Happy Mother’s Day to those who are BOC Certified Athletic Trainers (ATs) while carrying the Mother credential! The act of balancing work and motherhood is one that millions of women work on every day. The BOC thanks AT mothers for your hard-work and dedication to your families and the profession. Many times, as ATs, you may act as a mother to student athletes or those studying to become an AT. Mothers in the profession provide support and care to both their own children and extended family of patients. Balancing and doing it all certainly isn’t an easy act, but you prove that it is possible. Sometimes the choices are tough, but there will be sacrifices and compromises.
As a mother of an 18-month-old daughter, I had the privilege to visit with a couple mothers of athletic training and learn how they manage their career and family life.
Susan M. Wielgosz, MS, ATC, is the mother of three boys, ages 8, 9, and 11. She has been an AT for 27 years total. For 25 years, she was an AT for the college and for the last two years, she has been the Clinical Coordinator of the Athletic Training Education Program at The College at Brockport, State University of New York in Brockport, NY.
“As a parent, I can share and relate situations in teaching,” Susan said. “When there is a problem, I tell them to realize, listen and emphasis to get over the root of the issue. I help them come up with a plan and goals to give the tools that they need to see past their problem. It’s monumental to the kids," Susan said. Susan emphasized how she helps her own children and the students getting through taking the exam, ”It’s how you deal with it, not the experience to get a positive outcome.”
Susan has also been a BOC volunteer since 1988, doing various things for the BOC exam. She continued to make the time to volunteer even when having children. Her strong commitment has earned her the BOC’s Dan Libera Service Award, which will be presented to her and four others at the June NATA Annual Meeting in St. Louis.
“I’m a true believer of the BOC and in the profession. You get the full reward of it. You make other professional relationships when you volunteer. It’s important to get back to your profession. I’m proud of the national exam & getting feedback. The exam gives students the motivation for accomplishing their goals and passing to become certified.
Susan’s plan was to start her family later in life so she could have extra time to spend with her children. She had her first child in her 40s and she shared that once she was a mother, she was ready to walk away from her career until her husband lost his job.
“I struggled a lot when the kids were little before they started school. When my husband was unemployed, he was home to help with the children. It was hard, but was worth the sacrifice. It’s rewarding beyond belief. Your career is important, but family is more important. You should work to give your family a better life," Susan said.
There is controversy with working moms and guilt sets in when a mom is working and not at home or vice versa. When working in athletic training, it can be tough when you are working when school is out for the day. Sometimes the amount that an AT is getting paid is the same cost of daycare. Homework and activities are hard. It takes a tremendous amount of time management and prioritizing.
“There isn’t an easy answer. Homework gets hard and balancing the mix of activities is hard. Now that they (my kids) are older, I was fortunate to start teaching. When I worked athletic events, my kids would attend with my husband. I was never responsible for my kids while I was working, but they were there. Now that they are older, I can watch my own children participating in athletic events. They also can come to my office and I don’t have to worry about them running around,” Susan said.
“It’s important that I make an effort to be there for events that the kids will remember most, such as birthdays. I would work on paperwork when the kids went to bed. It helps to have an employer who understands. You have the discretion of the coach who might want you there at a 6:00am practice. In the past, athletic training was primarily a male-dominated profession, but now more women are working as an AT. The question is, are women going to stay in it with having to work and making those tough changes?”
Susan’s advice to women in athletic training and working in general, “Take care of yourself. It is hard and you can’t beat yourself up. If you are at home, you need to be 100% at home. Same with working.” Susan recalled a recent fun moment that she had with her sons. They were all playing Frisbee at home and the Frisbee went on the roof. Her husband wasn’t home, so she got the stepladder by herself and found a hockey stick and went on the roof to get the Frisbee. They were all laughing and poking fun at her trying to retrieve this Frisbee.
Amy Pariseau, ATC, has been an AT for 14 years and works at the University of Rochester Medical Center at the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY in a clinical/high school setting. She became interested in athletic training when she was an athlete in high school playing varsity as a freshman. During the fall of her sophomore year, she tore her ACL, but no one could figure that out. That summer, she had her ACL reconstructed and went through 9 months of rehab and the person who helped her most during the process was her high school Athletic Trainer. From then on, she knew she would always be involved in athletics, maybe not as an athlete but as an Athletic Trainer.
Amy is a mother to a daughter, 10, and son, 7, and manages a large high school contract, which has her covering sports in the late evening. As an Athletic Trainer, she sometimes misses dinner time and putting the kids to bed. “Those nights are hard to handle," Amy said, "But when they can I bring them to work with me and they get a kick out of it because the "big kids" come up to them to say hello! I take all the time I can to spend with them. I have to work and it is the lifestyle they have grown up knowing.”
She is certain to put her kids first. “I make their lunches in the morning, watch morning cartoons with them, put my daughter's hair up in pigtails or a pony tail, paint her fingernails and toenails, teach my son to be nice to girls and that homework it more important than video games and TV,” Amy said.
Amy shared that the positives of her job is that has a understanding Athletic Director who allows her to bring my kids to work. She enjoys being around athletics and getting to help young athletes get back to their sports and the thrill of emergent situations. She added “the high school kids keep me young!” The few negatives include being away from her kids when they have activities going on, late nights, working weekends and people that don't know what an Athletic Trainer is and does. “If I have a game and I know it is going to run late, they are home doing homework, eating dinner and getting to bed. As much as I want them with me it is not feasible or in their best interest,” Amy added.
Amy advises female AT students with this, “Figure out your goals and how you will attain them. Understand the demands of the job and how it affects your family life. Know that other woman have done it and you can too if it's what you want.”
Susan acknowledged men in the profession as well. “A second income is needed for those in the profession. Until we are viewed as a healthcare profession, the salaries won’t be there. I think our profession is going in the right direction. I would love to see all certified ATs in high schools. The more we educate the right things, such as concussion education, the profession will be seen in a different light as a value. Pushing forward with education is important because people don’t know a lot about the work of ATs.
Even though it is Mother’s Day, we would also like to thank the children, spouses and significant others for encouraging the women in their life to pursue their dreams and goals of working in athletic training. To women ATs, have a beautiful day and wonderful, rewarding career!
Written by: Brittney Ryba