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March 1, 2016

Growing up in the Denver suburb of Arvada, Tandice Hawkey was an outstanding student who focused on academics. After graduating from high school in 1997, she was off to the University of Illinois as a pre-med major. That career path, however, didn’t turn out to be the right one for Tandi. I got a little discouraged during the physician shadowing experiences,” Tandi explains, “because the interaction between physicians and patients was so limited. I felt I would get more satisfaction developing long-term patient relationships. I wanted to stay in healthcare, but didn’t know how. Then I shadowed a family friend who was an athletic trainer, and discovered it was a profession that combined healthcare and sports. This excited me, since I grew up playing sports and in a sports family.”

Tandi changed majors, and received an undergraduate degree in kinesiology in 2002. She then attended graduate school at the University of North Carolina. “I had a great experience there,” she says, “with fantastic mentors and classmates who helped me grow in this profession.” She graduated with a master’s degree in exercise science in 2004.

After working for a year at Northern Illinois University, Tandi accepted a position at UCLA and has been there for 11 years.

“When I started at UCLA, I worked with cross country and track and field athletes, “ Tandi says. “Then I switched to men’s soccer and men’s volleyball, then it was men’s soccer and tennis, and now I work with men’s soccer and women’s water polo. I’ve worked with the men’s soccer team for 9 years and really enjoy it. I played soccer growing up and I’m a fan of a game. I appreciate the athletes because you have to be a pretty tough to run for 90 minutes. Soccer players aren’t typically high maintenance and don’t usually have big egos—they’re a team of hard working kids who are easy to work with. They’re fun and kind of goofy, and they bring a lot of entertainment to my work day.”

Tandi continues, “This is my second year working with the women’s water polo team, so I’m still learning about it. Swimming in itself is a difficult athletic activity, then add a contact sport on top of it…I’m in awe of what the girls do during a game. I would drown! They are hard working, tough athletes, and also a lot of fun. Water polo is more of a west coast sport, and many team members are local so when they see players on the opposing team who were high school classmates it often seems like a reunion. It’s also kind of a niche sport, and I really like that aspect of it.”

Outside of her responsibilities at UCLA, Tandi is on the PAC-12 Student Athlete Health Conference planning committee. The conference is the last weekend of April, and Tandi says she is enjoying helping to plan and figure out the logistics of the event.

This is also Tandi’s second year on Cramer’s athletic trainer advisory board. “The meetings are interesting,” she says, “and it’s fascinating to hear the perspectives from other members of the advisory board who work in other kinds of jobs, and in other parts of the country. I’ve toured Cramer’s home office and enjoyed watching employees making products. Before joining the board, I didn’t know all of the company’s history and how supportive Cramer has always been of athletic trainers and especially young professionals, and hadn’t really considered what goes on behind the scenes to get products created and manufactured. I feel even more loyal and connected to the company now.”

Tandi offers some words of advise to athletic trainers new to the profession. “Remember that you can’t care more about an athlete’s problems than the athlete cares about him or herself. When I get frustrated with someone not doing everything they can do for themselves, I remind myself I can’t care more than they do, and can’t force anyone to participate.”

She continues, “Many kids coming through college now had helicopter parents, and it’s important to not enable anyone and to hold athletes accountable and set expectations high. This will help them develop an understanding of their responsibilities to others when they get out in the real world.”

It’s also important to have a life outside of athletic training, Tandi recommends. “I’m very goal-oriented, and really like running,” she says. “I usually do a couple of road races each year to have something to work toward and a goal to attain. Also, in the past few years I’ve done quite a bit of international travel, and I’m saving up my vacation time to take a few big trips a year.”

Tandi couldn’t be happier that her career path led her to athletic training. “I love working with high-level athletes and being a part of their collegiate experience,” she says. “A lot of growth takes place between the ages of 18 and 22, and I enjoy the opportunity to contribute to those experiences for the athletes I work with.”