By Rachel Kearney
In the world of athletics, injuries are inevitable. Athletes break bones, tear muscles and ligaments, and get concussions, just to name a few. Yet for this reason, there is a group of individuals that is vital to any team and yet is often overlooked.
They are athletic trainers. Olivet not only has hired athletic trainers, but also 16 students studying to make a career of treating athletes.
“It’s a really good program,” said senior athletic training major Micah Gerhart. “Because of the way I was taught, I know I’ll be successful in my future endeavors.”
Gerhart added that Olivet’s program is well ahead of other undergrad programs, particularly because of its facilities, equipment and connections with the Chicago Bears and Oak Orthopedics. Gerhart personally has worked with Oak during his time here and will intern with the Bears this summer.
The athletic training program begins students’ sophomore year, after they go through an application process at the end of their freshman year, according to junior Alyssa Wilkins.
Their sophomore year is focused on learning through observation, as they shadow older students, graduate assistants or approved clinical instructors (ACIs). They have four six-week rotations during which they work with a specific trainer and team.
After spending a year observing, students are then assigned 12-week rotations with two specific sports during their junior and senior years. They are responsible for taking care of the team they are assigned to, which includes anything from taping ankles to designing rehabilitation programs for individual injured athletes.
Wilkins explained that students are able to do more as they are tested in certain skills. By their senior year they are able to do almost everything necessary to treat athletes. She also said each student is assigned to the football team (which requires the biggest time commitment out of all Olivet sports) at least once during their time at Olivet.
For Gerhart, one of the best parts of his education was the hands-on approach the faculty takes.
“I got to learn in the classroom and then do what I had learned that afternoon,” he said.
The work these students put into their education does not go unnoticed by Olivet athletes.
“I love them; they’re great,” said junior soccer player Kelsey Warp. “They help athletes on the road to recovery.”
Senior tennis player Billy Ratthahao agreed.
“They really know what they’re doing,” he said.
It is helping athletes like Warp and Ratthahao that makes the work of trainers like Gerhart and Wilkins most rewarding.
“I want to get up every day and do something I love,” Gerhart said. “One of my favorite parts is being able to help athletes get back to where they were before they got hurt and have success.”
For Wilkins, who felt God calling her to athletic training after a serious injury in high school and saw her trainers’ work firsthand, athletic training is also about relationships.
“You get to meet so many people and be there for them when they’re most vulnerable,” she said. “We’re more than just ice bags.”