Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bringing an Athletic Trainer Position to Your High School: Getting Started

If you are the parent of a child who participates in organized sports at their high school you want to know who is taking care of your kid from a health and safety standpoint.  A4IA (and other research) has shown that person should be an athletic trainer.  If your child’s school already employs an athletic trainer then that is good news for your child, your school, all of the other student athletes.  This is also good news all of the student athletes from other schools that come to your school for some type of game or competition who will have access to a medical professional if the need arises.  If your child’s school does not employ an athletic trainer then as a parent you should be not asking, but demanding that the school find a way to have an athletic trainer available for all student athletes.

An athletic trainer’s educational background and scope of practice is not the focus of this blog post.  For that information please go to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association website, the Board of Certification, Inc. website or to to find out more about the athletic training profession.  These websites have the complete listing of all educational requirements necessary to become an athletic trainer as well as provide a summary of the skills an athletic trainer possesses.  In this blog post I intend provide the tools necessary for a parent, coach, administrator, or someone else a framework to propose the addition of an athletic trainer to the high school (or district) staff.

The most important resource for anyone who is proposing an athletic training position be added at their school is the Position Proposal Guide developed by the NATA Secondary School Athletic Trainers Committee. This document provides resources that a person should have to before they speak with representatives of a school district.  As a parent (or anyone else initiating the proposal) take some time to go through this document and that way you will be able to make a more articulate argument for the addition of an athletic trainer.  NOTE:  This guide, originally published in 2002 is currently being updated, as the timeline for the new guide becomes available, we'll let you know.

It is critical for parents (or others) who are proposing adding additional staff go through the chain of command when speaking to various school and district representatives.  While it seems like you should start at the top of the food chain and go straight to the school board that usually is not the best plan.  Going through the chain of command may take a little longer, but it helps the parent gauge the support level of each person.  Once the parent knows what the level of support is and what the concerns of each individual in the chain are it is much easier to formulate a lucid argument and address concerns of all parties regarding the addition of an athletic trainer.
The decision-making chain of command in school districts usually goes something along the lines of head coach, athletic director, HS Administration, District Administration, and finally the School Board.  Skipping steps in the chain of command can lead to alienating the people that were skipped.  This alienation can lead to potential opponents to your proposal.  To maximize the potential for success it is important to build relationships with as many allies as possible.  Promote the positives and address concerns.
When speaking with any of people in the chain of command the parent (or other advocate) should try to schedule appointment with the person/administrator so that there is designated, uninterrupted time to spend discussing the proposal.  Whether or not that person is approachable and willing to talk to you at an event or at a chance meeting in the community, sitting down in a quiet office and talking face-to-face is still the best approach.  Scheduling a one-on-one meeting gives you the best opportunity to provide a clear, concise rationale for your request and provide current, accurate information without being interrupted, distracted or having others present who provide confusing or inaccurate information.  Speaking face-to-face in a scheduled appointment will allow the administrator you are meeting with to focus solely on you, ask questions, and take notes.

Once your meeting is scheduled, you must be prepared.  Collect, organize and review the necessary data and information before you go to the meeting and be sure to bring it with you to the meeting.  Providing hard copies of key information you’d like to leave with the administrator(s) may be highly useful.  You need to make a clear argument about why it is that the school should have an athletic trainer (use the position proposal guide!).  You should also emphasize the position needs to be a dedicated staff position (this should connect to why an AT is best for the job) with a specific role: to deal with the prevention, treatment, care, and rehabilitation of the injuries suffered by the student athletes at the school.  In 2013 most people you connect with will agree that an athletic trainer should be available for all student athletes.  Unfortunately, these same people will often argue that, “We would love to have an athletic trainer, but we just can’t afford it.”  Do not let them make that argument and have the meeting end.  It is critical that you as the parent (or other advocate) do some research so that you can refute the lack of finances argument.  Potential arguments to refute this claim can range from providing creative options to pay for the position (find out what comparable schools in your area and state are doing) to demonstrating that the costs for the positions are heavily outweighed by the benefits in terms of improved healthcare, safety and decreased liability.  When using other schools as examples it is important that they are similar to your school in size, sport offerings and budget so that your argument is that much more compelling.
Hopefully, as you meet with each school representative they will agree with your request and forward it to the next person in the chain of command, ultimately leading to a proposal before the school board.  In reality it is likely that you will face some resistance as you move through the proposal process well before it reaches the school board.  If the person you meet with does not share your view that the district should hire an athletic trainer, then be clear that this is not a request that you will give up on and let them know that you will continue to pursue it with a different person.  This may be where it is important to have the support of others who have vested interest in having an athletic trainer (especially parents).
Remember that the wheels of progress often move very slowly in the education world.  Adding staff is not something that schools do very often, so it may take some time.  As a parent of a student in a school without an athletic trainer you should look it at as your responsibility to provide the district with a compelling argument to add an athletic trainer.  The old adage is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  If you can make a strong argument to the decision-makers in a school district then they will have to consider and hopefully act on your request.
Post submitted by guest blogger, Michael Carroll.  Head Athletic Trainer at Stephenville HS, Stephenville, Texas.


1 comment:

  1. A4IA, I am speechless. As an athletic trainer, I like to think that I have a voice and that it is heard. However, when a non-athletic trainer speaks up for me, I become, well, speechless. Your voice for athletic trainers is greatly appreciated. Thank you for allowing Mr. Carroll the opportunity to guest blog for A4IA.


    Jamie K. Woodall