PLAINVIEW – In the world of athletics, one group that typically goes unnoticed is the athletic trainers. These are the people who work behind the scenes with the athletes to help optimize their performance and prevent and treat injuries as needed.
With an ever present need for additional, qualified trainers, Wayland Baptist University dove into this field of study a year ago, adding a pre-license in athletic training specialization to the Division of Exercise and Sports Science.
The university hired a full-time athletic trainer, Jason Pirkey, a year ago who has worked throughout the year to get the program established. In its first year of existence, Pirkey had handful of students registered for the program.
Not only is Pirkey responsible for keeping all of Wayland’s athletes healthy, but he teaches much of the course work that goes along with the program. Students majoring in exercise and sports science must complete 30 hours of coursework, along with 1,800 hours of hands-on experience in the training room. Students are required to work 300 hours in the training room per semester for five semesters. Pirkey said it’s not easy.
“In order to get your 300 hours a semester, outside of studying and classroom work, it is basically a full-time job,” he said.
Pirkey said students will get hands-on experience with the athletes as they complete varying degrees of competency within the program. He said students begin by simply observing, then move on once a certain skill level is mastered.
“I have a check-off sheet with probably 15 different tape jobs,” he said. “I show them how to do it. Once they practice it enough I will sign off on it and they are approved to tape the athletes.”
Students then move on to a skill set dealing with ultrasound, electrical stimulation, whirlpool, heat packs and things of that nature.
“They deal with different temperatures and when to use them, how to use them, why to use them and why not to use them,” Pirkey said. “What the trainers do is sit down with me. I will ask them about ultrasound and they will tell me everything they know.”
Once students have shown proficiency with that skill set, they are approved to perform certain tasks in the training room.
The next step is for trainers to become evaluators. This allows them to actually evaluate injuries when they occur and gives them the authority to treat the injuries on the spot. Pirkey said once a student reaches this proficiency level, he will allow them to work more closely with the teams and he will oversee their work and make sure they don’t miss anything in the evaluation process. Once students reach this level, he said, they will become extremely valuable to the athletic department. The ideal situation will be to have one or two evaluators for each team throughout the year.
Once a student completes the necessary requirements, they are qualified to take the Texas licensure exam. If they pass this exam, they will be licensed to work as an athletic trainer in the state of Texas. In order to be licensed nationally, student will have to complete the equivalent of a master’s degree at an accredited institution. Once those hours are completed, the student will be eligible for the national exam.
While athletic training can be a personally rewarding career, Pirkey knows it is not for everybody.
“You have to love what you are doing,” he said. “Especially with the hours that are required.”