Jana Foster, athletic trainer at Poteet High School retires after 14 years with the school. She has worked all over Texas, having been in the field since 1983, when there were few women in the field of athletic training
How did you get started?
I was interested in physical therapy and athletic training. I went to TCU (Texas Christian University) in Fort Worth; they have a great athletic program so I got into that.
To be an athletic trainer you have to work in a college athletic training room and take certain classes, and pass a state test, there’s also a national certification, I did both.
What drew you to this field?
Just the love of athletics, sports and medicine; it’s a great combination. I was active growing up, played all the sports. We get the best seats in the house – right there on the sidelines.
Do you play any sports now?
No, I walk and lift weights just to stay fit.
From your experience, what has been the biggest change since you started as a trainer?
When I first started as a student athletic trainer I was only the second female student athletic trainer at TCU, I ended up being the first one to graduate. Back in the 80s, women were just breaking into the field, and now on the national level, I believe 60 percent are women – the ones who get certified. So, it’s changed quite a bit from just a handful.
I used to go to the Southwest Athletic Trainers Association meeting each year and there would be 10-12 females and I knew all of them; now, there’s tons of females in it.
The other changes are having to worry about the heat, having to worry about lightning. Years ago we had no policies about heat and lightning, you just had to use common sense.
The concussion, in the last five years, probably, that’s just been an explosion. When I first started when a kid got a concussion he was out for seven days, he missed one game and we threw him back out there at practice. Now we know that that’s not the best thing for the child, and we have protocols and states laws.
When you first started out with so few women in the field at the time, were you met with any challenges?
The first time I interviewed, it was at a school south of Fort Worth, the interview went well the head coach told me that it had gone well and that I was his guy and I didn’t hear from him. I finally called and the words that came out of that man’s mouth was that the male got the job, that’s what it came down to. I could’ve filed a lawsuit but I had to get a job and at that time there weren’t a whole lot of jobs in the state, and I ended up in El Paso and loved it. I had a great head coach and great kids.
You train girls and boys?
Yes, and through the years, like when I first started the coaches that I worked with hadn’t grown up with female athletic trainers, so a few of them were kind of reluctant; you could even see it on their face. But, as soon as they saw that I was going to work hard and treat the kids right and take care of the kids then it really wasn’t a problem.
Nowadays, most of the coaches had female athletic trainers as they grew up or as they played college athletics, and so I don’t think it’s an issue at all.
Even though you’re retiring, what do you hope to see in the athletic field in the future?
There’s exciting research going on with concussion. Maybe they will be an easier to diagnose a concussion on the sidelines, but it would be great if there was some definite way to say, ‘Yes, that’s a concussion,’ instead of trying to tease out the difference between is it a concussion? Are they dehydrated? Are they coming down with a cold? All different things that it could be.
So I think in the next five to 10 years diagnosing a concussion will be easier, and whether or not a child is ready to go back to competition.
Throughout your career, what would you say you’ve learned about people?
All kids are alike. They want to be involved in things, and they want to know that people around them care. As an athletic trainer, sometimes you might be the only adult that takes time to listen to that kid. Nowadays some people’s home life are bad, or it might just be that something is going on in that family where they’re not getting a whole lot of attention right then, and if you can be that one adult that can have a smile on your face and say, ‘Hi, how’s your day been?’ or ‘Have a good day,’ and also listening to the kid.
What will you miss about working at Poteet High School?
Just the relationship with the kids and the coaches. Here at Poteet I’ve been fortunate, it’s always been a great coaching staff and the kids are fantastic. Just missing the day-to-day interactions and relationships with them. It’s great fun to watch a kid come in as a freshman and be kind of squirrely/silly, and then watch them mature as people and as athletes and see how much they can grow in four years.
What are you looking forward to about retirement?
Rest. As an athletic trainer we put in 60-70 hours a week, 10 months a year. I’m hoping to slow down a little bit and not work as much. I am going to do a little bit of work in Mesquite, covering junior high games, and work for an orthopedic clinic as well.