YPC Blog - Michigan Athletic Trainers Society (MATS)

YPC Blog

Welcome to the YPC Blog! 

Members of the YPC have offered insight into the common struggles that are often faced during your first few years as professionals. Even for the most experienced professionals, everyone will benefit by taking the time to read through these stories and reflect upon their own careers.

NATM 2018 CELEBRITY Blog Series

NATM18Blog #1: Wisdom by Alma College Head Softball Coach and former Head Athletic Trainer, Dennis Griffin

NATM18Blog #2: Supporting Our Fellow Athletic Trainers in Times of Crisis: NATA ATs Care Peer-to-Peer Support System by Concordia University's Timothy Neal

NATM18Blog #3: Mentorship: It's a Two Way Street by Assistant Director of Medical Services at Western Michigan University, Sarah Mcbrien

NATM 2017 CELEBRITY Blog Series

NATM17Blog #1: Volunteerism by former MATS President, Bill Shinavier

NATM17Blog #2: Taking a Risk to Achieve Professional Success by Alma College Head Athletic Trainer, Brett Knight

NATM17Blog #3: Small Town Challenges by MATS Upper Peninsula Representative, Mark Stonerock

NATM17Blog #4: Resisting Compassion Fatigue in Athletic Training by NATA Vice President, Tory Lindley

YPC Blog18

Blog18 #1: Transition from Graduate Assistant to Post-Graduate Internship: The Importance of Taking it ALL in by Sarah McBrien

Blog18 #2: Never Stop Looking for a New Mentor by Catherine (Newman) Boerner

YPC Blog17

Blog #1: Success from Failure by Catherine Newman

Blog #2: Transition to Untraditional Setting by Victoria Vintevoghel

Blog #3: Transition from Student to Graduate Assistant: Why Communication is so Important by Sarah McBrien

Blog #4: The Importance of a Mentor as a Young Professional by Marcus Smithson

Blog #5: Getting What You Want: How Not to Get Discouraged with Your First Job by Anthony Polazzo

Blog #6: Work-Life Balance & Time Management by Dan Meier

NEW!! NATM18Blog #3: Mentorship: It’s a Two Way Street

I have plenty of mentors that I have claimed over the years. I could write a novel about all of the advice, guidance, support, positivity, overwhelming knowledge, and how grateful I am to have them in my life.  It would probably be pretty boring for you as my audience, but I could seriously write a piece just about the people who have supported me along the way as my mentors.  No worries, that is not what I am going to write about today. Instead, I would like to shed light on the fact that as a mentor you can learn a lot as well from the relationship with your mentee just as much as they are learning from you.

I’m sure there are several previous students of mine throughout the years that consider me their mentor (or at least they better!!!).  One in particular (the one in the picture), Lauren Stachura (who JUST PASSED HER BOC BY THE WAY!!!!!), has given me motivation to be better.  She doesn’t know it, well now maybe if she is reading this, but this woman is a ball of energy.  She is passionate, she is excited to learn, she’s excited to be wherever it is that she’s at, and she wants to be the best she can be.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen her without a smile on her face.  I cannot say this about myself, especially after the season we had this past year…

She is what I believe we need to have more of in this profession,… and better yet, in this world.  She has taught me that regardless of the criticism or stress you come to face in any given day, you keep moving forward, and you do it with a smile on your face.  You get to choose your attitude every day, every hour, every minute, every second.  This choice of attitude can dictate SO MUCH!  It sets the tone of your athletic training room, it helps uplift patients you come in contact with, and it motivates others to do the same!  It happens everywhere she goes!  I’ve witnessed it and it is an amazing thing to watch.  It always sparks my inner fire a little more to be better, be positive, be creative, be more caring, be more empathetic, and I could go on!

Mentees are just as important for mentors.  Each one brings something new to the table, each one is unique, and each one should be recognized just as much as any mentor because the relationship is a two-way street.  In this picture Lauren and I are going through manual therapy techniques, she is checking my sacrum to see if I have any dysfunctions and then we talked through the troubleshooting of how to go about fixing or correcting these dysfunctions.  Yes, we are posed, but we did this often, and she never flinched to ask questions even when she was nervous.  Another great example that I think more of us could learn from. 

Lauren has been considered to be one of our top students, and at least from my observation, this has never gone to her head.  She continues to ask questions and rely on her mentors, resources, and colleagues to come to the best plan of care for the student-athletes her and I worked with.  Moral of the story (one that more of us could work on): no matter who you are or how great people say you are, always continue to learn. Ask questions, stimulate others that are around you so you can make the best decisions and care plans for your patients.  Never be too proud, you will only limit and isolate yourself by doing so.

So I guess I could write about Lauren and my other mentees just as much as my mentors… Woops!! It’s easy to do when you respect a mentee as much as they respect you.  I know Lauren has been a huge supporter of me and my transition of position, probably more than I know as well.  It is because of my mentees that I take steps back to evaluate myself and strategize how I can be better, and not just as a professional.  No, no no.  It spills into my personal life too, how can I be better for myself?  If I’m not good to myself, how can I be a great professional and motivate my student-athletes? 

I feel like I’m starting to ramble, so just remember: mentees, you teach us mentors more than you know and are appreciated just as much.  And mentors, it goes without saying way too often that you are a huge part in the future of our profession.  Without your support and guidance towards your mentees, our profession would crumble, we always need to be uplifting the next generation for the livelihood of our future as a profession.  It does not go unnoticed.  You are greatly appreciated for all of your efforts! 

Of course I have to give a shout out to Lauren who allowed me to write this piece. I am so proud of you.  Never lose your energy girl!!!! You are contagious and motivational to those around you.  I don’t care what anybody says, you are going to take the world by storm whether we like it or not! I cannot wait for you to continue your journey!  Keep doing you, because that is what makes you awesome!

Written by Sarah McBrien, MS, AT, ATC

NATM18Blog #2: Supporting Our Fellow Athletic Trainers in Times of Crisis: NATA ATs Care Peer-to-Peer Support Program

A certified athletic trainer and an athletic training student at a school in Michigan have just been involved in a medical emergency with one of their student-athletes. The student-athlete was severely injured in practice, and despite having an effective EAP and protocols in place, and the appropriate emergency care rendered by the certified athletic trainer and athletic training student, the student-athlete passes away later at the hospital.

In a small town in rural Michigan, a certified athletic trainer has just saved the life of a coach with the quick use of an AED. While being commended for her work, the certified athletic trainer is noticing that she is not “quite right” with their emotions and struggles at times dealing with student-athletes, coaches, and family without losing her temper.

In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a certified athletic trainer’s spouse has just passed away after battling a terminal disease. The certified athletic trainer is entering the grieving process while trying to juggle work responsibilities.

All of the above are examples of critical incidents (CI). Critical incidents, as defined by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF), are unusually challenging events that have the potential to create significant human distress and can overwhelm one’s usual coping mechanisms.1 Critical incidents can range from deaths and permanent disabilities occurring to athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, and staff, to personal incidents such as the death of a family member or disaster such as losing one’s house in a fire.

CI can cause stress that may lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or otherwise negatively affect the personal and professional life of the AT who has experienced a CI. It is normal to experience emotional reaction to a CI, and some may need assistance in processing these new and overwhelming emotions. This is where an ATs Care member, an AT trained in critical incident stress management, can be of immense help to a fellow AT in the aftermath of a CI in their professional or personal lives.

As discovered in proving assistance following critical incidents occurring in law enforcement and fire-rescue departments, providing trained peer-to-peer support is an effective approach in offering psychological first aid in the aftermath of a CI. Training in critical incident stress management (CISM) is an essential element in providing peer-to-peer support. The ICISF has teamed up with the NATA in providing training in CISM to athletic trainers in order to provide effective peer-to-peer support to fellow ATs in the aftermath of CI. A study conducted by the NATA found that 82% of members surveyed felt they were not prepared to deal with psychological impact of catastrophic events.2 The NATA Board of Directors approved the development of peer-to-peer support program and established the ATs Care Committee. This committee is the result of the vision for peer support by past NATA president Jim Thornton, MA, ATC, PES. Under the leadership of committee chair Dave Middlemas, PhD, ATC, ATs Care has provided peer-to-peer support for fellow ATs in over 200 critical incidents nation-wide since its inception. Perry D. Denehy, MEd, ATC, EMT-I, is the District Four representative to the ATs Care Committee.

