Athletic trainers have meaningful impact on athletes

Jannae Mehaffey

Athletic trainers make a huge difference in sports and are always there for players when they need help. For some of the athletic trainers at Augustana, they knew they wanted to be an athletic trainer the moment they were introduced to the field.  
Jay Clark, assistant athletic trainer at Augustana, said the career had everything he was searching for. Being an athletic trainer gives people the opportunity to make a difference in athletes’ lives and challenge them by working through different injuries. 
A meaningful job that required problem solving and critical thinking skills is just what Clark was looking for. 
“I really wanted the ability to solve problems and the ability to work with people in a job you know can make an immediate difference in people’s lives. It was the first job that had everything I wanted to do in life,” Clark said.
For Sean Faulkner, assistant athletic trainer at Augustana, the versatility of the career is what sparked his interest in it. As an athletic trainer, everyday there is something new that can happen, and not all injuries are the same. Athletic trainers have to focus on all aspects of the job which can be challenging, but is also one of Faulkner’s favorite parts of the job. 
“It’s not just the physical therapy side, or the evaluation orthopedic side, or the emergency response side, it’s a combination of all of those,” Faulkner said. Getting this sort of variety in a job while getting to be involved in college athletics is what inspired many of the sports medicine staff at Augustana to initially become athletic trainers. 
Head Athletic Trainer Denise Yoder said the social aspect of the job is what she loves the most. Being an athletic trainer gives her and the other trainers at Augustana a chance to learn each athlete’s story and get to know them while helping them. Yoder loves the relationships she builds with the athletes and looks forward to seeing them everyday.
“I enjoy talking with different people, learning about different situations and meeting all the athletes who are coming from different places. I always love to find out where people are from and learn something new about the athletes,” Yoder said.
Being an athletic trainer is all about helping people, and for all of the athletic trainers at Augustana, that is exactly why they are so invested in what they do. Each one of them chose this career path because they knew no matter what they did for a profession, they wanted to help people. 
“It is one of those things that you figure out pretty early in life. You want to help people and so you find ways to do that in something you are very interested in,” Yoder said.
Athletic trainers sacrifice a lot of time to be there for the athletes, and the job can oftentimes be very difficult to balance with family and personal life. Their schedule is dependent on the team’s practices and games, which can make it difficult to visit family. They are not always able to make it home for dinner because they have to stay after practices and make sure the players get ice and are accounted for. 
“During track and field season, unless it’s Easter weekend, I can’t get away for an extended time where I can go to my hometown and see family. It’s just one of those things where the people closest to you know what the situation is, and we sometimes have to settle for conversations over the phone,” Clark said.
Many athletic trainers are very passionate about sports because they themselves were athletes before becoming athletic trainers. Yoder was a track athlete when she attended Augustana and played softball prior to college. Faulkner grew up playing hockey, and Clark grew up playing basketball, soccer and cross country. 
Having been an athlete prior to becoming an athletic trainer, their passion for athletics played a huge role in their career choice. They know what it is like to be an athlete and just how important it is to take care of your body before and after injuries. Their love for sports didn’t just end once they stopped playing in high school or college. Their continued interest in sports is why they are so driven to help athletes and make the most of their career. 
“Athletics for me was just going to be a hobby after high school, but when I found out there was a way I could still be involved with one of the things I was most passionate about in my childhood, it definitely made me give it some serious consideration,” Clark said.
Even though athletic training is very difficult and time consuming, the athletic trainers at Augustana continue to show up every single day and make a meaningful impact on the student athletes.