New England Patriots intern Mike Baum reflects on his Seasonal Internship Experience
by Mike Baum, Seasonal Assistant Intern Athletic Trainer - New England Patriots
My name is Mike Baum and I am currently a yearlong athletic training intern with the New England Patriots. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of my personal experiences as a yearlong intern with the New England Patriots. Some of the topics are pretty universal across the league or any position, but it’s important to remember that each team is different and will utilize their interns differently. By no means is this an insight into how each team will operate throughout the league.
I began considering a yearlong experience following a summer internship with the Buffalo Bills between my junior and senior years in undergrad. To me, a yearlong intern position was an opportunity to continue to gain more experience and advance professionally. The application process for these positions truly begins during your clinical rotations as a student. Throughout your experiences as an undergraduate student you will meet people that will be able to refer you on to varying opportunities including jobs, graduate school, and varying internships. As a student I was able to meet people along that way that helped me obtain my first internship internship. Working hard and exceeding expectations at your assigned clinical rotations is the first step towards obtaining any competitive position.
My time spent with the Buffalo Bills and in graduate school at the University of North Carolina furthered my interest in applying for a yearlong position in the NFL. Speaking with various individuals allowed me to narrow my search to a hand full of teams rather than sending my resume to each team. I was fortunate enough to hear back from the New England Patriots and accepted a yearlong intern position early in my second year of graduate school. It could have been pretty easy for me to go on cruise control and coast through the rest of grad school but I wanted to make sure I left a good impression on my clinical supervisors and professors. In any situation it’s important to see your commitment through with whatever position you may be in before starting a new job. Whether it be the end of your undergraduate studies, or graduate school prior to an NFL internship you need to work hard the entire time. Your last impression is often the one that people will remember.
The most challenging and intimidating part of any new position is the first day and the weeks that follow. Adjusting to a new environment, staff, and group of athletes can be difficult, and this was certainly the case for me. I was used to having a lot of autonomy and was allowed to do a lot on my own in grad school. It was tricky at first to get used to not having that same level of independence. I think that understanding your role is an important part of starting as an intern. This can take time so don’t let yourself become frustrated as you first start.
Fortunately, there were a lot of chances to become familiar with daily operations, staff, and athletes. Mini camps and OTAs were the first true taste of what training camp and the rest of the year will have to offer. This was the first time getting into a “normal” football rhythm and was great for establishing myself among the staff, athletes and coaches. Following mini camps and OTAs the workday slowed down significantly and I found myself with some time off. The other interns and I were fortunate enough to be able to rotate days and travel home for a brief period of time before the start of training camp. The rest of the down time before training camp was full of administrative tasks and preparing for camp and the season to follow. This included taking inventory, placing final orders, and sorting through documentation prior to camp.
The start of camp is a pretty exciting time in any setting. Some teams may have to move to a location away from your typical training facility. This involves moving into dormitories, a team hotel, and moving the entire operation off-site. This time also means the arrival of summer athletic training interns. Teams may hire between four and eight summer interns who are tasked with many of the jobs needed to keep a football team running through training camp. This often includes preparing the room for treatments, setting up the field, running water, breaking down the field, and getting ready to do it all over again the next day. As a yearlong intern, the summer interns are your “go-to” in helping make sure things are running smoothly.
Training camp can often be the most challenging time for any athletic trainer. This certainly holds true for the interns. After a few weeks the monotony of the schedule will start to catch up with you and it will be easy to let your feet drag. As an intern, either summer or yearlong, you cannot let this happen. It is impossible to fully express the importance of working your butt off day in and day out through camp. Some people will revert into survival mode and will only try to keep their heads above water. Despite operating on minimal sleep, you need to be prepared to use your brain and take in all the activity around you. During training camp you wont be spoon-fed information and lessons like you are in college. You need to be prepared to learn by observation and osmosis, and that requires you to be able to think and be alert. Training camp was a great chance to really learn a lot and become a better athletic trainer. Keep striving to get better every day because it will all be over before you know it.
Training camp seemed to go by pretty quickly. Preseason games helped break up the monotony a lot. But before you know it preseason games will be finished, roster cuts will be made, summer interns will leave, and you will be preparing for week one of the regular season. The regular season involved a more steady weekly routine than training camp and the preseason, which I found pretty helpful. One of the truly unique experiences for me this past year involved the team traveling to London for a game against the St. Louis Rams. The trip presented a number of logistical challenges due to the fact that it was an international trip. Contingency plans needed to be made for items that would normally travel with us, but could not travel internationally. Shipping a number of items in advance by sea-freight and drop shipping Gatorade and nutritional supplies directly to London was key to having everything we needed for an extended stay in the UK. Another challenge we faced included making sure we had enough power converters so that our equipment would work in European plugs. Also, cubed or crushed ice is not as common in Europe as it is the US. We learned pretty quickly to specify the type of ice we wanted, or to ask for an ice pick. We did end up having time to explore the city and play tourist between treatment sessions and practices. We stressed that this was a “business trip” but it was nice to have some down time and explore London.
As the regular season drew to a close we were fortunate enough to earn a playoff bid and a first round bye. During the playoffs in any sport you never quite know when your season will end so it was important to plan and prepare as if the season will continue, when in reality you could be doing exit physicals the next morning. This was especially true for us. We needed to plan as if we would play until February 3rdso making sure we had enough Gatorade and other supplies was important. Unfortunately our season did not last that long. No one expects to lose, so when you do it can be pretty disheartening for the team as a whole. Despite the overwhelming disappointment, maintaining your demeanor and approach as a health care provider needs to take precedent. The season may have come to an abrupt screeching halt but there is still work to be done. The morning after our last game we completed exit physicals. From there, we determined the best course of treatment for any injured athletes. Typically this means a few surgeries. As a yearlong intern you may have the opportunity to observe these. In my time with the Patriots I was fortunate enough to observe a number of procedures. This was a great chance to learn from our physicians and see how the surgical technique influenced the rehab to follow.
Following the season you may also find yourself with a more normal work schedule. In the offseason we were typically working eight-hour days with weekends off. Personally, I struggle with having time off so this was a good time to pursue hobbies, catch up on the current sports medicine literature, or just relax. This will all come to an end around mid April when off-season workouts begin. From there, you prepare for the draft, rookie mini camp, OTAs, and get ready to repeat the whole process over again.
A yearlong athletic training internship in the NFL is a great experience, but also a challenging one. This may be the biggest challenge or opportunity you have had in your athletic training career. It was certainly the most challenging season I’ve had as an athletic trainer, but it was also the most fun and seemed to go by the fastest. I have no regrets about my decision to pursue a yearlong athletic training internship. I think the two keys to success include simply finding or understanding your role within the staff or team, and working hard day in and day out. The standard advice of paying attention to detail and always trying to get better still applies, but working hard is by far the most important. It is so easy to become complacent and just doing enough to get by. Keep pushing and working hard even if it is 10PM in the middle of training camp or 3AM in the ER with an athlete. Complacency can really hurt you as an intern. Finally, always proofread your resume and cover letters! Cover letters addressed to the wrong team are frowned upon, even if they give the staff a good laugh. I hope you’ve found this insight helpful, good luck in applying!