How does ATs Care help fellow athletic trainers? Below are some of the key areas of the ATs Care program.2

  • Education: Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM). Provide athletic trainers and collegiate athletic training students with educational materials about critical incidents, post-traumatic stress and the effects of each in the workplace and in one’s personal life.

  • Training. Offer training in CISM through the ICISF to ATs and athletic training students at national, district and potentially state meetings and create a network of athletic trainers trained in psychological first aid.

  • Post-event Assessment. Provide psychological and emotional support to athletic trainers through phone calls, on-scene assessment support, demobilization intervention, post-incident defusing or one-on-one interaction, group debriefings and follow-up.

Caring for patients is the primary responsibility of athletic trainers. However, caring for fellow ATs following a critical incident is also the responsibility of the profession. To help address the emotional and mental well-being of ATs during their time of need is an important goal of the NATA, ATs Care, and all athletic trainers in the state of Michigan. If you would like to be involved in this valuable program, please go to https://www.nata.org/membership/about-membership/member-resources/ats-care.


  1. International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. Ellicott City, MD.

  2. https://www.nata.org/membership/about-membership/member-resources/ats-care

Written by Timothy Neal, MS, AT, ATC, CCISM


NATM18 Blog #1: Wisdom

As I approach the final leg of my professional career I have been asked by the MATS YP committee to share my wisdom and thoughts. After 35 years of collegiate experience in the fields of athletic training, administration, coaching, advising, mentoring, and teaching at the NCAA Division III level here a few points I have learned along the way.

1. The field of athletic training is a wonderful and exciting profession. Many of my fondest memories and accomplishments revolve around the excitement of seeing a player return to play after an injury. Watching a senior play in their final game when they thought the season was over being the reason we are in this profession. As the AT you will create life-long bonds with students and have a large impact during their college years. You are the one person many athletes open up to during their time of need. When alumni return to campus and relive the memories of their athletic career, it is very common they say thank you for all your hard work and dedication to their health and well-being.

2. It is important to continue to face new challenges, embrace change, and most important to keep learning. The day you pass the BOC exam is a time of celebration but it is nothing more than a license to keep learning. It is imperative you attend state, regional, and national conferences. Not only to keep up with your CEUs but to keep learning and avoid becoming stale. Whenever I attend a conference my goal is to learn one new idea from each presentation. The field of medicine continues to change, evolve, and improve. It is imperative athletic trainers stay at the forefront of the medical changes. As part of the 2018 MATS Professional Education Conference the Pre-Conference clinic topic is “Suturing Techniques in Athletic Training”. The thought of Athletic Trainers being able to suture wounds on the sidelines is exciting. I have a feeling applying Intravenous Therapy is not very far behind.

3. Get involved in the profession either locally, state or national committees. By serving you will not only add to the field of AT but in the process you will grow as a professional. You will develop leadership, organizational, and personal skills and in the process increase your networking net which will assist you in your next job search.

4. One of the current topics in the profession is the idea of Work/Life Balance. Over the past 35 years I believe this concept is one of the main reasons athletic trainers leave the profession. When I started as a college athletic trainer I was in my job I loved. I took care of the athletes as best as I could. The only problem was there was only three athletic trainers for 20 sports. They were called me, myself, and I. Days were long but I had a purpose and the athletes appreciated my help. This was fine when I was young and single. However, when the family came along is when the Work/Life Balance issues begin to surface. As a family we made it work. Kids came to practice and games until they began their own activities. So what did I learn from these early years?

  •  It is OK to say NO to coaches who change practice plans at the last moment and you have family plans. I believe it is in our genetic makeup as an Athletic Trainer that we believe we “have” to be at every practice. Schedule time for the family. Your children are only young once.

  • Schedule some "ME" time into your day. I used to have AT room hours from 8-12 and open at 2 pm for practices. The 12-2 time was Denny Time. This was my time to work out and recharge my batteries. If you don’t schedule YOUR time someone else will take it from you. I continue to have Denny Time from Noon to 2 pm. My softball players know I will not be in my office during that time.

  • How long do you have to do treatments after practice and on the weekends. I have asked this question to many of my colleagues. Why do we come in on Saturdays if you in a High School setting or on Sunday’s in the college setting to give treatments to the football players? But yet we do not do this for any other sport during the year. I did it as well during my career but wondering if I really needed to break up my Sunday for the handful of individuals. Something to think about.

  • Many AT staffs now include more than the Me, Myself, and I type of staffs. I encourage all ATs to discuss how the athletes are best served. When family activities are scheduled, come up solutions to share the coverage of practices and games.


Lastly I want to share one of my favorite Poems by Linda Ellis about what you will do in your career, life, or Your Dash.


The Dash

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.  For that dash represents all the time that they spent alive on earth. And now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars, the house, the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash. So, think about this long and hard. Are there you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that can still be arranged.

If we could just slow down enough to consider what’s true and real and always try to understand the way other people feel. And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile, remembering that this special dash might only last a little while. So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent YOUR DASH?

Written by Dennis Griffin, EdD, AT, ATC

Blog18 #2 Never Stop Looking for a New Mentor

Did you know that January is National Mentoring Month? If you go to the website mentoring.org, there are materials that explain the research-backed statistics that show having a mentor can help individuals realize their potential and help them thrive. In the world of Athletic Training, there is little research regarding this topic but recently published in 2016 was an article titled “Athletic Training Students’ Perceptions of Mentorship in Clinical Education” from the Athletic Training Education Journal. The conclusion: Mentoring was perceived to be an advantageous aspect of the socialization process for the athletic training student. In other words, without a mentor you are putting you and your career at an immediate disadvantage!

The majority of people when asked “Who is your mentor” can think of at least one person that rises to the top. This of course depends on which stage of your career you are currently in or how many moves you’ve had to make. To one person it might be a parent or grandparent, to another it might be a professor or coach. If you’re lucky like myself, you cannot pick just one. I attribute a great deal of my success to the many mentors that have helped me along the way. I am going to highlight why I believe it is so critical throughout the course of your career to have more than one mentor and why you should never stop looking for a new one.

For many, your parents are likely the first mentors you have in life. They teach you the fundamentals of being a human. Even if it was an aunt, uncle or even a grandparent, if you were like me, you believed anything they told you to be true.  That is, until you got to kindergarten. How is it that everyone ties their shoes differently? You mean my parents are going to be with me forever? Lucky for you, you are forced upon a new mentor in your Kindergarten teacher. They teach you how to act in school, to accept everyone for who they are, and try their best to fuel your creativity. In other words, along with your parents, they are the “advantageous aspect of your socialization process.”

I use this analogy because it is so closely related to the transition for many young professionals. Freshman college students are like kindergarteners. They don’t realize how big the world is until they step out of what they already know. You get to college and you learn all about your major for the first time. Your professors, like your parents, are responsible for teaching you your first perspective of everything related to your craft. Similar to thinking at one time that your father was a superhero, you may have gravitated toward one particular professor and told yourself, “I want to be just like them one day”. Once again, if you were like me, you thought everything they said and did was the coolest thing since sliced bread. That is, until you got to grad school. Once again, you are surprised how differently everyone learns how to “tie their shoes”. In Athletic Training, this can easily be related to taping an ankle, evaluating a shoulder, or developing your first athletic training facility. Each of your classmates had their own mentors, who taught them the best way to do everything, and yet, we all call ourselves athletic trainers. We take a piece from each other we appreciate and hope to create something special. Like learning to tie your shoes, we have to remind ourselves that these skills were at one time very difficult, but it was all made easier once we stopped to ask for help.

In the professional world, we come to learn there is more than one way to accomplish the same goal but we have to remain open minded to this very fact we often forget. As I transition my professional role from mentee to mentor, I am constantly reminded that I am far from knowing it all. I have molded into a combination of all of my mentors in life, but I still have plenty to learn. It is for this very reason that I can never stop looking for a new mentor. The key that I have come to realize, however, is that this person can come into my life at any time and in any age, shape, or form. I just have to remain open minded to learning new things and continue listening to different perspectives without feeling like I have to respond. Eventually I might become as good as an athletic trainer I aspired to be and be able to figure out this thing we call life.

