New York Giants Athletic Training Interns Reflect on Mini-Camp
by Nico Locandro and Marissa Harris
Sitting in laboratories, medical school students envision themselves performing life-saving surgeries. Law students fall asleep in piles of books, daydreaming about sitting on the Supreme Court. After all, every graduate student has a white whale that motivates their efforts and pursuit of knowledge. For many athletic training students, this white whale is working in the National Football League. This summer, one of the NFL’s most storied franchises, the New York Giants, gave us the opportunity to realize that dream. After completing countless hours of hands-on learning, working with some of the preeminent athletic trainers in the NFL, our experience with the Giants will remain with us for the rest of our professional lives.
Approaching MetLife Stadium on our first day as intern trainers was both nerve-racking and thrilling. Fittingly, our initial assignment as “rookies” was assisting the training staff with rookie player physicals. At first, we could not believe that the same star players we had watched getting drafted on television were now interacting with us as members of the same organization. Any initial nervousness quickly faded with the welcoming nature of the players and staff, and we were immediately integrated into the check-in process. As we checked players in with an entire minicamp ahead of us, we knew our internship with the Giants’ training staff would be an unforgettable experience.
Rookie minicamp began the next day at the Timex Performance Center. The impressive structure contains some of the most cutting-edge training facilities in professional sports. We were shown the full range of rehabilitation and training supplies available to the Giants’ staff, including equipment like an aqua treadmill. Neither of us had seen a facility like the Performance Center before, let alone much of its innovative equipment. The structure was a physical manifestation of the organization’s commitment to the health and performance of its athletes. As athletic training students, we were happy to settle into such an incredible new home.
After our tour of the facility, Steve Kennelly, the Assistant Head Athletic Trainer, discussed the Giants’ rehabilitation philosophy. The first of many such discussions, he detailed the organization’s process behind returning injured players back to peak athletic performance. Other trainers also took the time throughout our internship to discuss their own methods of treatment and experiences in the NFL. The extensive knowledge and diverse backgrounds of the athletic training staff were immediately apparent. Each member of the staff brought a unique perspective and specific treatment expertise to the team. Together, the individual strengths of each trainer combined to provide the players with comprehensive treatment plans and the highest quality of care. While the Giants’ training staff was organized under a unifying philosophy, we were regularly exposed to a variety of therapies and approaches. This exposure broadened our experience and expanded our knowledgebase.
After rookie minicamp, we were invited to assist in the upcoming Organized Team Activities (“OTAs”) and veteran minicamp. Although we were no longer completely new to the organization, the invitation inspired excitement and nervousness yet again. Upon our arrival to the first day of OTAs, the veteran players immediately labeled us the “Rookie Trainers.” Just as veterans test the limits of rookie players on the field, many of them were excited to evaluate and critique our skills in the training room. Warmly judging our tape jobs and treatments, many veterans began to return to us for specific tape jobs, stretching techniques, and massage treatments. The veterans’ trust in the “rookie trainers” definitely improved our confidence, and we began to develop a rapport with them within the training setting. As the players developed confidence in our abilities, we were afforded much more responsibility.
However, gaining an athlete’s trust outside of the training setting is also crucial to the success of an athletic trainer. As OTAs and minicamp progressed, we began to know the players on a more personal level. For example, we knew what specific players would want at certain points in practice, and we took the initiative to ensure that all the necessary supplies were waiting on-field. Quickly integrated into the system, our assistance in keeping practices running smoothly was recognized by the training staff. We would spend the early parts of practice split between the offensive and defensive units, ensuring that water and Gatorade were always ready. Later, we would meet during “team” activities to cover both sides together. With each day, we developed a routine, gained confidence in our abilities, and learned valuable lessons.
Our time with the Giants also afforded us the opportunity to observe some of the preeminent medical professionals in the country. We watched and listened closely as team physicians performed orthopedic assessments and discussed emergency action plans. As students, the chance to see the composure and thought-processes of professionals was particularly valuable. Additionally, we worked alongside the team’s chiropractor. After performing different manual therapies, he explained the various methods he used and the rationale behind each treatment. Overall, the athletic trainers and the medical staff were incredibly patient and consciously included us when possible. We are truly grateful for their efforts, and grew immensely as athletic trainers through these lessons outside of the traditional classroom setting.
When veteran minicamp drew to a close, we paused to reflect on our experience. In a few short weeks, we went from athletic training students to training Super Bowl champions. Our unexpected journey introduced us to five of the best athletic trainers in the NFL, countless other medical staff, a team full of dynamic players, and one of the best organizations in professional sports. With Metlife Stadium fading into the New York City skyline behind us, we left our internship fulfilled and motivated. Our opportunity with the Giants provided us with a glimpse of our white whale, and like Captain Ahab, we are ready to work toward returning again.