DON CRANE attends to Brunswick High School football player Jack Harvey during a football game in 2017. Crane, employed by Mid Coast Hospital, is the athletic trainer at the school.

DON CRANE attends to Brunswick High School football player Jack Harvey during a football game in 2017. Crane, employed by Mid Coast Hospital, is the athletic trainer at the school.

BRUNSWICK

When you take a look on the sidelines of local high school sporting events, you see a familiar sight.

Roaming those sidelines are certified athletic trainers, a position that has grown in schools here in Maine over the last 20-plus years.

While very few athletic trainers are full-time, their responsibilities are far from part-time. Athletic trainers are typically hired from a local medical center or therapy group and are not employees of the school district. Athletic trainers are certified trainers (ATC) who meet state licensure and/or the Board of Certification, Inc. and practices athletic training under the direction of a physician.

Each must pass a comprehensive exam before earning the ATC credential, and like a lot of medical and educational occupations, the athletic trainer must keep up-to-date knowledge and skills by continuing their education.

Kate Anagnostis, who has been practicing athletic training for 35 years and has been Mt. Ararat High School’s ATC for the last 20 years, explains.

“We are continuously keeping up with our education and certification,” said Anagnostis, who also has a massage therapy practice of her own in Brunswick. “I think it’s important that parents are aware of the education we have and that we take continuing credits just like teachers to stay up-to-date.”

Santana Wilson, who is employed by Mid Coast Hospital, has been doing the job at Morse High School straight out of college for the past nine years.

“Morse is my first and only job as an ATC,” said Wilson. “I originally wanted to study physical therapy because I didn’t know about athletic training, but since I went to the University of Maine at Orono and they didn’t have PT, I was lucky enough to be able to study under some incredible people in their “great” AT program.”

As more and more high schools retain ATC’s locally, Don Crane, also employed by Mid Coast Hospital and has been Brunswick High School’s ATC for the past 11 years, has seen the position grow as a “need” in high school sports.

“I’ve seen it grow in the high schools the last 15-20 years,” said Crane, who has nearly 30 years of certification under his belt. “I remember my first high school soccer game, I came onto the field and the referee was ‘thank God you’re here,’ as before athletic trainers, the refs and coaches had to deal with injuries.”

At evolution

Having a certified athletic trainer on site has evolved over the years, and has become a more integral staple in high school sports.

“It used to be curriculum or internship based. Over time, we’ve become more recognized in the Allied Heath Professions field, which in turn provides tremendous value to our positions.

“It can help with insurance costs at the school, with the parents/family, and ultimately it helps keep the kids on the field, which is our primary goal.”

A common misconception some have when they see an athletic trainer on site,, is what role does the ATC play with the teams?

“We do more than provide water to the athletes,” said Crane, who also worked fulltime at Bowdoin College as the head trainer for seven years. “Some are actually surprised we can assess an injury and recommend treatment. I still see some parents wanting to take their child to a specialist or health facility for treatment.

“A key component for us is that we can take a look at the injury and properly set up a plan or course of action to get the athlete back on the field or court. Some doctors see the injury and say ‘rest for two weeks,’ and in a high school sport season, that could be a big chunk of time.”

“My role is simple, prevention, recognition and treatment of athletic injuries,” said Wilson. “That having been said, I’m also a shoulder to cry on, a sideline fan/cheerleader, and a voice of reason in tough times.”

Wilson explained her connection to Shipbuilder athletics.

“What makes our job special is the connection we make with our athletes as they go through school. They come in at 13 or 14 years old, young and small and (usually) with no history of injury,” explained Wilson. “By the time they graduate, my goal is to ensure that they know how to take care of themselves, advocate for themselves, and understand what it means to be an athlete. I think dedication to athletics in youth can have a huge positive influence in adulthood.”

Crane agrees, and behind the scenes, he is always educating his athletes.

“I tell my athletes to take care of themselves. I consider myself a voice of common sense,” said Crane, who also spent four years assisting athletes with injuries at Hyde School in Bath. “I help guide the students and parents, like an educator.”