Written by Catherine (Newman) Boerner MS, AT, ATC 

Blog18 #1 Transition from Graduate Assistant to Certified Internship: The Importance of Taking it ALL in

So far in your journey you have transitioned from undergraduate student to graduate student. You may have thought you grew out of that awkward phase of middle school, but now you get to embark upon an entirely NEW awkward phase. This phase is filled with questions of where to go next. Do you continue to be a grad student or attempt a full time athletic training position, OR like me, maybe you are considering a Certified Internship. Note: Many institutions have transitioned to use the term ‘Fellowship’ and this is evolving even more as I am typing this piece. At the time, I was a firm believer that if you can survive grad school, while operating as a, “graduate assistant athletic trainer,” you should be able to land a job anywhere. Although I still believe this to be true, it is not the reality for everyone. This can be frustrating depending on what you want to do and where you want to go next. The reality is that sometimes a 1-year Internship/Fellowship can elevate you to the next level, putting you, like myself, in a better position than you would have been fresh out of Graduate School. I know I was, and I am very thankful for that.

The beginning of my post-grad experience was very bitter-sweet for me. Like many of you, I hold myself to a pretty high expectation. I truly thought I was ready for ANY full time position, in the Division I Collegiate setting no less. The reality is that there were a lot of skills that I needed to build upon before I could truly be successful, communication being one of them. Communication is always the top priority. No matter where you go or who you are with, communication will back you up every time. Face to face conversation is always preferred, but the reality is that it is not always available. It might have to be an email, text message, or phone call but the truth of the matter is that communication is a skill that you have to constantly work on. One promise I have to you is that if you commit to making communication your number one priority, you will become successful.

Alright, so I am a Post-Graduate Intern and despite my two years of practice, I have figured out that all I need to work on is communication? Wrong. The reality is that despite having two years of professional experience, most athletic trainers’ skills remain under developed. Lucky for me, I was at an institution that wanted to introduce me to new skills AND refine my current ones. When I was in Grad School I was heavy on the modalities, neglecting hands on manual therapy techniques. Although I had a lot of autonomy during that time, it did not provide the best environment to develop manual therapy, probably because I was trying to figure everything else out first. Once you can perfect the easy stuff as a professional, you can spend more time on the more advanced skills. My Post-Graduate Internship provided the perfect environment to do just that. Today, Manual Therapy is what I base my practice around, and it is at large, if not completely, due to my internship experience. So, although I was stubborn about even considering a Post-Graduate Internship/Fellowship, I am here to tell that I would not be the Athletic Trainer I am today without my internship experience.  I am forever grateful for everything I learned and experienced during that time.

Lastly, I am only going to touch on one very imperative skill that can sometimes be forgotten. Teamwork. This is something that I thought, once again, I was very good at. I was always willing to volunteer when extra coverage was needed. This started in undergrad and still continues today - I love and enjoy helping out my colleagues!  However, in case you were wondering, this does not always fulfill the title of “team player”.  My Post-Graduate experience helped me to realize the support system that I was surrounded by. There was always someone willing to encourage me, help me develop, or include me in on after work activities. Although we were Interns, we were not treated like students, but as a part of the staff. There were gatherings, sporting events, you name it. To my demise, I attended maybe 50-60% of those opportunities.  

That’s right, OPPORTUNITIES. Looking back, I am most disappointed in myself for this particular part of the experience. These were not just the people that were going the extra mile to make sure I was supported; they were my new NETWORK. 50-60%!? What was I thinking!?  This is the part of “TAKE IT ALL IN” that I am trying to stress. Since this experience and my realization of missed opportunities to continue developing my network, I have since tried to do the same with the staff that I am a part of now. We are all in this together so why not create a similar environment? The more support we can offer each other in and outside of work, the better off we can be individually and as a profession. No matter which setting you are in, none of us are alone in our journeys! You have to be a part of your “work family”. Not only will this make you understand just how important teamwork is, it will affect your longevity and growth as a young professional in the profession of Athletic Training.  So soak it all in!!!!

Thank you for reading and sticking with me.  I hope this builds on my last piece, “Transition from Student to Graduate Assistant: Why Communication is so Important”.  There are so many things to take away from ALL of your experiences regardless of where you are at in your career.  Continue to take advantage of what your current situation has to offer you and run with it!  Never cease your education.  Always challenge yourself to learn more. These are all underlying take home points as well that I hope you have gathered from this piece.  I truly enjoy sharing my experiences even if it has only touched or helped ONE person, because you are not alone, we all share similarities and we are here to support and promote one another.  Please do not hesitate to contact me if you feel like you have something to relate with me or maybe need some help with the ins and outs of your journey.  I’m happy to help wherever I can! Feel free to email!

Written by Sarah McBrien MS, AT, ATC



NATMBLOG #1: Volunteerism

“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” — Unknown

According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, only 25% of adult Americans volunteered their time in 2013, the lowest rate in a decade1.  There are a number of reasons why people choose not to get involved in an organization or a cause.  Below are the most common reasons:

“I’m too busy” - Many of us work long days, early mornings/late evenings and rarely have a weekend off from our jobs.  Many of us have families, significant others, and children to care for outside of work.  “Me time” is a rarity if you are an AT.  While this statement may resonate with you, the young professional, it’s hard not to be impressed by those individuals in our profession who are successful in their jobs and life outside of work, yet still find the time and energy to contribute to their state, district or national organization!  It really comes down to time management.

“They don’t need me/someone else will do it” – The reality is there is much work to do in our state.  There are numerous sports safety issues in the secondary schools that are being/need to be addressed.  With the recent change in BCBSM supervision and the success of the pilot studies in Wisconsin and Indiana, the reimbursement issue is beginning to gain momentum.  There are a number of other items and projects that the MATS Board and its committees are tackling, all of which we as ATs stand to benefit from, and while the MATS leadership is a great group of hard-working professionals, they cannot be expected to do it all on their own and could very much use help from many of us.

 “I have nothing to offer” - Some don’t volunteer because they have an idealized view of those who do and feel they won’t measure up.  But the reality is, many of us who’ve served MATS have felt this way at some point.  I know I felt that way when I first got involved with the Sponsorships & Donations committee.  The reality is this:  Yes, it will be a learning process but you will grow into whatever role you choose and understand what’s involved - that’s true with any new position or role - but we see time and again, that “fresh blood” can add to the collective with new energy, ideas, thoughts or opinions.   You would be surprised to see what you have to offer to MATS and our profession!

“Nobody asked me” - This is the number one reason why people don’t volunteer.  Did you know that people are four times (!) more likely to get involved if asked?  This seems like a crazy stat, but the reality is knowing someone in the organization lessens the social fear/anxiety people feel when joining a new group.  You may think you don’t know anyone in the MATS leadership but we truly are a small “community” and the chances are pretty good that you will know someone somewhere along the line that is/was involved with MATS.  So don’t wait to be asked to serve but rather be proactive and seek out ways that you can contribute! 

Rather than thinking of reasons why you shouldn’t get involved, think of the reasons why you should!  People volunteer for a number of reasons: to support an organization or   cause, to develop personally or professionally, to feel better about themselves; and to meet people.   But the number one reason people volunteer is to “give back” and make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Michigan, there are approximately 1200 licensed Athletic Trainers, of which 800 are MATS members.  Of those 800, five serve as officers, five as regional reps, fourteen as committee chairs/co-chairs and a number of committee members.  That is approximately 50 people (6%) volunteering their time and energy to advance the profession in our state.  Not that each of you doesn’t do that on a daily basis through your work interactions with your patients, athletes, parents, coaches, administrators or physicians but there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done.  We should all feel called upon to contribute and there are a number of ways to do so.  It can be something as simple as contacting an officer to discuss an idea that you have or to understand and follow MATS activities/actions.  It may be as challenging as serving on a committee or as an officer.  It may be as unassuming as following state, district and national news and staying current on legislation, trends, etc.  I mentioned earlier that the number one reason people don’t get involved is because they weren’t asked.  While this isn’t an “ask” on my part, I would encourage you to push aside your reluctance to get involved and ask you to consider “giving back” to your profession.  I can promise that you won’t regret it but rather you will look back on the time spent/contribution made, knowing that you made a difference in the lives of others!

