ThINCing Ahead: Student athletic trainers are here to help

Published 8:30 am Saturday, May 27, 2023

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ThINC Academy has partnered with the athletic departments of all three public high schools — Callaway, LaGrange and Troup — to create a new internship program for members of each school that want to go into the healthcare field after graduation. This new internship is for a student to be a paid understudy/assistant for the athletic trainers at the three schools. The 2022-23 school year saw a trial run with two Callaway students — Raine Hunt and Maliyah Reeves — learning from Troup athletic trainer Mary McCann.

“I started at Troup in January 2022 and reached out to Brittany (Poole) not long afterwards and asked her if she had some students that would be interested and willing to work,” McCann said.

This partnership is the brainchild of Poole, a former athletic trainer and current sports medicine teacher at ThINC Academy and McCann, who saw this being implemented in the last school system he worked in.

“All of the other pathways here at ThINC have jobs they can put them into, like mechatronics they go put them on the line at KIA and healthcare will help them get CNA positions at places that allow high schoolers to work,” Poole said. “I got jealous and wanted my sports medicine students to get this type of experience and get paid for it.”

The new opportunities presented by this flourishing new partnership are endless. It gives serious young professional-minded students an avenue to take theoretical knowledge they have learned in the classroom and apply it to real life scenarios. 

“I have taped ankles, taped hands, taped elbows, taped thumbs, I’ve learned how to do a ton of different tapings,” Reeves said. 

The taping was the easy part, it was preparing the ice baths that Hunt and Reeves truly dreaded.

Hunt and Reeves were unsure of what they were getting into at first. The two had an idea of what it would be like but on those football Friday nights in the fall, the breakneck pace could be overwhelming at times.

“Football is the most time consuming and the longest season,” Hunt said. 

Game days can see adrenaline spiked and not everything goes so smoothly, especially during football season.

“I told them there would be times that I would hoot and holler at them, but five minutes later it will be gone from my mind ,and it should be gone from yours,” McCann said. “I think it only happened like twice.”

Poole had to have a conversation with Reeves about the game day atmosphere partway through the season.

“I remember having to talk with Maliyah about the boys and coaches on the sideline shouting in her direction rather than just talking, and we had to have a conversation about how their adrenaline is running in the game and they are not being rude to you, it’s just the culture of the sports,” Poole said. 

They also found the role to be rewarding in ways they could not have imagined going into it.

“I’ve always been a quiet person, so having to go to another school has helped me meet new people and break out of my shell,” Hunt said. “I was a little nervous when I started at Troup, but we all got comfortable after a little while.”

When McCann was looking for two understudies a year ago, Hunt and Reeves were easily the two candidates who jumped off the page. It was not always smooth sailing as the high-paced action of a game day can leave patience short and everybody on edge, but a real bond formed between the three, so much so that Hunt and Reeves now refer to themselves as honorary Tigers.

These three will also serve as a unique pairing. The recruits for 2023-24 will be staying under the roof of the school they attend. Sophie Clough will be serving under Beth Anania at LaGrange while Sarahlynn Pelt will be under Callaway’s athletic trainer, Rob Dicks.

“I want to be an athletic trainer one day, and I have already worked with our football team all three years I’ve been in high school so far,” Pelt said. “Not much is going to change for me other than taking on some more responsibilities. I already know everybody involved really well.

“This is going to help me with what I want to do rather than just going and working somewhere to make money while I’m in high school.”  

Pelt comes into the role with more experience than Clough, but that is just fine by Poole. Pelt is a rising senior while Clough is a rising junior and will be the first one that could do two years as a student athletic trainer with this program as Hunt and Reeves were also seniors when they took part in the program.

“I’m not sure if I want to go into sports medicine or physical therapy yet, so this feels like a good middle ground for me to get my feet wet,” Clough said. “I’m excited to learn how to do everything under pressure.”

McCann and Poole are still sorting through candidates to see if there is a right fit this year at Troup.

Since Clough and Pelt are around the athletes everyday at their own schools, the thought is that there will be an easier adjustment to them being on the sideline. Hunt and Reeves did not have that luxury. They often found they were given the cold shoulder at first as they were viewed as outsiders, but it did not take them long to win over the athletes and coaches with their hard work and determination. 

“They were hesitant to accept us at first,” Reeves said. “I don’t know football, so I didn’t think it was a big deal, but the players thought having a girl on the sideline was a big deal at first, but eventually they got used to us.”

Pelt said: “Sometimes it is easier to get the players on board than the coaches. Gaining the respect of the coaches can often be way harder than anybody else.”

Clough has started working with athletes as of about a month ago and is learning quickly how to earn the respect of those around her.

“Athletes feel like they can talk to you like they would any other student,” Clough said. “We had a spring (football) game recently, and some of the players asked me to help them and if they were being disrespectful I would tell them to treat me with some respect and I will.”

The fledgling partnership has the full backing and support of all three athletic departments. With the program offering a work program for students while also giving some much needed help to the overworked athletic trainers, it is set to continue to grow and be a part of all three schools for the foreseeable future.

“It can take some time for everybody to get used to the new girls on the sideline, but after two or three weeks they really prove themselves and show why they belong,” Poole said. “Once the girls show up and do a good job, nobody questions them anymore.”