By Sue Moore
“Our job is to help young people play safely in any of the sports they’re competing in at Schoolcraft or Vicksburg,” said Lauren Flood, the athletic trainer for Schoolcraft high school. “We are here to protect them,” reflects Angel Nunez, trainer for Vicksburg high school’s athletes.
“Sometimes they think we will keep them out of play if they admit they have an injury, so we work to establish a relationship of trust with the players and coaches,” Flood said. “We are part of a team. It’s our job to get them back into competition in good shape.”
The women are graduate students in Western Michigan University’s (WMU) two-year athletic trainer program, one of only a few across the United States. It is affiliated with Bronson’s orthopedic program and supervised by a staff of doctors and administrators. A total of 16 area high schools participate in the program. The trainers are assigned to each school for two years during their graduate studies at no cost to the participating high school. They have first finished a bachelor of science degree in an accredited program and passed their national board exams to receive certification before enrolling in Western’s Department of Human Performance and Health Education.
This means full days during each season for the trainers, with classes in the morning and on-site participation at the high schools in the afternoon and evenings. They are on the sidelines for football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball primarily but they also serve students in their trainer’s room for cross country, track, tennis, wrestling, golf and cheerleading.
“Lauren is very organized, very professional, and an excellent trainer. She goes above and beyond in helping our student athletes,” said Terry Haas, the football coach for Schoolcraft. “She has brought the concussion impact program to our school. This program provides a baseline test for student athletes and helps to determine if they are ready to return to training after they have sustained any type of head trauma. A trainer is a very valuable resource to our school and we are very fortunate to have this service provided to our schools. We are very appreciative of all that the trainers do for our student athletes.”
Athletic trainers specialize in prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of sport injuries. “We never know what we are going to see each day at work. We treat all injuries throughout the body. Football is the highest contact sport, with soccer a close second, thus creating more bumps and bruises,” Flood said. They operate out of small trainer rooms next to the dressing rooms at each high school. Vicksburg just got a new ice machine for ice packs and ice baths in a big tub with water maintained between 50-55 degrees. “When athletes first get in they hate it but they soon feel so much better. It helps them recover faster,” Nunez said.
“I work with great coaches, great parents, great administrators and the best student athletes I could ask for. Even my hardest days are really good,” Nunez said. “We try to teach the athletes to help themselves. They all know how to make their own ice bags and follow our recommendations on rehabilitation from their injuries.”
Angel is awesome with the volleyball program, according to Coach Katrina Miller. “The girls feel safe with her and trust her opinion. She always goes out of her way to make the volleyball teams feel important and cares about the girls and their well-being.”
Added softball coach Paul Gephart, “Angel is always very upbeat, friendly, positive, courteous, pleasant, and extremely attentive to the needs of our student athletes. She always maintains open dialogue with the coaching staff and interacts with coaches in a very professional manner. Angel is an angel.”
“We in Schoolcraft are very fortunate to have Lauren working with our student athletes. She has done a tremendous job keeping our student athletes healthy and rehabilitating those with injuries to get them back into the game. She is invaluable part of our athletic program,” said Athletic Director Jeff Clark.
Likewise, Flood said she is surrounded by a good environment with students who are taught to show respect. “If you don’t like sports, this career isn’t for you,” Nunez said.