Written by Bill Shinavier, MS, AT, ATC, CSCS

Past President – Michigan Athletic Trainers Society



NATMBlog#2: Taking a Risk to Achieve Professional Success

It was early June 2012 and I was just wrapping up my second year as an Assistant Athletic Trainer in the collegiate setting, just two years after completing graduate school.  I found myself in the Head Athletic Trainer's office and she was explaining to me that she had accepted a new position.  Feeling a little surprised that she was leaving but happy for her next opportunity, the conversation quickly changed.  She proceeded to tell me that my passion, enthusiasm and dedication would make me a great Head Athletic Trainer and she wanted to recommend me to our Director of Athletics. Trying to internalization this information, gather my thoughts, and control my emotions, I went with it and said yes, I would appreciate the recommendation.  I could have easily declined the offer and did what was comfortable as an assistant, but just like that I had my foot in the door for a position amongst my professional goals.  After multiple conversations with our Director of Athletics, the call came from the college Vice President overseeing athletics offering me the promotion to Head Athletic Trainer.

As a 25-year-old young professional, I found myself sitting in my office thinking through my vision, plan, and goals for our athletic training department.  I was feeling nervous, anxious, extremely excited; what major responsibilities did I just take on?  At the time, I thought I had it all figured out and I knew what all fell under the job description of a collegiate Head Athletic Trainer.  To my surprise, my understanding barely scratched the surface of what it takes to succeed in this role. 

Five years later, in my position as a Head Athletic Trainer,  I can tell you that my professional journey has been challenging, yet vitally important to my growth as a healthcare professional.  As I reflect on my journey, I have realized that not only did my employer show confidence in me and take a risk on a young professional, but I took a leap of faith to challenge myself to reach my goals further my career.  It is my hope that you find this message encouraging and empowering for you to take a risk and step up to the challenges you may face to reach your professional goals. 

With that I want to leave you with a few points to help you on your journey.

  1. Confidence: You must display confidence in your own skill and abilities.  Self-confidence will shine through to your patients, co-workers and employer.  That being said don’t let your ego get in the way, remaining humble is just as important.  This can be a key component in earning the trust of others.  Self-confidence is also a main contributor to your personal success.

  2. Work Ethic and Drive: We all know that to be successful in our profession you must possess a quality work ethic.  I like to add to this the component of being driven.  This is a key characteristic as a healthcare professional.  You have to have that internal drive to go above and beyond for your patient. You have to push yourself to continue your own growth through continuing education or obtaining additional certifications or skills.  Without your own drive and desire, it will be hard to continue to evolve as an athletic trainer and reach your professional goals.

  3. Relationships and Networking: Continuously work to build positive relationships.  Build trusting and meaningful relationships with your patients, colleagues, and superiors.  This is key in continuing to grow your network.  You never know what will lead to that next job opportunity, growth in your career or promotion.  Many will tell you in this profession that who you know is just as important as what you know.  You will be amazed at how many people you will cross paths with and be reconnected with during your career.  Keep open communication with those you work with now and those you have been in contact in the past. They just might be the key to unlocking that next great opportunity.

  4. Self-Evaluation: Take time a couple times a year to reflect and evaluate your short term and long term professional goals.  Where are you at now in your current job, how can you improve, what are you doing now to prepare yourself to take that next step up as a professional.  It is easy to fall into the daily routine of life and professional self-reflection is a great way to keep making positive progress in your career.

We all have that dream job or career setting that we are burning to work in.  What are you willing to do to get there? Don't be afraid to take a risk or take a position that scares you. The challenge will always push you to grow. I wish you the best of luck in your professional journey.    

Written By: Brett Knight, MS, AT, ATC, CES     

NATMBlog #3: Small Town Challenges

About 25 years ago, I left the Ann Arbor area for a new job in the Upper Peninsula. I was young, energetic, and enthusiastic about starting a new chapter in this beautiful part of the state. My new position was in Marquette, the largest city in the U.P. The town only has a population of around 30,000 people, but we also served several outlying communities, and business was good. Years passed, and as I got older (and hopefully wiser), my priorities started to shift. My thoughts started to turn toward the rest of the Upper Peninsula... the areas that were not close to the conveniences of a larger city. What were they doing to care for their athletes?

For those of you that have never been above the Mackinac Bridge, here’s a quick breakdown. At more than 16,000 square miles, the U.P. comprises roughly one third of Michigan’s area, but contains only 3% of its population. 84% of the land here is forest, and the north shore is bordered by the world’s largest freshwater lake. Snow? How about an average of nearly 200 inches per year?

So, here’s the problem... last year, Wayne County listed one high school for every 2.7 square miles. In the U.P., we have one high school for every 249 square miles! With most of the schools being in low population areas (Class C and D), the chances of them having access to an Athletic Trainer are slim indeed. The fact is, most schools rely on coaches to look out for their athletes. How in the world can care be provided when it’s so far away?

A few years ago, along with a few other like-minded individuals, I started exploring ways to provide at least some coverage to the rural schools in this region. Our first step was to convince competing companies to work together to allow athletes better access to care. Once this was accomplished, we began offering what we could to the schools within reach of these companies. In some instances, Athletic Trainers from more than one company would work at the same schools. This job sharing opened up the possibility of offering services to smaller, outlying schools. In less than a year, the central U.P. went from five covered schools, to more than a dozen. Physicians throughout the region have agreed to give priority appointments to athletic injuries, and the expansion of care has made many athletes and Athletic Directors very happy. ‘Sounds great, right? Well...

Although we have been able to make some great strides in providing access to care, much of this region (and I suspect many others throughout the state as well) are going without. Some schools are just too far away. Clinics throughout our region rarely employ Athletic Trainers, and not a single school in the U.P. has an Athletic Trainer on the payroll. The combination of distance, small populations, difficult travel, and limited Athletic Trainers seem to have created an insurmountable roadblock.

What’s the next step? Well, as I see it, there are a couple of options. The first would be to have schools or even districts adjust their budgets to allow for hiring a staff Athletic Trainer. Most schools have no problem paying officials, ground crews, coaches etc.... We need to work on making our profession a necessity. Too often we are seen as a “luxury” that can’t be afforded, and this perception must change.

Secondly, third party payers need to be petitioned to allow for reimbursement of Athletic Trainers in clinical settings. If we are able to generate income, more hospitals and clinics will hire Athletic Trainers, and this increased pool of talent would allow better access to schools and their athletes. Of course, this is not a quick fix, it would however, lay the groundwork for further justification of our profession.

As young professionals, I would urge you to get involved. Don’t sit back and wait for someone else to chart your course. Our profession has seen tremendous growth over the past few years, and we must continue to move forward. As one of my former students, Anthony Polazzo stated in a previous blog in this series, “Don’t just fight the battles you can win; fight the battles that are worth fighting.” This is a battle worth fighting. Athletes in all areas, not just big cities, need and deserve proper care. It is up to us to find ways to get it to them.

Written by Mark Stonerock AT, ATC
Outreach Coordinator : U.P. Health System Marquette
Michigan Athletic Trainers Society Upper Peninsula Representative


NATMBlog #4: Resisting Compassion Fatigue in Athletic Training

The profession of athletic training is unique in so many wonderful ways.  Near the top of the list for me is the ability for the AT, in many practice settings, to develop a clinician-patient relationship well in advance of the first injury or illness encounter.  The immersive nature of our role provides the AT with the ability to create valuable baseline psycho-social connections. 

Likewise, the AT is generally able to develop patient trust more quickly than most allied healthcare professionals.  No doubt, this pre-established relationship can be very beneficial at the point of acute care as well as during challenging times throughout the recovery and rehabilitation process.  A micro example of this is something I hear often from my graduating seniors at Northwestern—“Thank you Tory for always being there for me!”

