By Mary Catherine Sikes – Class of 2010

It’s Day 3 of NATM, and I wanted to talk today about why I became an athletic trainer (more specifically a high school athletic trainer). When I was in high school, I was that annoying track kid that gets random injuries that aren’t significant, but because of that, I got to spend some time with Jody Burnett in Tattnall’s training room. Even though I was slightly terrified of him, I instantly fell in love with his job, and my senior year I decided to take his sports medicine class. I spent every moment that I could in the training room, at practices, and at games. I got to school at 5:30 in the morning for football camp, ran to the training room after football games to help ice (I was drum major, so I couldn’t help during games). I knew what I wanted to do with my future, and with the help of his Georgia College students, I knew where I would start my education to pursue my new dream.

It was more than just enjoying being in the setting, though. In class, we learned about injuries and life threatening conditions that athletes face. I learned about high school athletes who died in practices and in games; many of them did not have an athletic trainer at their school. They didn’t have someone to fight for their health; they didn’t have someone trained to intervene when things went wrong. As a senior in high school, I couldn’t understand why. Why would schools NOT want someone there every day to protect their kids? Why did some coaches feel like the health of their student athletes was less important than a win or a championship? I knew at that point that I wanted to work in a setting where I could really protect kids and advocate for them on every level.

That last year of high school, I learned the importance of having an athletic trainer, but the summer after, I learned that this profession is magical. Still not wanting to miss a second or opportunity, I decided to help out with spring football and summer workouts. I got to see my first surgery and help with the rehab process. Then, something remarkable happened. I saw this athlete play in his first game since having surgery. It’s a weird feeling to explain. There was a lot of excitement and maybe more nervousness, but it was one of the best feelings in the world. I still get that feeling with every athlete I see return to the sport they love. There is something special about helping someone through every tear, every new step, every first run or jump. It’s a rollercoaster ride with ups and downs. But when I see athletes take the field knowing every set back, every heartbreak, every doubt they had, I remember exactly why I chose my profession. It’s pure magic.