Concussions

One area of concern in recent years has been concussions and the impact they have on the brain. While many other advancements have improved the services of an athletic trainer, the awareness of concussions has been one of the biggest points of emphasis over the past few sports seasons.

“Concussions has been the biggest improvement. There are policies and protocols for that now,” said Anagnostis. “It makes it much easier for everyone so they know what they need to do, and it also brings a heightened awareness. So I think in the big picture, it’s biggest change, and for the better.”

While staying on top of recent medical practices and continuing education is important to an athletic trainer, communication is the utmost important skill one must achieve for daily success. Communicating with the players, coaches, parents and athletic directors is key for all sides to fix the injury at hand.

“If an AD does his or her job well, it makes an ATC’s job that much easier,” stated Wilson.

“I am in constant contact with coaches, players and parents,” said Anagnostis, who is also the massage therapist coordinator for the annual TD Beach to Beacon race. “Since we also oversee the other team during homes games, I often need to be in touch with that school’s ATC, and if I can’t get a hold of them directly, Geoff (Godo, Mt. Ararat’s athletic administrator) is able to assist me with any of that. Any school that doesn’t have that communication, it makes it really hard sometimes.”

“I’ve worked with some great administrators over the years,” said Crane. “Our job gives us some sense of independence, but having that support, whether it be at the schools or hospitals, definitely makes life easier.”

Along with Hyde School and Bowdoin College, Crane also was an instructor and athletic trainer at UMaine- Presque Isle after leaving Northern Arizona University nearly 30 years ago.

“If I had known being an athletic trainer at the high school level was this gratifying, I would have gone straight to the high school level rather than working at colleges. Seeing a student athlete come in whether they are out of shape or have in injury, and listen to what I have to say and in turn seeing them succeed, that’s gratifying.”

Anagnostis and Wilson both agree with Crane when asked what they enjoy the most about being an athletic trainer.

“My favorite part of this job is the time I get to spend on the sideline,” said Wilson. “Win or lose, the kids make it fun. It’s so rewarding to be there for a team and watch them grow together through the course of a season, to help them overcome injuries and obstacles and to witness their success as a direct outcome of their hard work and dedication to their sport.”

“I like the variety of each sport,” said Anagnostis. “I like seeing the kids each sport season and working with them in different settings. Every day is different.”

With costs always being a talking point with high school budgets, most athletic trainers work with what they have and are resourceful with their resources.

“I haven’t really seen any increase in money for supplies, but here (at Mt. Ararat) they are good. If I need something and I tell them why and how it can benefit us, it’s not a problem,” said Anagnostis. “If I’m not going to use it all the time, I’m not going to get it. I am more of a minimalist, if I don’t need it, I don’t get it.”

With a combined 75 years of certified athletic training between the three ATC’s, each had their own take on those wanting to go into athletic training.

“Like most jobs, make sure it’s something you want to do,” said Anagnostis. “I’ve always been interested in sports and working with people. The schedule and difficult injuries can be challenging, so you need to be prepared for that.”

“I always tell interested students, be prepared for the long hours,” said Crane. “We aren’t full time, but like anyone else that works in high school athletics, we put in a lot of hours over the course of a season.”

“As far as advice, I’ll say this, my job is not glorious, we don’t generally make a lot of money, and we work weird hours (evenings and weekends),” said Wilson. “But if you love sports and science, it’s worth it.

“Athletic trainers can work in a variety of settings under our scope of practice, so it’s not hard to find a workplace that is suitable for different personalities. ATC’s work in pro sports, hospitals, clinics, work sites, schools, you name it. It’s a rewarding career, and no two days are the same. I love it!”

So whether you are an athlete, or a parent of one, the next time you’re at a high school sporting event, take notice of the hard work put in by the certified athletic trainers and know the athletes are in good hands.

For more information, you can check out the National Athletic Trainers Association’s website at www.nata.org


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