While ‘always being there for our patients’ is an admirable compliment, it should come with a warning label.  Warning: always being there for your patients can lead to loss of life balance, burnout and compassion fatigue.  I have dedicated my career to advocating and educating on life balance and the elimination of burnout in athletic training.  If you’d like help in these areas, please reach out to me (or a mentor), as I am happy to discuss strategies for professional improvement.  That leaves compassion fatigue.  How can you as a young (or seasoned) professional strategize to resist compassion fatigue?

Regardless of your patient load, work conditions, role delineation, peer relationships or supervisor aptitude, your patients have unprecedented access to you as their clinician.  You likely manage anywhere from twenty to one hundred and twenty patient complaints each day.  Yet, for the patient, each one of those injuries, illnesses, re-injuries or complaints is supremely unique to them.  Think about what they are expecting (hoping) from you.  It’s really no different than thinking about what you expect (and hope) from your own physician each time s/he enters the exam room to see you.  Your patients expect your best!  Compassion fatigue can erode your ability to provide your best.

Compassion fatigue can manifest itself in many forms.  Generally, compassion fatigue is the development of negative or cynical attitudes toward your patient due to your own depletion of emotional resources.  This depletion can occur in the time span of a given day, week, or over the course of an athletic season.  Compassion fatigue can be a phenomenon felt across your entire population, or it can be patient-specific.  We have all experienced that one patient that either knows all of the wrong buttons to push, or the patient that rarely matches your desire for them to return to full participation.

Compassion fatigue is real.  Don’t be ashamed if you can think of times when it has affected you as a clinician.  I am on a long list of ATs that has performed less than my best due to a depletion of emotional energy.  Yet, I will argue that compassion fatigue is 100% preventable.  While there are specific strategies listed below that relate directly to the patient, the vast majority of the preventative and coping tactics are reliant on you, the clinician.  How committed are you to self-care?  Where are you on the emotional intelligence continuum?  When was the last time you purposefully exercised your brain?  Do you use patient outcomes to inform your clinical practice?  Are you truly committed to inter-professional practice?

Here are some strategies to consider to resist/prevent compassion fatigue:

  • Every patient has a personal story; get to know them as people even more than you already do.

  • Recognize that challenging patients will require more energy and patience, give it to them.

  • Implore as much cultural and religious competency as you possess to create a stronger bond with your patients.

  • Talk about expectations and allow your patients to take ownership of their care plan.

  • Plan and invest in your own lifelong learning.  Skill advancement and skill mastery is the antibody for clinical redundancy.

  • Be a high performer, not a workaholic.  High performers give 100% at the right times, workaholics attempt to give 100% all of the time.

  • Frame job satisfaction around intrinsic motivators, not salary.  Are you challenged; are you provided appropriate autonomy; and are you allowed to be creative?

  • Take care of you before you take care of your patients-

    • Exercise self-awareness

    • Self-regulate stress through mindfulness

    • Manage your own stress to allow for more patient empathy

    • Learn to say no (professionally)

    • Ask for help or delegate when appropriate

    • Eliminate time wasters in your day

    • Schedule daily ‘me’ time

    • Rest, exercise, hydrate and fuel your brain

    • Control negative self-talk

    • Prioritize engagement with co-workers to stimulate interpersonal contact, curiosity, excitement and trust

    • Engage in personal brain aerobics (look online for exercises)

  • Prepare mentally for the things you cannot prepare for.

  • Use/maximize technology to enhance your work experience and increase efficiency.

  • Demonstrate your clinical value through collecting patient outcomes.

Burnout is a copout.  I am interested in lifelong learning and ongoing improvement as a clinician and an administrator.  While you may not control patient load, role delineation, peer relationships or supervisor aptitude in your day-to-day AT employment environment, you absolutely control the clinician that you look at in the mirror each morning.  I encourage you to beat compassion fatigue with a direct and deliberate approach.  Talk to others about your challenges and your success stories.  Teach others what you’ve learned.  Our profession needs each of you for continued advancement.  Thank you for being invested in athletic training, but more so, thank you for being invested in you!

Tory R Lindley MA ATC

Associate Athletic Director | Director of AT Services

Northwestern University

NATA Vice President

District Four Director

Former MATS Vice President ’00-02




What would you accomplish if you knew you could not fail? As a young professional or soon-to-be young professional, the future ahead is bright and beyond possibility. What if I told you though, that some of the greatest success stories in history have come from failure? I am here to tell you that at some point in your young professional career you are going to fail at something. It is important to remember, however that your mistakes will offer some of the greatest learning opportunities that will ultimately leave you with experience that is your own. As the first of our new blog series from the Young Professionals Committee, I would like to use my own story as an example of success that comes from failure. I could not be happier in the current position that I am in but it is a collaboration of what I’ve taken away from all of my experiences that has allowed me to be who I am today.

Imagine being just a few months into the position of your dreams, you feel like the luckiest person alive, you’re in an office full of some of the most respected coaches in the business, and you find yourself.... sobbing. Yes, sobbing. You have placed so much pressure on yourself that you have become emotionally exhausted trying to please the impossible. Subsequently,  you can no longer hide from the demon that lies within you. Anxiety. Without realizing it, you are experiencing a panic attack for the first time in your life. You convince yourself that you have failed. Before you know it the embarrassment begins to set in but somehow your mind begins to clear. How have I allowed a coaching staff to make me feel this way? I do not cry. The team appreciates me, I've done my job the best that I thought possible, how is it that I have failed again? There were definitely thoughts of quitting that day. Would I consider leaving the profession, absolutely. Maybe it wasn't for me? Or maybe Division I wasn't what I thought it was perked up to be. Was it possible that I just had a bad coaching experience? Maybe I was too young and inexperienced for the job. The reason I tell this story is that I had convinced myself for months that I had failed my greatest opportunity. The truth is, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. What I would call my greatest “failure” as a young professional actually turned out to be the revelation of my career. Everyone needs to have one. In the end, what is it that you want to accomplish with your career and what are you willing to sacrifice to get there? As a women, I realized that no career is worth losing friends and a family over because you can never spend time with them. You have to create boundaries and be willing to fight for your work/life balance. 

Looking back, I learned more about myself in that position than most would in years. Did I take exceptional care of my athletes? Absolutely. Did I make great contacts along the way? You bet. It wasn’t that I failed the job, I allowed the coaching staff to convince me that I wasn’t good enough and the anxiety of trying to be perfect got the best of me.

You cannot go into a position afraid that you are going to fail. Confidence is everything and the perspective is that YOU ARE good enough. If you landed your dream job, just do your best. You may just end up exactly where you are supposed to be.  

This is my advice to you:

  1. Always appreciate that you have a job, many are not so lucky.

  2. Don’t take anything personally. Athletics is centered around winning, it’s not about you.

  3. Be confident. If you don’t sound sure of yourself, no one else will.

  4. Never lose your integrity. It will go a long way in your next job interview.

  5. Never assume anything. Communication is the key.

  6. An injury is an injury. Don’t make it complicated.

  7. Learn to laugh at yourself. No one is perfect.

  8. Always make friends with the support staff. You are all in this together.

  9. Never be intimidated by a coach. They are not your boss.

  10. Above all things, simply do your best and keep a positive attitude. It provides a great work environment for everyone, which is contagious to all.

written by Catherine Boerner (Newman), MS, AT, ATC, CSCS


You want to be an athletic trainer? So, you want to work for sports teams then? High School? College? Professional? Right?

I did too. My dream job out of undergrad was to work with a Division I soccer program. I went into my graduate assistant position believing that is what I wanted to do. After completing my GA position, I started to rethink my goal. I worked in the traditional setting for another year before taking the plunge into the occupational setting.

I loved college athletics, I wouldn’t change my experiences for the world but these athletes always had athletic training services provided to them. That breeds a certain kind of environment, and I was starting to wonder what other settings could be like and the opportunity came. I was fortunate to be able to take an opportunity to expand my knowledge base in the occupational health setting and I haven’t looked back.

Now I provide athletic training services to employees instead of athletes. I currently work onsite in the airline industry to assist with reducing OSHA recordable injuries. I know the phrase OSHA recordable is probably unfamiliar for most athletic trainers who don’t work in the occupational setting. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Recordkeeping Forms and Recording Criteria:

Basic requirement. You must consider an injury or illness to meet the general recording criteria, and therefore to be recordable, if it results in any of the following: death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness. You must also consider a case to meet the general recording criteria if it involves a significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional, even if it does not result in death, days away from work, restricted work or job transfer, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness.

