Article reposted from LMTonline
Author: Clara Sandoval, Laredo Morning Times
Sports have many entities that are vital to the success of the overall program. Athletic trainers are a group of individuals who work behind the scenes to ensure the athletes are healthy and ready to perform week in and week out. They are an essential part of every program whether it be at the high school or middle school level. Both LISD and UISD employ at least two trainers for each school.
The local athletic trainers include: Alexander’s Wendy Gutierrez, Mario Saldivar and Victoria Lee Whitaker; Cigarroa’s Paula Garcia and David Reidenbach; LBJ’s Cindy De Hoyos and Jojo Villarreal; Martin’s Amanda Mancha and Michael Rodriguez; Nixon’s Marines Perez and Adriana Rodriguez; United’s Gaby Enriquez, Mike Nanji and Carlos Salinas; and United South’s Jonathan Cortazzo, Melissa De Hoyos and Javi Valverde.
“Our athletic trainers play a vital role with our athletes,” United head volleyball coach Lety Longoria said. “From training them on what foods to eat for best performance and output, to keeping their bodies healthy, our trainers do an amazing job day in and day out. They take care of our kids and listen to what problems they may have, and they do whatever it takes to help them. They also put in additional hours every day and travel with us to all our games. They build great relationships with our kids and with us as a staff to guarantee the best help and support. We love our trainers.”
Athletic trainers can be seen roaming the sidelines during all sporting events and are ready at a moment’s notice when an athlete goes down with an injury. Before becoming trainers, one must be accepted to an accredited university and then apply to an athletic training program during their sophomore year. The athletic trainers must accumulate a certain amount of observation hours and then take the state health department written and oral exam. After that, aspiring athletic trainers must perform a task in front of a panel of four before becoming certified.
An athletic trainer’s main responsibility is to ensure the safety of the athletes and rehabilitate them after an injury. This can make for long 14-hour work days, which at times result in 60-hour weeks.
“Every job has its challenges,” De Hoyos said. “Day to day we deal with broken bones, career-ending injuries and concussions. One of the challenges I would say is helping an athlete cope and understand the limitations of their injury so that they can invest their time in recovery as opposed to returning to play. The busy nature and demand of our profession sometimes make balancing family and work difficult, but we make it work.”
Whitaker grew up around athletics and has been around football ever since her father took up coaching 35 years ago. After high school, she attended Texas State University where she obtained a degree and entered the athletic training profession. Besides being an athletic trainer, Whitaker balances a family at home that includes husband Ralph and daughter Cami.
“I am blessed because I have a family-oriented staff,” Whitaker said. “We have learned to adapt to each other’s personal schedules. A work week can consists of games, practices and special events. A varsity game can last until 11:00 p.m. or 2:00 a.m.”
Adriana Rodriguez is a graduate of the University of Texas and was set on becoming a judge before she found her calling as an athletic trainer. She has been in the profession for eight years now at Nixon.
“By the end of my freshman year, I was already an officer of a law student organization working at the capitol and I held a summer job with a local attorney,” Rodriguez said. “I had already taken a practice entrance exam for law school and scored in the higher range, and I was advised by my mentors to switch majors because most law school students had similar majors and I needed something to set myself apart. So I looked into different majors at the university and came across the bachelors in science of athletic training.”
At Texas, Rodriguez was able to work alongside athletes including Kevin Durant, Dexterr Pittman, Vince Young, Colt McCoy, Jamal Charles, Sanya Richards and Cat Osterman.
“My passion for athletic training also comes from the passion that my high school coaches instilled in me and the love for the sports I’ve had since my freshman year of high school,” Rodriguez said. “I feel that sports allowed me to bond — it being my first time in the United States — and succeed since I had something in common with those kids, coaches and teammates as they encouraged me to get better with my English.”
The majority of the Laredo trainers were athletes in high school or sustained an injury during their playing days, which resulted in them spending time in a training room. That led them to where they are now.
“I was very involved in sports during high school,” said Mancha, a 2012 graduated from Angelo State. “During those four years, I sustained a few injuries and saw what it was like behind the doors of those that went away when they weren’t able to play. My senior year (and his first year at AHS) was the year that I found my calling. Mario Saldivar was a big influence on why I became an athletic trainer and what university I chose to attend. He’s still been a mentor for me throughout my years as a high school athletic trainer.”
Garcia, a graduate from Texas State, has been around Laredo athletics for the past 24 years now and started out at United before making the move to Cigarroa. She started out in the profession when athletic trainers had to teach a class at the high school. Now they are athletic trainers all day and have a very busy schedule after school with practices and games. She relishes her job and enjoys helping athletes get back on the playing field.
“Being an athlete all throughout high school made me want to have a profession that dealt with athletics,” Garcia said. “Being able to help athletes recover from an injury and return to the sport they love playing is great.”
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