Athletic trainers at Keene State College do more than treat the athletes on the sidelines; there are a number of factors that go into becoming and being an athletic trainer. The program at KSC is compact with a lot of interactive experiences for students.
The Clinical Associate Professor and Head Athletic Trainer at KSC Robert “Bob” Merrow, who is in his 29th year at the school, said when he first arrived at KSC he was only one of two people in the athletic training program before his position transformed into the head athletic trainer.
Now, Merrow explained, “We all function as teachers in the academic program and as part of what we do, we supervise students in internships to provide experiences as athletic trainers.”
In addition to Merrow, the Clinical Assistant Professor and Clinical Coordinator at KSC Scot Ward, in his 16th year at the school, explained, “My job has evolved since I’ve been here, certainly as an athletic trainer for sports and working with students and teaching those athletic training students.”
Ward continued, “I am now the clinical coordinator for the athletic program and I not only continue to teach in the classroom, work with our student-athletes and students, but I coordinate the athletic training students’ clinical experiences both on and off campus.”
Along with the trainers, student assistants have a role in the athletic training program.
KSC junior and athletic training major Ryan Greelis said he plans to become a certified athletic trainer.
He said, “I can tape athletes, do concussion protocols, do full-body evaluations and assist with rehabilitation as well. A good majority, if not all of it, we can at least assist in, and then they try and let us do it on our own.”
Greelis continued, “Working alone is tough because you start to doubt yourself with new stuff and it’s nice to have a second opinion, but I know I’m not going to do anything to hurt anyone.”
However, the student assistants in the program earn more responsibilities depending on their experience.
For someone to become an athletic trainer, Merrow said, a student has to acquire a Bachelor of Science in athletic training.
In addition, the college has to have a nationally-accredited program, and with that one can then take the “national boards,” which is a required exam.
Merrow explained if a student were to pass, then he or she would be considered an official athletic trainer.
He then stated that one could apply to the state for a state license in health care. Merrow said he became a trainer in 1982.
According to Greelis, “With a bachelor’s degree you are much more limited and stuck working at a high school or camps, and with a master’s I can work at a college like Keene State and more advanced programs.”
In addition, Ward has been a trainer since 1990. Ward stated he graduated from KSC with a bachelor’s and gained his master’s at Indiana University.
Greelis continued and said he hopes to focus on an educational aspect of his future profession.
He explained he is looking into graduate schools to receive a master’s degree in the field.
Merrow works with all sports here at KSC. When asked about his favorite sports to work with, he said, “My two favorite sports to work with would be football and ice hockey, which we don’t have either here.”
He explained that these sports are very challenging with a lot of injuries, but they also challenge trainers to stay dedicated.
In addition, Greelis said his favorite sport to work with is basketball, because he has been such an avid fan over the years and it is much more involved.
In sports there can be a lot of serious injuries, but Merrow said he has not been involved in anything too serious.
He explained, “I had to treat a basketball player who was an exceptional athlete and person for an anterior cruciate ligament [ACL] injury, and in his junior year he re-injured his knee and at that point he looked at me and said, ‘it’s over.’”
Merrow said this ended the player’s basketball career, describing it as “heartbreaking.”
On his experience at KSC, Merrow said that working here has been “fabulous,” and that the small athletic department allows him to get to know the athletes more personally.
Along with that, “Since there aren’t a lot of sports, it is much more intimate within the athletic department,” Merrow said.
Merrow continued and said that the program has been blessed with “tremendous” students and that, through the years, the athletes have been great and fun to work with.
Furthermore, Greelis said working with athletes is challenging because it is sometimes hard to be professional, but it is still fun to see the athletes’ desire to recover from injury.
“My favorite aspect is seeing improvement and being there for people,” Greelis said.
Jeff Lunn can be contacted at email@example.com