They haven’t scored a touchdown, made a game-winning basket or thrown a baseball 90 miles per hour.
You won’t find their names at the top of any roster where the players and coaches are listed.
I’ll argue that high school-based athletic trainers are exactly where they’re supposed to be — in the background making sure athletes are taken care of on a daily basis.
And most of time, that’s just fine. I’ve joked that there’s got to be a better choice than March for National Athletic Training month.
Let’s face it: everyone is busy, including the athletic trainers. They’re stretched to the limit attending to athletes competing in the winter/spring crossover season.
The “Rubberband Man” the Spinners sang about back in the 1970s has got nothing on these men and women. So why doesn’t every school and every school district rubber stamp some plan to make sure their schools have appropriate coverage and facilities with athletic trainers?
Well, that’s a mystery to me. And it should be a mystery you’ll want to see solved if you have a child, grandchild, niece or nephew who competes in high school sports.
The National Athletic Trainers Association selected the slogan “We prepare — You perform” for its 2015 campaign. It’s the perfect illustration of who athletic trainers are and what their role is.
You can argue this may be the best of times to be involved in high school athletics. There are so many sports to choose from for both boys and girls.
Players get the chance to hone their skills at a young age. Equipment and facilities are, for the most part, better than ever.
Yet many school districts across the nation, including Louisiana, didn’t take the need for athletic trainers as seriously as they should have until about 20 years ago. Schools across Louisiana have made a quantum leap in their athletic training personnel and facilities over the past 10 years.
There are still issues. Most Louisiana schools with large student bodies, i.e., your Class 5A to 3A schools, have athletic trainers and facilities. Notice I said most, but not all.
While surrounding parishes such as Ascension and Livington lead the way in athletic training staffers, other neighboring parishes, and some East Baton Rouge Parish public schools, have schools with no on-site athletic trainer and no access to an athletic trainer as part of an outreach program.
That’s just one problem that should be addressed. The other involves staffing at large schools with multiple sports. Denham Springs is the 5A school in the area that employs two full-time trainers.
It makes sense because DSHS has a large enrollment and a huge number of student-athletes. It’s not unusual for an athletic trainer to split time between two events going on at the same time, such as a track meet and a baseball game. Or maybe it’s a basketball game and a soccer game.
Again, that’s a real stretch. On the college level, athletic trainers are often assigned by sport and care for a limited number of athletes. Consider this — one local school has 600 student-athletes and one full-time athletic trainer.
Ultimately, it all comes down to business and staffing. And that’s where the low profile probably works against athletic trainers.
Out of sight — hey maybe no one will mind if our school doesn’t have an athletic trainer. We don’t have it in the budget or we don’t have a teaching/staff spot is a common refrain even though athletic trainers provide treatment and monitoring for concussions and heat-related illnesses.
I know having an athletic trainer won’t prevent all injuries. Nothing can.
But I’ve also got a slogan of my own — “Athletic trainers — a necessity, not an accessory.”