In April, BOC Blog writer Mike Hopper, ATC, wrote a blog about relationships. In the conclusion, he wrote “Athletic Trainers must continue to build relationships. Do it for yourself, do it for the profession, and do it for the athletes and patients you treat.” In full disclosure, Mike’s inspiration for the entry was a blog I wrote early in 2012. In my years as an Athletic Trainer, I have come to realize that many relationships are vital to our profession. During the next few weeks, this blog will explore those important relationships and hopefully get you to think about the relationships that you are building.
These relationships are obvious to Athletic Trainers because these are the people that we interact with the most. I made the mistake of maintaining too much of a professional distance when I first started in the high school setting. I viewed the athletes as injuries to care for and get out of the training room. Now that I am older and hopefully wiser, I have changed my philosophy. I now see the injuries as fellow people to care for. I want to build a relationship with the athlete first, care for the injury second. This can be hard to do when working with a diverse population, but by focusing on your athletes/patients as people first it becomes much easier.
In my setting, I have the responsibility to work with 7th grade through 12th grade public school student athletes, up to 1,000 unique students in a year. I have been in my present position for 11 years so I have had the privilege to watch the past 5 graduating classes mature from immature, awkward 7th graders and blossom into mature, confident seniors. I have watched them practice their various skills, watched them work in the off season, and seen them through their successes and their failures at all levels of play. A few of them stand out, most of them are average; some of them love it; some of them are there for their parents or their friends; some will play their sport in college; some of them will never participate in sport again; some come from great families; some come from deplorable conditions. But all of them are unique and I end up caring for all of them in their own unique way.
Commencement is coming up in a few days and with it comes the opportunity for me to don the cap and gown and be part of the ceremony. This is a date that I have come to love because I can remember many of these young adults coming to me in their 7th grade year to have me care for them. I must admit that my emotions often get the best of me and I end up shedding a tear or two. If you have the same opportunity in your setting, I challenge you to take the time to go and see them graduate. Talk to as many of them as you can and congratulate them on the achievement of finishing what they started.
One of my favorite experiences is when alums return to a watch a game, practice, etc. and they come to talk to me. This is again an opportunity to renew that relationship, see what these young people are accomplishing, etc. It is usually a time of big smiles, hugs, laughing and great encouragement to know that maybe you have made a difference in a fellow human’s development.
With this change in my philosophy, those annoying 7th graders that come in to see me with a very minor injury aren’t so annoying because I remind myself that first they want me to care for them and that this could be an opportunity to develop a 6 year relationship with a young person who will be going through a lot of ups and downs in those years. I used to get annoyed with these young athletes because I felt they were wasting my time that I could spend on “real injuries.” But are Athletic Trainers hired to care for injuries or are we charged with caring for people?
Written by: Paul LaDuke, MSS, ATC, CSCS