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Lessons Learned, Lessons Shared

March 13, 2018

Experience, as we all know, is a great teacher. And those who have learned from experience are great teachers as well! With that in mind, we asked the elite athletic trainers on Cramer’s Advisory Committee to share valuable lessons learned from experience. Their wisdom is timely for students getting ready to graduate and equally as helpful to athletic trainers at any point in their career.

Chris Crawford, MS, ATC

It’s a tough profession when you get into it right off the bat. You’re exposed to a lot, you’re asked to do a lot, and some of it might be a little bit out of your comfort zone. But sticking with it, asking questions, and doing your best to work your way through the situations is what’s going to help you in the future. You’ll figure things out, you’ll say okay I’ve been through this before, this is what I did and this is how I can make it through. That perseverance is a big key.

Collin Francis, MS, ATC, LAT

Always be the hardest worker in the room. I grew up with athletic trainers who grinded for 30-plus years, not missing a day of work, not missing a game, and just working hard and being a tireless advocate for our profession. I’ve learned, especially this year, don’t sweat the small stuff. You have to be able to differentiate what’s important and what’s not. Sacrifice a little argument in the athletic training room for the greater good.

Jim Spooner ATC, LAT, CSCS

Do a really good job of using your mentors, people that have been around awhile. The profession is changing so much right now in terms of what we do, the educational component, what students are taught. They’re coming out with so much more information than when I graduated 15 years ago. But I don’t know if they have a good grasp into the profession’s past and some of the work that’s been done to get where we’re at. They need to get that education from the mentors or people who have been in the profession for a while to continue on those traditional components of athletic training.

Jose Fonseca MS, LAT, ATC

Open your ears before you open your mouth. Listen to what people are telling you. Observe and watch, before you act. I think it goes a long way. It’s sort of a lost art form these days. People want to talk a lot and they don’t want to listen, they don’t want to see what’s going on around them. Learn from your mentors.

Kelly Quinlin, ATC, CSCS, LAT

The advice I would give to new grads would be to know that your hard work will pay off. I remember telling myself that multiple times when I was younger: All this hard work, all this time, all this effort will pay off. And it did. Another thing is not to be complacent in what you know. Always want to learn more; always want to know what’s the newest rehab technique, treatment, modality that works really well.

Mike Harrison, ATC, LAT

You don’t learn everything in your curriculum program. It’s just not possible. Your first year out on the job by yourself is going to be a huge, huge learning curve. You’re going to get the most experience by being hands-on. So the biggest thing is to communicate. Communication is key. You’re going to have to learn to communicate with coaches, parents, and athletes, and you have to do it on their terms. But if you have a position on something, you need to be firm about it. It’s okay to agree to disagree and disagree to agree. You’ll work it out. But communication is probably, by far, the biggest thing in our industry.

Paul Silvestri, MS, LAT, ATC

Listen. Listen to the people that have been through and walked the path that you’re about to start on. Don’t think you have all the answers. The first thing the young ATCs need to learn is to be humble and check their ego at the door. I always tell our kids if you don’t have the passion for this profession, you need to get out now and figure out a new major because the hours that you work, and the demands that are put on you, and the stress of getting an athlete back on the field and dealing with coaches and parents and everything…it’s not for everybody. You’ve got to decide that early on, that you’re going to be passionate about it and love it.

Tandi Hawkey, MA, ATC

To new athletic trainers I would say address the life balance issue, and that you just need to have good boundaries when you start your position. Make clear expectations with the student athletes about their communication with you. Younger people these days have different feelings about when it’s appropriate to text and communicate with you, contacting you on social media, things like that. If you enter your position with clear expectations for your relationship with your student athletes, you’re going to be a lot better off because you can feel like you have that time away from your student athletes when they know that it’s not okay for them to contact you all hours of the day.