As the definition above states, OSHA guides what is considered first aid vs medical treatment. As an athletic trainer in this setting we focus primarily on our injury prevention skills and encourage early reporting of aches and pain.  We spend much of our time creating injury prevention programs including; mobility/strength screens, creation of programs to improve mobility/strength deficits, biomechanical analysis/job coaching, injury trend analysis to provide root cause breakdown, etc.

If an injury does occur, we provide a clinical evaluation and first aid treatment. We play role as the employee receives medical treatment with occupational health physicians. Usually, we are involved in the care as the employee is put on light duty with restrictions as well as when they are coming back to work full duty. This aspect resembles the return to play progression you would follow in the traditional setting.  There are some differences since we are dealing with employees and employers that want to get back to full operating capacity as quickly as possible to make money. The pressures are like the coach and athletic trainer relationship but as you build those relationships you can develop their trust in your abilities as a health care professional. Ensuring that everyone, employers and employees alike, understand that your role is to be an advocate for the health and wellbeing of the employees is essential. Employees are usually concerned with earning less while being off work and employers are usually concerned with their staffing constraints when employee are off work due to injury.

The phrase “industrial athlete” is a very authentic description of some of these jobs. One of the most physically demanding jobs at the airport are the baggage handlers. These men and women are lifting, carrying, stacking luggage that is anywhere from 20-70 pounds. The duration and repetitions are determined by the aircraft load plan. Some flights you and your crew could be loading 100-300 bags, thousands of pounds of freight and mail in a span of 30-60 minutes. These men and women haven’t always had an athletic trainer as their advocate, which makes them a great group to educate about the athletic training profession. I have been in this setting almost 5 years now and I have seen a significant change in the employers and employees thought process when it comes to injury. Knowing I had a role in that transformation has been one of the rewarding experiences of my career.  

If you have any questions or interest in the occupational health setting or another emerging setting, please feel free to contact me. My role with the MATS-YPC is as a liaison to GLATA-COPA and occupational/emerging settings.

Written by Victoria Vintevoghel, MHSA, AT, ATC, ITAT


Reference: https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9638

BLOG #3: Transition from Student to Graduate Assistant: Why Communication is so Important

You are in your last semester and counting down the days until you graduate. When is this madness ending? When can I just do things on my own and be certified? When can I stop basically being a student-athlete but without all of the same perks? At least those were the thoughts I had before graduating undergrad. I was so ready to move on, land a graduate assistantship, and BE CERTIFIED! That's all I wanted. So when I landed a graduate assistantship with gymnastics I could not have been more excited! That was my life for 17 years! I understood the sport, I could give a full, comprehensive exam and give a progression for full return to play. Man, this is going to be a cake walk! To say the least, I was PUMPED.

Would you be surprised to find out that this didn’t actually happen?  Yeah, me too, I was less than thrilled. My first opportunity had already been swept away and I got moved to swimming and diving. I tried convincing myself that this was a better opportunity but I didn’t want to believe it. It’s only two years right? You can learn to like swimming? Looking back, I TRULY BELIEVE this was the best opportunity I could have been given. I transformed my unfamiliarity with the sport and upper extremity injuries into an opportunity to become well versed with shoulder pathologies, and the best part is that I ended up loving it! To say the least, the shoulder was never a strong suite of mine in undergrad and I am extremely thankful that I came out of the experience with a greater appreciation for such a demanding and crazy sport.

To my surprise I had a second struggle that I’m sure many professionals can attest to. The coach. I got along with all of the coaches in undergrad and I would consider myself pretty cultured. How would this be any different? Simply put, the coach and I didn’t see eye to eye which caused me to hate my life the entire first year. I had convinced myself that that particular coach was out to make my job as difficult as possible. Even going as far as accusing me of overstepping my boundaries, as in - trying to coach?! As unfamiliar as I was with swimming, I could never imagine attempting to coach the sport. I can barely swim myself! I just wanted to be a better athletic trainer and manage my athletes as best I could. In my attempt to better understand the sport, the shoulder, and how different strokes might affect someone, I came across differently to the coach, which was the root of our problem.

With all of that said, I have to stress the importance of communication. No one really teaches you that formally. We develop our communication skills as we grow up but we mirror what we see and everyone comes from a different background. Mine happens to include divorce in which the communication was always limited. “LIGHTBULB!!!!” As much as I thought I was great at communication, I had come to the conclusion that I really needed some work. Considering this background of mine, I feel that I have done a good job of developing my communication skills on the fly, but had I not had issues with the swimming coach, I don’t know if I would have been honest with myself and accepted that communication was a weakness of mine.

That was one of the biggest things I took away from grad school.  COMMUNICATION.  Some of us are better at it than others but you have to figure out what works best for you and the other person you are communicating with. My second year in grad school was a COMPLETELY different story.  The communication was great, the coach and I understood each other better, and we knew what worked on both ends.  It was a phenomenal turnaround.  I also had opportunities that put me in front of administration personnel, as well as other coaches that helped develop my communication skills further into different settings.

There is no good way to learn how to deal with 100 or more personalities. There are different ages, different interests, different backgrounds, different cultures, the list goes on. You CANNOT talk to one person one way and expect the same message to go through the same way to someone else. You have to go into each conversation regardless of what it is about, with respect for the other person. How you carry yourself, through nonverbal means is huge as well. All of this goes further than just verbally communicating and you can never forget that. My advice to you, “Actions speak louder than words.” Start working on it now kids, because that is going to help you.

If you are on the brink of making the transition from student to graduate assistant athletic trainer, start making a list of fears and weaknesses.  If you start working on them now, you can begin to develop confidence as you transition into a graduate assistant and a professional. No one is perfect but being able to recognize your weaknesses will take you a long way if you are constantly showing that you are trying to work on them. Please, please, PLEASE, do not be afraid to reach out! sarah.mcbrien@wmich.edu  Talk you you soon!

Written by Sarah McBrien MS, AT, ATC

BLOG #4: The Importance of a Mentor as a Young Professional

In September of 2013, I landed my first full time position as a Certified Athletic Trainer at the collegiate level. It was a position that proved to be a great experience for a new college graduate as not only did I have the responsibility of the collegiate level athlete, I also had 550+ of them. You can say that often times as a young professional in the field of Athletic Training there are many settings where you are “thrown into the mix” from the first day on the job. I really enjoyed a line that my colleague Catherine used in an earlier blog stating, “Some of the greatest success stories come from our failures”.  In my case such failure was feeling exhausted and overwhelmed at times. My desire to transition a sports medicine program and to create a new culture was no easy task, doubt and disappointment soon loomed. I began to question how I would be able to do this for the rest of my career? How do I avoid the ‘B-word’? How do I make a positive impact on my organization, on my athletes and on my coaches? Although we learn from such experiences, those scenarios can be extremely problematic for a young professional. If you are experiencing such problems what steps can you take to overcome “failure” and ensure your success? Find a mentor! Today, I talk about the importance of having a positive mentor as a young professional in order to combat the feelings of failure as a young Athletic Trainer.

The importance of a positive mentor in order to become a successful young professional is unparalleled. The key in finding the right mentor requires you to first identify your goals and what you want to accomplish in your career. As a young professional, having a positive mentor in your life provides you an opportunity for support and motivation. Mentors provide an outlet to seek guidance from those who have survived the challenge of balancing many of the same things that you experience. Using advice, criticism, and perspective of others is like having a flashlight in a dark tunnel and all leads you on the path of great success. More importantly though, you need to find someone who can motivate you to continue despite feeling like you've been left in the dark. I am an avid Vince Lombardi fan. He stated, “Coaches who can outline plays on a blackboard are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their player and motivate”. I recently read an article that explained that professional mentors can have the same impact on young professionals as to what little league coaches have on a young child’s baseball development. How many athletes have you been around that have developed bad habits because a coach at a younger age had instilled such habits in them? On the contrary, how many athletes have been extremely successful due to having a solid foundation built by a coach at a younger age? The same holds true in our professional career! 

