna often take it for granted just how good they have it.
On Sunday, May 7, Carlyle will receive the prestigious National Football Foundation Fred Zamberletti Award, which honors “one outstanding Minnesota athletic trainer who has made a strong impact in the profession.” Carlyle, who found out he had won the award in late February, is still a bit shocked that he was even nominated.
Right now, he’s just trying to take it all in.
“I guess I am overwhelmed,” Carlyle said. “I always said I would like to have it to a point where if some kid got hurt and it was sports-related, that one of the first things people would say is: ‘We need to call TC.’ After all this time, I think that’s happening.”
Landing in Owatonna
Carlyle came to Minnesota after graduating from William Penn College in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Having made a connection with former Director of Physical Therapy, Roger Weber, Carlyle left Albert Lea and accepted a job in Owatonna in the summer of 1990.
With years of valuable hands-on experience under his belt as a graduate assistant, Carlyle was basically on his own when he first arrived in Owatonna. However, it didn’t take long for interest to grow, and by 1991, casual curiosity from students transformed into a formal training program. His one and only student the first year was Tony Kath.
Currently, Carlyle oversees close to 10 individuals per school year.
“Over the years we developed it,” Carlyle said. “We teach them emergency procedures; we teach them how to tape; how to do minor first aid things; we teach them how to handle emergencies from not necessarily taking care of the physical, but how the whole process works.”
In order to work under Carlyle’s license and become a part of the formal student operation, individuals must fill out an application and go through an interview process. Most students who display interest come highly recommended from a current assistants and applicants are rarely turned away.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
“A lot of times, they will talk with my other student trainers and ask about the program,” Carlyle said. “I take each application and look at it and then I run it by my top student trainers at that time and say ‘OK, do we have an issue with this person?’ They know how I work and what I expect. I have a certain way of doing things and students quickly learn my expectations. I am a stickler for the quicker we can get this done, the more professional we look and the better off we are.”
One of the keystones to Carlyle’s well-tuned process is the military-style pecking order he has established. Students begin as ensigns and can rise up the ranks to lieutenant and commander. Sometimes individuals stay at the ensign level for three years while others ascend to commander by their junior year.
“I have the doers and the gophers,” Carlyle said. “The doers will get in there with the blood and guts, and they embrace that. The gophers stay away from the major blood, guts and broken bones. That’s how we divide it up. It depends on their makeup — you need all kinds to make it work.”
Carlyle, who also works with Medford, Blooming Prairie and NRHEG school districts, didn’t get where he is today overnight. It’s taken 27 years of building relationships and old-fashioned hard work to gain the respect that he’s earned today. He often works 10 plus hours per day during the peak season and has made connections with doctors, paramedics, trainers, emergency-responders and law enforcement individuals throughout the state.
Some of the many people he credits for his success include Dr. Brian Bunkers, Dr. Tim VanGelder, Dr. Scott Perkinson, Linda Hoffman, David Albrecht, Ryan Swanson and Ken Ringhofer.