Tips From the Field: How to Succeed as an Athletic Trainer
by, James Lomax - Assistant Athletic Trainer, St. Louis Rams
Being an athletic trainer in the National Football League presents its challenges, yet at the end of the day is very rewarding. It is exciting to be able to help the players perform at high levels and optimize their performance and health. We are blessed to be able to be doing what we do to make a living. Nevertheless, if you have not already, in your professional career or even as an aspiring student, you will be faced with adversity and have challenges that will need to be overcome. How you deal with these challenges and change illustrates your character. They will test your spirit, challenge your desire, and it will most certainly be a huge gut check. It's important to keep in mind why you are in this industry... Why are you an athletic trainer? For me, it's tri-fold. No.1 is my family. I want to be able to provide for them by being an NFL athletic trainer. No. 2 is seeing the players I train stay healthy, recover well and play at a high level again. And finally, No. 3 is winning Super Bowl Championships. That's my motivation. What's yours? Knowing what and why you do what you do should be the ultimate motivating force to make you determined to be the best professional you can be for many years come. Here are my ten tips to keep you on top your game:
10.Have a positive attitude. Have a positive attitude all of the time. Don't find yourself talking negatively about co-workers, athletes, or colleagues or other employees in the building. This can only be destructive to your own image.
9. Be a forward thinker. Bring something new to the table. Athletic Training is an ever-changing field so try to stay up on the newest techniques whether that is rehab, taping, or new products. The “more you can do”, will demonstrate your desire to stay current and provide the best care to your athletes.
8. Mind, Body & Spirit. To excel as an athletic trainer from good to great to elite you need to not only treat the athlete you need to have a holistic approach. The Mind: You take an athlete from there most vulnerable moment “an injury”. They may miss an entire season or just a day or two but they are looking for something positive. Be that positive influence. The Body: Treat and rehab the athlete back to good physical health. Use good science behind everything you do from modalities to rehab techniques. Finally…The Spirit: What does this me to you? For everyone it’s different. For me it’s the environment in which we create. Having an upbeat, positive atmosphere creates and environment of healing.
7. Make a good impression. Make a good impressions, especially first impressions to everyone you are around. This includes coaches, administrators, co-workers and athletes.
6. Informal interviews. Be ready at a moment’s notice to meet and interact with the head coach, staff, and administration. Be yourself and have a really good grasp of all of your duties and responsibilities. We don't only hand out water and tape ankles. Know what you do and what you do well.
5. Work Ethic. Always work hard. Get to work a little earlier in the off-season and stay a little later. Demonstrate initiative and accomplish tasks before they are asked of you by your superior.
4. Be flexible. We are all creatures of habit so making adjustment quickly, although it may be difficult, is crucial to success in athletic training.
3. Evaluate yourself. What do I need to improve? Why do I do what I do? What drives me? This is an important practice to do on a daily basis and for overall development as a healthcare profession.
2. Confidence. Have confidence in your skill set and continue to hone in on the skills you already have.
1. Lean on and learn from your peers. Use your peers to lean on for advice. It's ok to relinquish your ego and ask for some help. Call other athletic trainers and ask them for advice. Everyone has a nugget of knowledge that can add some clarity to the situation you may be dealing with. Conversely, be available for peers when they reach out for you. Lending a helping hand will not only be a nice gesture but it also demonstrates humility and compassion for the situation. People respect that.