More than a helping hand: LaGrange High senior prepares for future in sports medicine

Published 8:50 am Wednesday, January 17, 2024

LaGrange High senior Sophie Clough has always felt a calling towards athletics. Now, as she prepares for a future that will be arriving before she knows it, she is getting out in front of the ball. 

Clough is spending her senior year in the work-based learning program through ThINC Academy which allows her to earn credits while serving as an athletic trainer aid under LaGrange High athletic trainer Beth Anania. 

“I mean, it’s been a lot and stressful at times, but it’s been really fun,” Clough said. “It was very intimidating because I literally knew absolutely nothing and she started all these big words at me and stuff like that.”

Clough, who started working in the program over the summer of 2023, had little to no knowledge of sports medicine when she first got started. At the behest of her teacher Brittany Poole, Clough applied for the program and has come a long way since she went out to her first practice last summer.

“I’m so glad I got paired with [Anania] because she has helped me so much,” Clough said. “She has gradually added to my responsibilities and now she gives me a lot of freedom. She has me designing rehab for different athletes, or if she’s got to go do something she’ll let me take control of the training room.”

Clough had no idea what she was getting into at first and at times, felt overwhelmed at first. She quickly adjusted to her newfound responsibilities and quickly earned the respect of coaches and athletes alike.

She has also garnered the respect of Anania as the pair have hit it off as mentor and mentee.

“I’m very proud of myself, but seeing [Anania] also be very proud of proud of me, makes me feel really good,” she said.

Clough is no stranger to sidelines, locker rooms, or athletics as she has been a member of the LaGrange High volleyball team for the last four years and first got involved with the sport in sixth grade and she fell in love with the game instantly.

She has just one more travel volleyball season before her volleyball career likely reaches its end. Never the biggest or strongest player on the court, Clough knows that the prospect of playing college volleyball might be out of reach, especially because she does not want to sacrifice her education for a few more years on the court.

“I would love to play in college, but I’ve kind of accepted the fact that I would rather go to a great school for what I want to do, and not play volleyball than go to school and play volleyball that’s not great for what I want to do because volleyball only lasts so long. I love volleyball and I’ll forever be appreciative of volleyball,” she said. 

Even though Clough was leaning towards pursuing physical therapy or athletic training after high school before, her time spent in this role has only reinforced her resolve. 

“I had the idea that I wanted to be an athletic trainer going into it, but now I know I want to be,” Clough said. “I’ve always loved sports, I’ve been around sports my whole life. I’ve played sports my whole life. And I’ve I knew that I wanted to be in healthcare, I knew that I wanted to help people get better. Honestly, what better job than athletic training to get to help people and you get to be around sports all the time.”

Balancing school, work and then volleyball on top of that in the fall left Clough short on time for much else, but she would have it no other way. Clough has learned a lot about herself during the highs and lows of being an athletic trainer aid.

“It was tough at first [the athletes] kind of felt like they could just ask me to do whatever and then I would do it,” she said. “I learned how to stand my ground without being mean. And honestly, the friendships and stuff I’ve built through this experience have been really, really good.”

As she heads into her final few months in her role, Clough can’t help but reflect on how rewarding an experience this has been already. LaGrange High is family for Clough and it means everything to put her heart and soul into these athletes.

“Seeing athletes truly want to get better and go from getting their sport taken away from them for a certain amount of time and then return while being a part of them getting better makes me feel like I’ve done something,” Clough said.