Athletic training gives students hands-on experience

Fans refer to them as waterboys and watergirls, but they do more than just push Gatorade.

Athletic training students work daily to prepare for their future careers by participating in a four-year training program, Chris Hall, director of sports medicine said.

Hall said he works with over 435 student athletes, in addition to athletic training students, and helps coordinate the clinical aspect of the program in order to make sure students get the correct hands-on experience. Hall said that as a graduate of the university’s athletic training program himself, he is able to see the benefits it provides to undergraduate students.

The athletic training program collaborates with the athletic department and the classroom to provide an educational program ensuring the future of the athletic training profession, Hall said. The university is one of 17 athletic training education programs in Texas, Hall said. He said TCU sets itself apart from other schools because of the great interaction between the academic and athletic departments.

“TCU has a really unique program…we are one of the few that actually provide a four-year clinical education program,” Hall said.

During the four-year program, faculty prepare students to work at the professional, high school and collegiate levels. Students are assigned to a clinical instructor at the beginning of the program in order to gain field experience and work with them throughout their completion of the program, according the athletic training Web site.

Lauren Harmon, freshman athletic training major, has worked with the Horned Frog football, basketball and baseball teams this year. She said she chose the TCU program because of the hands-on experience she could get as a freshman.

Harmon said that other programs do not give their students hands-on experience until the end of their sophomore year.

Hall said sophomores rotate between local high school athletic departments and juniors work with physical therapists at the Ben Hogan Institute at Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth. He said students spend time with the team physician and team orthopedist during their senior year.

Brett Stephenson, a junior athletic training major, went through his high school rotation working with athletic trainers at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth.

Stephenson said he learned how to tape and evaluate injuries, practice rehabilitation and multiple therapeutic exercises that he practices on university student athletes.
“It helped us get a perspective on the high school setting of athletic training,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson said he will be more independent his senior year because seniors diagnose general medical conditions and learn things that are on the non-orthopedic side of athletic training.

Athletic training students also manage the travel and transportation needs of sports teams. Hall said that moving a football team halfway across the country is not an easy task.

“Fortunately for us, we’re lucky enough that we’ve got the 18-wheeler, and we throw everything but the kitchen sink inside,” Hall said.

Making sure the athletic trainers are prepared is another task. It is important the trainers are ready to handle most problems that are going to happen during the course of any competition, Hall said.

Elmer Brown, former head athletic trainer for the university, created the program at the university. Brown was the first athletic trainer at the university and served the program for 27 years, from 1950-1977 according to GoFrogs.com.

Hall said Brown thought it was really important for students to get as much exposure for what they have to do day in and day out. He said Brown worked hard to make sure students serving in the program were exposed to as much as possible.

The athletic training program has not deviated from Brown’s mission statement and still exposes students to the necessary hands-on experience. Following this mission statement is a big selling point for the education program, Hall said.

Students leave the program with the capability to handle professional situations courageously and work in multiple types of situations, Hall said. The overall goal of the department is to produce good professionals and maintain the strong reputation the program has developed, he said.