Athletic trainers perform entirely different tasks than personal trainers do.
When many people hear the term “athletic trainer,” they think of someone in the gym coaching clients through workouts. As trainers like Jasmine Griffin will tell you, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The athletic trainer is a valuable resource for any sports team in the world — a medically-trained professional whose duties are closer in theory to a field medic than a P90X guru. Griffin, a trainer with Select Physical Therapy in Plant City, started working with Plant City High School’s athletes this school year.
Learning the Ropes is an educational series for high school students, college students or adults who wish to work in the sports world. Not everyone can be an all-star pro athlete, but there are plenty of ways to work in the sports you love.
People often get your job confused with that of a personal trainer. What do you do?
One of them is a medical professional. The other, you can get your certification online. I’m a medical professional, I went to school for it. What athletic trainers do, we specialize in emergency response. Acute care ranging from something as simple as an ankle sprain to an open tibial fracture, and we know how to respond to that. Basically emergency response, evaluations, diagnoses, therapeutic intervention and exercise prescription. I do know how to give a particular athlete or patient a regimen that they can utilize…but I’m more on the “OK, this is what happened to you and this is how we’re gonna go about fixing you and getting you back to good health.”
How did you get your start?
It actually started in high school. I was playing basketball. I used to play four sports. I sprained my ankle in basketball practice. I was going up for a layup, driving to the basket and I went up and came down, literally, on my ankle. I was wincing in pain. I opened my eyes and saw the athletic trainer running with his arms open. He picked me up and brought me to the athletic training room. I was sitting on the table looking around at all the posters, and there was the skeletal system and the muscular system, all these words I could not pronounce, but I was like, “I love it. What do I do?” I looked at the best athletic training programs in Florida…and I saw USF was the best program, and I put all my eggs in one basket.
How long did you stay in USF’s program? How long do students typically spend in these college programs?
Typically, athletic training programs across the country are about three years. USF’s was a little bit accelerated, so it was two.
Did you have to complete any internships while in college?
Technically the clinical rotations are like your internship. The different rotations range from working in the physical therapy clinics to working in professional settings.
What’s something you wish you knew ahead of time when you first got into the field?
Probably a little bit more experience with time management, I suppose. Once you get into the program, they recommend that you don’t have a job. You go to classes and clinicals every day. It’s really important to make sure you section away that time to study because you’re learning about the human body, so you have to really focus on what you’re learning and practice that…I think in high school, if I would have managed my time a little bit better I probably would have had a little bit easier time in college. The program is very hard.
What does your schedule typically look like?
Working in the secondary setting, I usually get here (PCHS) around 1 to 2 o’clock in the afternoon, before the last periods of the day. That’s technically my treatment hours. If any of the kids had any injuries or anything like that and questions, they can come and see me before school ends. Typically from about 1 o’clock to, on game days, to whenever the games end around 9:30…on normal practice days, from 1 o’clock to maybe 6:30.
You’re the only athletic trainer at PCHS, so you cover a lot of ground with all of the sports. How do you balance your work when you can sometimes have multiple sports playing games at the same time, like softball and baseball?
We typically break it down to which sport is the most “catastrophic,” in a sense. So, the higher incidents of injury. Typically I stay out with soccer, just because of the nature of it. There’s a little bit more contact allowed in the sport. But how I do it, I just kind of separate my time so I’ll stay out there for a half for soccer, then come in for the latter half in basketball just to make sure the coaches know I’m here. If they need anything, if anything happens that I need to respond to, they always know where to find me.
What’s the experience of being called to action like? I’ve heard trainers say they get “tunnel vision” for the task at hand.
It’s kind of like a split-brain moment for me, at least. One half, I’m like “Oh my God, I hope they’re OK.” The other half, I have to be completely calm. I don’t want to say “blank out,” but I have to keep an open mind for what I’m about to see. I don’t know if I’m going to see someone that’s unconscious on the field or if it’s someone that just caught a cramp.
What are three personality traits someone should have for your line of work?
Open-mindedness, discipline and tenacity, for sure. You have to just go after it with everything that you do.
What’s been the most rewarding experience for you?
The relationships that I form with everybody. I value the pictures (students) draw for me, things they say, even just a “thank you for being here.”