When seeking out positive mentors and relationships built with colleagues I feel the following traits to be considered:

  1. A positive role model that exhibits a positive attitude.
    A good mentor exhibits the personal characteristics it takes to be successful in the field. By showing young professionals what it takes to be productive and successful, a positive mentor is demonstrating the specific behaviors and actions required to thrive in the field.

  1. Exhibits ownership in a professional relationship.
    Positive and successful mentors do not take their responsibility as a mentor lightly. A good mentor should have the feeling that they are invested in the success of the young professional. Excellent communication skills are required as a good mentor is committed to helping their mentees find success and gratification in the field of Athletic Training. Overall when seeking a good mentor a young professional should be looking for someone that empowers you to develop your own strengths, beliefs, and personal attributes.

  2. Values continued learning and professional growth within the field.
    A good mentor should have the ability as well as be in a position to illustrate how the field is growing and changing and to help a younger generation continue to positively mold the future. Anyone that feels stagnant in their current position will not make a good mentor. Good mentors are committed and are open to experimenting and learning practices that are new to the field. They continually read professional journals and may even write articles on subjects where they have developed some expertise and participate in an evidence based practice approach. A good mentor for a young professional is excited to share their knowledge to further develop their knowledge and skills. A positive mentor enjoys taking workshops and attending professional conferences provided through their membership in professional associations.

  3. Provides individuals with insight to personal skills, knowledge and expertise.
    Mentors are willing to teach what they know and accept the young professional for where they are in their professional development spectrum. Good mentors have the ability to relate to the feelings shared as one looks to just start out in the field.

  4. Enthusiastic about the profession as well as in the field of practice.
    A mentor who does not exhibit enthusiasm about their job will ultimately not make a good mentor. Enthusiasm is catching and as a young professional you want to feel as if your job has meaning and the potential to create a good life.

  5. An outlet that provides individuals guidance and constructive feedback.
    One of the key responsibilities a young professional should ensure of their mentor is to provide guidance and constructive feedback to lead them on a path of great success. This is where a young professional can grow the most by identifying current strengths and weaknesses and learning how to use these to become successful in the field.

  6. Considers the values, opinions, and initiatives of others.
    A mentor who values others is also someone who works well in a team environment and is willing to share success.

  7. Continues to set personal goals and professional goals.
    Positive mentors continually set a good example by showing how their personal habits are reflected by personal and professional goals and overall personal success.

  8. Respected by others in the profession.
    As a young professional you want someone that you can look up to and you can see yourself filling your mentor’s role in the future. As a young professional you want to follow someone who is well respected by colleagues and co-workers and whose contribution in the field is appreciated.

I have been blessed with several positive mentors throughout the beginning of my career as an AT. From faculty at Grand Valley State University, my preceptors during my clinical work and my coworkers upon my first full time position, each of these individuals have provided me with a relationship that has achieved one or all of the aforementioned traits. My mentors have encouraged me to be involved, never settle for second place, trust your heart and put everything you have into everything that you do. These people have given me a outlet to gain knowledge, motivate me to be a better clinician, motivate me to be a lifelong learner and motivate me to be a better person. When interviewing for my current position as a sports medicine program coordinator in a hospital system, administration asked the question, “What is one thing that you would say has contributed to you having such a successful career thus far”? My answer was simple, I attribute much of my success to the mentors that I have had thus far in my journey. Without such positive professional influences in my life I do not feel I would be in the position I am today.

The importance I wish to stress to young professionals is to find that mentor that works for you. Seek out people that motivate you and I can bet that success is soon to be achieved. I am a strong believer in the more positive and successful people you surround yourself with the more positive and successful that you can be. I wish for all young professionals in our state to have a mentor. Each day I try to be a mentor for every young professional in our hospital system. If you are a young professional that can relate to struggles similar to what I went through and need a mentor I encourage each of you to first reach out to the MATS Young Professional Committee (a great resource here for you). Second, I encourage you to reach out to me. If we all work together we can make our profession that much stronger.  I can be reached via email at marcus.smithson@dchs.org with any questions. Let’s make 2017 a strong year for the Athletic Training profession and young professionals in the State of Michigan. 

Written by: Marcus Smithson MBA, AT, LAT, ATC

BLOG #5: Getting What You Want: How Not to Get Discouraged with Your First Job 

I read a book once that described how so many people were fed up with work and thought that they were better than the position they had. Sound familiar? Most young athletic trainers, from students to graduate assistants and all the way into entry level positions, at some point get the feeling that they are above the work that they are doing. Maybe this comes from feeling like you’re overworked as a GA, or possibly as a student you thought that the work you did was remedial. Maybe the job you got out of college isn’t the dream job you thought you deserved and now you feel overqualified for it. I have heard many athletic trainers, even been one myself, say these things and feel frustrated with their current career path. My hope with this blog post is that I can give you some insight of how NOT to feel that way.

I myself had applied to quite a few jobs after grad school. I didn’t land anything full time but was able to take another internship thinking I was going to find my career path. That wasn’t the case but I ended up going a direction I never thought I would. For whatever reason, I thought that by taking multiple internships, along with the time I had put in trying to learn as much as I could, that any job I applied to I would get. I learned that I was sadly mistaken. I wasn’t nearly as qualified as what I thought I was. When I did finally realize this about myself I thought about my mentors’ careers. Each person had to continually work hard throughout their careers to get where they are today. Those jobs, which we covet, were not by any means handed to them. Each of them started at a job in which they had to perform tasks they didn’t like to do. Some were GA’s that had to work long hours potentially at a job they didn’t even really like. What I had to remind myself, was that each of them had put the time in and are continually taking the time to learn and better themselves, where ever they are at.

With all of that said I have some advice. If you have found yourself in the same situation in which you don’t really enjoy your current job keep reading!

  1. Use everything you do as an opportunity to learn.

Quite frankly, after my internship working with professional athletes, I felt very above working with high school students for my first job. It was a big adjustment. Instead of having motivated athletes doing everything they could to get back on the field, I had to convince younger athletes that the bruise on their arm from the first day of contact was something they could continue to play with. I dreaded going to work but eventually it took some time before I began to realize how great the opportunity was for me. In the high school setting there are days where every time we would get done with one eval, there are five more waiting for you on a table. With so many athletes you learn to be very efficient with your time and before you know it your evaluation skills have improved substantially. No matter where you are, there is always something to take away from the experience. So if you are in a situation like I was and feeling like you’re too good for what you’re doing, then take a step back. Look at the whole situation and evaluate what you are really getting out it. If you don’t see anything then it’s time to make a change.

  1. Never stop seeking improvement.

When you graduate and you think you know it all, you would never believe how un-smart you feel once you’re working independently. Even years later I realize how much there is to learn. Once I was in the high school on my own, I knew that in order for me to get better I needed to acquire more knowledge. I began taking online seminars and searching for new material to read. The best thing I did that year was start observing our team physician in his office. Once a week I would watch him perform his evaluations and learn his expectations for care following a diagnosis. Not only did I develop a better standard of care but I also gained communication skills with my physician that will carry over to future relationships. Recognize when a learning opportunity will help you to better yourself.

