An In Depth Look… of Paul LaDuke, ATC
Head Athletic Trainer, Lower Dauphin School District in PA
Describe your setting:
I am the full time BOC Certified Athletic Trainer (AT) for a public school district in Pennsylvania. There are 1,200 students in grades 9-12, but my assistant and I are responsible for all the athletes in 7th-12th grades. We typically have 1,000 student athletes participate in our athletic program through the course of the 3 sports seasons. The school contracts an assistant athletic trainer through a local physical therapy clinic to provide services to our athletes at the middle school. We each have responsibly to staff activities for specific teams and fill in for each other as the need arises.
How long have you worked in this setting?
I have been in the high school setting for 14 years. I worked for another public school through a clinic before I was offered this current job. I have been at my current position for 11 years.
Describe your typical day:
I am married and have 3 school aged kids ranging from 3rd grade up to 9th grade. So my morning is usually focused on spending time with the family as they prepare for school starting at 6am until my youngest leaves at 8:45am. I will go to school around 10am during the spring and fall sports seasons and work until the end of events, which is usually 6:30pm. During the winter months, I get to the training room around 1pm and stay until the last practices or games are over, normally around 9:30pm.
During the school year, I typically average 48 hours/week during football season (mid-August-early November), 40 hours per week during the winter sports season (mid-November-February) and 45 hours per week during the spring sports season (March-early June). For the 8 week summer break, I open the weight room in the mornings and run strength and conditioning programs for our teams. For the past several years this has been all morning work from 7am to noon.
What do you like about your position?
There is a lot to like about working at the high school setting. First and foremost to me is getting to work with the kids. It is really enjoyable watching these young people develop from 7th grade through 12th grade. It is even better when they come back from college and stop in to say hello.
I also love the variety that I get in the high school setting. Last year I provided services to over 250 games from the 7th grade level through the varsity level, from scrimmages to playoff games. I get to work with 7th grade adolescents who can barely run 100m to elite athletes who never cease to amaze with their talents. The variety of personality, sport and injury keep me learning new things and never bored.
What do you dislike about your position?
There isn’t much to dislike, but with a wife and athletic kids, I often have a conflict with my hours. I have had to miss some of my kids sporting events and helping with homework. I also miss family dinner which for a traditional guy like me is something that is a struggle. But, the school administration and my assistant have always helped out so that I don’t miss the big events like concerts, important games, field trips, etc. I also get to have breakfast with them every day to make up for missing dinner.
What advice do you have about your practice setting for a young athletic trainer looking at this setting?
The high school setting is an intense setting with a lot of demand on ATs from parents, athletes, coaches and administration. There is demand on your time because they know you are a valuable asset to the athletic department. Yes, you will work nights but building those relationships and being a positive role model for young people is worth the sacrifice. The high school athletic trainer must also be well versed in a wide variety of skills. I often tell people that the high school athletic trainer has the widest ranging skill set of any athletic training setting. Because of this you must be confident in what you know and willing to constantly learn to be better at what you do. The high school setting isn’t a setting for an AT who is looking to have it easy.