Article reposted from The Ramona Home Journal
Author: Jack Riordan
Every year, Ramona High School sees dozens of senior student-athletes graduate, and in the fall, a comparable number of freshmen arrive to replenish the ranks.
The strength in an athletic program that can manage that ebb and flow of talent starts with the athletes themselves, but is emboldened by a litany of participants in support roles behind the scenes that help give the Bulldogs every advantage on the field, on the court, in the pool, on the track and beyond.
Since 1996, RHS Athletic Trainer Steve Pettis has seen a lot of senior classes bid the school farewell, and has welcomed many a freshman class.
Pettis grew up with his sights set on a career as a paramedic, but once he decided that he really did not like giving shots or drawing blood, it became apparent that he might want to find a new path. It was during his college years at Point Loma Nazarene University that he discovered athletic training.
“It was like being a paramedic for athletes, and having played sports my whole life, I thought, ‘That sounds cool,’” Pettis says.
Once he graduated, a colleague at the university introduced him to Joe Bess from a little town called Ramona.
Bess, also a Point Loma Nazarene alum, spent two decades coaching a number of sports at Ramona High and served as the school’s athletic director for 13 years. He knew that the Bulldogs could use a boost in the training room with the impending retirement of longtime trainer John Sullivan.
Pettis was hired in a part-time position at Ramona High, but was lured away by a fulltime gig at Orange Glen High School a year later. He spent a little more than two years there before the Bulldogs brought him back in the spring of 1999, into a fulltime position.
As part of his return, Pettis was asked to teach a sports medicine class for one period a day. Even though he feels more comfortable in the training room than in the classroom, he taught the class for 15 years, until it was dropped from the curriculum three years ago.
While it existed, the elective course gave an opportunity for between 20 and 30 students to learn more about athletic training each school year, and the results speak for themselves.
Pettis lists a roll call of former students who have gone on to higher education or fulltime careers in sports medicine. He estimates that somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the students who took the sports medicine class were motivated to pursue the trade further.
“I really enjoyed teaching it,” he says, adding that he would like to see the program return. “It was a great way to interact with the kids and help some kids with what they wanted to do after high school.”
As he approaches his 25th year as an athletic trainer at the high-school level, Pettis says that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Even with the vast amount of training and nutritional information available these days on the Internet, he says he still sees kids pounding down carne asada burritos and energy drinks right before a big game.
Having grown up playing sports himself, Pettis knows all about the drive to compete, and how it can cloud an athlete’s judgment when it comes to resting and recovering from an injury. He often has to be the bearer of bad news when he determines that a student is unfit for action. But he has earned a reputation for being honest with those under his care, which is always in their best interests.
Brittany Roy is an RHS junior and a member of the Varsity Girls Soccer team. After a collision with an opponent on the pitch earlier this year, she began to experience pain in her knee. She iced it all night but told herself, “If it still hurts in the morning and after all day at school, I’m going to talk to Steve.”
After examining her knee, Pettis was concerned that Roy may have damaged her meniscus, and referred her to urgent care in Ramona, which recommended an MRI to determine the extent of the injury.
If it is determined that she will need to miss time from competition, Pettis is there to provide the physical therapy and advice to help her get back on the field as quickly as possible.
“You know, he just wants kids to get better so that they can get back out there to play what they love, so
I trust him to help me out,” she said.
I trust him to help me out,” she said.
When he is not assisting athletes in the training room, or roaming the sidelines at a Bulldogs’ sporting event, Pettis enjoys time with his two children. He still plays soccer, and he spends as much time as possible in the ocean.
Most people want excitement in their job. But a quiet day at the office for Steve Pettis means that no students fell victim to injury or sickness — and that is always a good day.