  1. Attach yourself to successful people.

I have had the opportunity to work with some great professionals in and out of athletic training and most are successful because they continue to work hard throughout their entire career. With that said, not only can I learn from them that hard work is necessary to get to where you want to be, but if you ask, they are always there to give you advice. Believe it or not, they were in your shoes once and most will tell you that they couldn’t have done it without the advice of their own mentors. So, as a young professional myself, I also wanted to gain some insight from a seasoned veteran in the field of athletic training. This person will tell straightforward what you need to hear and even when you think you know it all, he provides a different perspective you never expected. He is someone I look up to and when I asked him to provide some advice, this is what he said:

Transitioning from the role of a student to the role of an entry level professional can be daunting for anyone. In life, little is given. Respect and opportunity have to be earned. This is especially true in the field of athletic training. ‚Ä®Many young allied health professionals, as well as most professionals entering the workplace often struggle with this. Regardless of the prestigious school, elite teams you have worked with, or GRE scores, remember you are starting from square one. Never hold yourself in higher esteem than others you work with. Be nice to everyone, especially secretarial staffs, custodial/maintenance staffs, and public safety officers. They can help you get out of a lot of jams. Believe me, you will get in jams. Tables need to be cleaned. Carpets need to be vacuumed. Tile needs to be mopped. None of these are tasks below any of us, regardless of experience. Maintain your equipment and learn some basic repairs. The broken PowerFlo and loose table legs will not magically repair themselves overnight. Understand the value of a dollar and work within the budget you are given. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Try not to make the same mistake twice. Be open to constructive criticism. Most of your colleagues with more experience are trying to help you from making the same mistakes they recognize from their past. Be respectful of your colleagues’ likely different backgrounds and educational experiences. We all have strengths and weaknesses; recognize yours and work to continually improve. When an entry level masters becomes the new minimum for certification, recognize there are many of you who may be looked at the way you currently look at individuals who went through an internship program. Establish a good relationship with the physicians you work with. They too can help you get out of jams. Value their time. Not every injury needs to be referred to a physician, but you better begin to figure out what needs to be referred when. Trust yourself. The ability to regurgitate facts from a book is all well and good, but when someone is in dire need, you better be able to perform. Understand the expectations of your job. Weekends? Holidays? Little down time? 24/7 access? You decided to accept this job; you better be appreciative. Even if you loathe your job, your employer absolutely should not detect any negativity. Value the experience and be open if you are looking for other employment. If you are looking for employment, consider the references you are listing. How great was the experience you had with each individual? I will not compromise my professional relationship with someone to simply get you a job- i.e., I am going to be truthful if asked. Look like an allied health professional. Hoodies, sweats, and tennis shoes all have their place, but ditch the hats, sunglasses on head, mesh shorts, and logoed polos when potentially dealing with future employers. Understand this profession is heavily based on “who” and not necessarily “what” you know. You are an allied health professional, not a cheerleader or best friend. Back off the emotional attachment to “your kids” and “my team”. We all want to see people succeed and accomplish their goals, but often this excessive emotional attachment can cloud one’s ability to make an objective assessment. Do not just fight the battles you can win, fight the battles worth fighting. A lot of issues today are often totally forgotten tomorrow. Think before you speak. Often the loudest voice is the one who says nothing. Excessive confrontations seldom solve any issues. If you do not know an answer, do not guess. Be it rehab protocols, an injury diagnosis, or administrative policy, it is ok to admit that you need to gather more information to give an answer. Your career should not be your life; your life should not be your career. Learn to say “no”. It can be tough, but it can keep you in the field much longer. Both your career and life may not go exactly how you imagined when you are in your early twenties. That is one hundred percent ok as long as it is ok with you. Do not let others define you. Do not let your job define you. Please have a life outside of athletic training. Please figure this out sooner than later. And one more thing- always do a Lachman and an Anterior Drawer with even the most benign of knee injuries; you may be surprised.

Written by: Anthony Palazzo MPA, AT, ATC


Husband. Father. Head Athletic Trainer. Triathlete. These are just a few of the many hats that I wear on a daily basis. The first three are definitely full-time jobs, and the last one is a hobby (or obsession, depending who you ask) which takes up just as much time as a part-time job. How in the world can someone manage to do all of these things when they regularly put in 60-70 hour work weeks as an athletic trainer?

A career as an athletic trainer is very demanding. The need to stay up to date with the latest evidence based treatment requires continual improvement in your clinical skills. The communication with doctors, coaches, safety managers, workers, and athletes is never ending; and on top of that, being an athletic trainer requires some very long hours on the job. We all knew about the long hours when we began to pursue this career, and many of you students are quickly finding out. We regularly spend long hours performing rehab and treatments with the patient returning from ACL surgery; hours spent on the practice fields during fall pre-season camps, hours spent providing medical care at those late night basketball games, or day-long double headers, and long days observing the ergonomics of the industrial athlete. Long hours can lead to higher levels of stress, and higher levels of stress can lead to a strain on your personal relationships with your family and/or significant others, which can eventually lead to burnout and a desire to leave the profession all together. With such a demanding job where clinical hours, practice schedules, and game schedules can change with the direction that the wind blows, it can be hard to manage our time wisely to be able to fit in some personal time for your family, or yourself. However, finding time for your family and/or yourself is one of the most important things you can do for your career.

If you are like me, you chose to become an athletic trainer because of your passion for helping others and your uncanny ability to understand the human body; how it adapts to injury, the healing process, and how it responds to daily exercise/rehabilitation. That passion for helping others is what drives me to be the best athletic trainer I can be each day. However, there are days where the stress of the job, the long hours, and the minimal time I see my family can cloud that passion, and that can lead to a lower level of job performance. That’s why I personally make it a priority to take care of myself.

The way we take care of ourselves is just as diverse as the people around us. For some, that might be taking time out of your day to read a book, waking up early before work to get in your daily exercise, or maybe every once in a while sleeping in an extra hour. Only you know what makes you happy and keeps you mentally healthy. For me, that is spending time with my family and pursuing my hobby which is triathlon. So how do I personally fit all of those things into my busy life every day? It really comes down to time management.

As I mentioned previously, time management for each of us will look much differently from person to person, but for the purpose of this article, I will share with you how I take time each day to fit in family time, training time, and of course work. My typical workday starts at 10am, so that gives me time to fit in some family time and workouts early in the morning. Since my wife is a working mom (she is a Kindergarten teacher) she also wakes up early to get out the door by 7am. While she gets herself ready, I help out by waking up our son around 6am and getting him ready for the day (he is almost 1 year old already!). Even though it is pretty early, it gives me a chance to be with my son and play with him for a little while before all of us head out the door at 7am. While my wife and son head off to school and the babysitter, I head over to the fitness center to get my Ironman training in. On a typical weekday, my morning workouts are 1 hour to 1 1⁄2 hours long, so it gives me plenty of time to get my training in before

heading into the office by 9:45am. To me, being physically active and training for my Ironman keeps me happy and healthy. I have noticed on days when I don’t get my workouts in, I can be a little more irritable and less productive. So to me, getting in my morning workouts not only helps me to be ready for race day (July 23rd – Ironman Lake Placid) but it also helps me to be a more productive athletic trainer. Often, I find myself having the best ideas while I am training because I have the time to think about what I have in the day ahead, and also time to reflect on how I can continue to improve the athletic training clinic at work.

On a typical day, practices tend to wrap up around 6pm, so then I get to head home if no games or later practices are going on. When I get home, I am always greeted with the biggest smiles and laughter of my son and that makes all the stress of the day melt away. I get to spend the next two hours with my wife and son – typically spent either getting dinner ready for my wife and I, or feeding my son, getting in some play time, bathing him, and then putting him to sleep. Even though I only get to see him for 1 1⁄2 or 2 hours in the evening, I do my best to make it count by enjoying every moment I have with him and my wife together. Some nights and weekends are harder however, when I stay later for a practice or game, or travel with one of the teams. There are even some evenings after he goes to bed (7:30pm or 8pm) I still have to get a workout in – typically a bike ride on the trainer in front of the TV so I can be at home with my wife still too! Even though it is not fun beginning a workout at 8pm, I plan it that way so that I can maximize my family time with my wife and son. Thankfully my wife is very supportive of my training, because without her support I know I wouldn’t be able to do this. She does so much for our son and myself to allow me the few extra hours to squeeze in Ironman training. Through it all, I do know that when I am at home, I am fully present with my wife and son and make every moment count.

I once read an article that posed this question: What if your bank account began everyday with $86,400, but every second you would lose $1. How would you invest that money? Well, think of that money as time. We are given 86,400 seconds every single day. Don’t let yourself waste time worrying, stressing out, or being unhappy. Find something that makes you happy outside of work; whether it’s a hobby, family time, or some much needed rest and relaxation. Make a plan each day to use your time wisely and spend it doing the things that make you a happier and better person – even if it is only for 1-2 hours a day. Taking the time to improve yourself as a person will help you improve as an athletic trainer, and that will help you to continue to be passionate about your career, providing the best healthcare to your patients that you can. 

written by Dan Meier, MS, AT, ATC 

Head Athletic Trainer at Concordia University 



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