They do not win medals and no one knows them by name, but they are there playing a big part in the Olympics. Participating 5-7 days a week through strength training, afternoon practice, treatments and evening practice, these are Athletic Trainers (ATs) who are supporting the Olympics by being a part of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Sports Medicine Staff. Just last month, we watched and cheered for Team USA in London. Reaching this milestone is neither easy nor is it earned without dedicating your life to the craft of athletic training. The competitors rely on the expertise and skill of people, ATs, behind the scenes.
Dr. Karen Bloch was officially named part of the USOC Sports Medicine Staff for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She was a National Governing Body selection as the Head Athletic Trainer and chiropractor for the USA Men’s Water Polo Team and was selected for the 2012 London Olympics.“I loved working with the other medical practitioners who share the same passion for treating elite athletes and who do it for the pure reason of wanting to be a part of the Olympic movement,” shared Dr. Bloch. “I also really enjoyed witnessing the USA women’s water polo team’s first gold medal. Hearing the national anthem playing and seeing the United States of America flag raised to the top tier of the stadium brings chills through my spine. What a great day for USA water polo!”
Katie Kaschub, MS, ATC, CSCS, became involved with the USOC after graduate school when she applied and was selected for the fellowship program at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA. She spent a year there working as an AT for a wide variety of athletes and had the unique opportunity of working with Paralympic Athletes. Last summer, a full time AT position opened up with USA Field Hockey where she went through an intense “trial period” which included an international tour and another month of being an AT with the team day-in and day-out.
Fortunately, Kaschub was officially hired by USA Field Hockey just prior to the Pan Am Games where the Women’s Team won the Gold Medal in an upset of top-ranked Argentina. “The exciting victory for the team meant that they had qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games. In that moment, it also justified all of my hard work, stress, financial sacrifice, and the emotional decision to leave my job and move away from my boyfriend, to pursue the Olympic Dream,” said Kaschub.
Jody Murray, ATC, is an Acupuncturist from Brookfield, Connecticut also worked at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista on a volunteer rotation. While there, she was introduced to work with the USA Archery team. She was selected to travel with the team on two trips, the World Cup in Shanghai and the Pan Am Trials in Guadalajara. As a dual-credentialed Athletic Trainer, she had to balance her private practice as she was gone for three weeks.
“These two international trips were such opportunities! I introduced a lot of the athletes and coaches to acupuncture, which was pretty cool. I made some life-long friends, which is, of course priceless. Most importantly, I got to challenge myself in a way I never had before. It was me and only me, from start to finish, providing all the medical advice and treatment. A lot of pressure, but a lot of reward,” Murray said.
Dr. Sara Cuperus worked with Murray at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and was the only chiropractor who was also BOC certified working during her two week rotation. Her experiences including spending time in the athletic training facility and supported all the athletes from Archery, BMX, Women’s Bobsled, Track and Field, Men’s and Women’s Sprint Kayak, and Men’s and Women’s Junior National Volleyball.
“Don’t be afraid to put your time in, even if that means supporting local events like races and such,” Cuperus advices to young professionals, “Each of those athlete interactions and experiences will teach you something that you can take with you and use in the future.”
These ATs also recommended continuing education and encourages courses that teach hands-on skills and anything to set an AT apart. Bloch thought Muscle Energy, Functional Movement Screening, Kinesiology Taping and Active Release Techniques are very valuable tools.
Kaschub noted, “It is absolutely imperative that you use continuing education to stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest skills, therapies, and modalities. Like all professional athletes, they will “shop around” for the next best thing, but if you are informed on these techniques they will hopefully seek out your advice first.”
To represent your country on a world scale is possibly the greatest honor in sports. We thank all ATs for representing the USA and their tremendous work with athletes to support the Olympic Dream.
Written By: Brittney Ryba