Joe Cunnane humbled by national most valuable award



Joe Cunnane humbled by national most valuable award

Article reposted from The Herald News

Things certainly have come a long way for Joe Cunnane and the athletic training program at Lockport since he began working at the school in 1994.

Starting with no training room and eventually becoming one of the leaders in the state, the athletic trainer and teacher is proud of all the advancements and what it has meant for the thousands of Porters’ athletes who have benefited from them.

Because of his tireless efforts over the years, Cunnane recently was recognized by Training & Conditioning as its 2017 Most Valuable Athletic Trainer Award winner. He was honored last month at the National Athletic Trainers Association convention in Houston, which also was attended by his wife and parents.

“It was a really humbling honor, and the neatest part of the whole thing was hearing from some of the alums from those early years, when the athletic training program was just getting underway,” Cunnane said. “When I was a student at Illinois State, one of my mentors used to say that good athletic trainers treat injuries, but great ones prevent them. I don’t know if I’m a great one, but it’s always been a goal of mine as to how can we better prevent things. The world of athletic training continues to evolve, so you have to keep up with that educationally, and it’s a lot of work.”

Lockport athletic director Jim Prunty nominated Cunnane for the award. In his nomination, cited in the May/June edition of the magazine, Prunty wrote, “I am in my 41st year as an educator, and [Joe] is without a doubt the finest athletic trainer with whom I have ever had the pleasure of working. It is both rewarding and inspiring to observe him work with our student-athletes, as he is proactive in preventing potential injuries and extremely caring as he nurtures [athletes] during rehabilitation. It gives me a sense of security knowing we have Joe as our athletic trainer because I understand the quality of his work.”


Cunnane knows that the success of the athletic training program is the result of many peoples’ efforts, and he’s more than happy to spread the credit.

“This certainly was not a one-person endeavor,” Cunnane said. “All of the A.D.s during my tenure have been supportive of the program. We haven’t had too many situations where we bumped heads on anything. And we’ve had a lot of people who’ve come through the program and moved on to other things who were great athletic trainers. This has been a great place to work at and I also raise my family here, so we’ve been very fortunate.

“Mike Petty was a board member who was a trainer at Stagg for many years and he saw a need. Kent Irvin, who was the athletic director, embraced the process and he and I were able to do a lot of things together. And with Chris Marszalek, who was the P.E. chair and assistant athletic director, we worked through a lot of things and built what I have a lot of pride in now.

“It certainly was not just myself, there were a lot of people involved. It was great working with people like that, and with athletic secretary Donna Pattison, who were very willing to work with me whenever I came in with requests that there was some value to. That made it much easier to progress the program from its infantile stages to the program that it is.”

Although the high school committed to the program, he originally had no real work place.

“We had an old weight room that had a closet, and the closet became the training room,” Cunnane said. “So there was enough room for me and the person I was taking care of and that was it. With the big addition to the east campus in 1997, I was able to be involved in the creation of the athletic training room that we have now, which is an incredible facility.”

While many schools opt for private firms to handle their athletes, Lockport went with a different approach and Cunnane likes the hybrid model that’s in place.

“There’s a certain sense of stability when the trainer is a teacher or full-time staff member,” Cunnane said. “It’s nice when you have some stability and know that person is going to be there. Obviously you know the kids during the school day and I think it helps to build better rapport with the coaches since you’re not just seeing them when they’re at practice and busy.”