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Top Ten Student Athletic Trainer NFL Training Camp Tips

By Mike Ryan, PT,ATC,PES, Head Athletic Trainer - Jacksonville Jaguars


Training camp is almost here.  Soon you’ll be expected to run, lift, push, spat, clean, organize and lift some more for 18-20 hours a day.  I was a student intern for three summers under the guidance of my mentor Ronnie Barneswith the New York Giants.  It was a great experience that changed my life and super-charged my career.

So you want to work in the NFL on a full time basis with a long career as a PFATS member?  83% of present NFL athletic trainers worked as interns just like you!

Here are my top ten tips to help you, the student trainer, to get the most out of your great opportunity working with an NFL athletic training staff.

Hustle, Hustle & Hustle Some More- It’s time to Strengthen Your Hustle Muscles.  Become an energized machine getting your duties done properly and done fast.  If all your duties are completed and you’re not sure what to do next, clean something.  Be it the wheels on the modality cart or the windows in the Hydro Room, keep them shining.

Clear the Mind- Being relaxed and able to think clearly when things get busy is crucial for an ATC. Mastering this skill starts when you’re able to think clearly whether you’re cleaning whirlpools, taping rookies or rehabbing an injured player.  “Learn to breath”

Make Sure You’re Packing- Three things you should always have in your pocket: scissors, athletic tape and a notepad/pen. Take notes when given To Do’s, rehab tips, taping pointers, injury prevention suggestions,…etc.  Maximize your learning by documenting the details.

Listen Hard– The instructions and directions will come fast and furious.  Learn to listen effectively to the medical staff.  Learn to listen with your ears and your eyes.  Become fluent in verbal & nonverbal communication.  At the same time, learn to listen to others within the organization without sharing any private injury information with anyone.

Stay in Your Lane– Don’t be the student intern who wasting time doing something that he/she was not asked to do when everyone is waiting for that intern to finish his/her “To Do List”. Know your role & stay in your lane.

Treat Others- Focus on a respectful and professional relationship with everyone you meet.  Be happy when you’re completely exhausted, be professional, be supportive and above all, be positive.

Moving Target- Former Giants Head Coach Bill Parcells would yell at anyone simply standing next to a player.  Because of this, the simple act of moving was a skill that I mastered very quickly. I suggest you do the same. “Keep your feet moving”

Ask Questions- You don’t know everything and that’s expected.  Ask Questions.  If you don’t understand something, get more info. Don’t bore everyone with the little things but don’t just bite your tongue and walk away more confused.  Knowing exactly what’s expected of you starts with clear instructions.  If those details aren’t crystal clear, ask the right questions and listen hard.

Master the Tape- During a season, an athletic trainer could tape 3000 ankles!   Camp is a perfect opportunity to show off your taping skills.  Become a master at taping and spatting, establish a strong reputation and let the players brag on you.  Become a taping machine!

Lend a Hand- A massage is not just a massage. Learn from experts who can show you how to use the most important modality in the Athletic Training Room….YOUR HANDS.   This will pay off significantly during rehab time so you can fit in & impress the full-timers. 

In summary, an NFL internship is a wonderful opportunity for young athletic trainers to shape their careers.  At the end of your internship, some of you will realize that the NFL is not where you want to spend the next 30 years of your life. Others, like so many of us, will be energized by the internship realizing that working in the NFL is the exact path you want for your career.





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