By Travis Smola
The Schoolcraft school board has approved hiring a full-time athletic trainer through a partnership with Bronson Methodist Hospital.
Schoolcraft currently uses an athletic trainer provided through Western Michigan University and Bronson’s two-year athletic trainer program. These trainers have been offered at no cost to the schools as the students finish their studies to become certified trainers.
New rule changes will soon require athletic trainers to have a master’s degree. Brad Toepper, a certified athletic trainer from Bronson, was present to explain details to the board. He said trainers won’t be able to be certified or licensed in the state of Michigan without a master’s degree.
But the change gives the district an opportunity to hire current trainer Jordan Love in a full-time capacity through a new partnership with Bronson to place full-time trainers in schools. Approximately five or six area schools have already signed on. In this program, athletic trainers are Bronson employees. The hospital picks up the salary and benefits. The district would have to pay a $25-28,000 fee to help support the program.
Toepper said the value of Love as a trainer was demonstrated in the 196 evaluations requiring documentation she recorded in 2018. He estimated the value of those evaluations at about $47,000.
Girls’ head basketball coach Steve Kulczyk said Love was the best trainer they’ve had so far, praising her professionalism and ability to balance multiple tasks. He noted he can’t coach the game and provide medical care at the same time for an athlete who needs it. “With Jordan over my shoulder, I don’t worry about it. I can coach,” Kulczyk said.
Head football coach Nathan Ferency was also at the meeting and said he especially appreciates Love’s services on things like concussion protocol. He said it was comforting to have her take an athlete out of the game because it takes that difficult decision out of his hands. He also praised her ability to handle a huge workload. “She’s always managing at least five, six or a dozen kids after school,” Ferency said. “She does amazing, amazing work and we’d be hard-pressed to replace her.”
Athletic Director Jeff Clark was also in favor of Love as a full-time athletic trainer noting that a full-timer would benefit from having an athlete’s full medical history from middle school onward. He said Love has become very familiar not just with the athletes, but also with the coaching staff.
“She’s tremendous, she eases the mind of our coaches,” Clark told the board.
If the district chose to hire Love, it would be an 11-month contract with the month of July off. Toepper said most of the trainers in the program choose to have their salary spread out over the whole year, similar to the pay schedule of a teacher.
While board members and Supt. Rusty Stitt supported the hire, they questioned how they would pay Bronson’s fee. One option is to charge an athletic trainer fee of $50 per athlete or $100 per family. Trustees Rachel Phelps and Jill Hunt expressed concern over this idea, feeling parents pay a lot into the district already. Both also felt it was making athletics into “pay-to-play.”
Board Vice-President Jason Walther and Trustee Wade Rutkoskie both felt the fee was fair, although Walther wanted to look at more options before charging families.
Rutkoskie felt parents often spend far more on private training sessions and equipment.
Board President Jennifer Gottschalk suggested having the finance committee look at the issue to see if it could be paid for out of the general fund. “I’m just saying let’s look in every crack and crevice before we charge our families,” Gottschalk said.
The board ultimately passed a resolution to commit to the hiring of Love, while giving the finance committee a month to look at funding options.