Athletic training: More than a major, it’s a lifestyle

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By: Sara Ridgway | Sept. 24, 2016

They may not wear a uniform or have a number, but the Kean University students in the Athletic Training Program play a huge role in the success of Kean’s athletes.

Unlike most other majors, the AT Program not only requires students to take extensive classes in the healthcare field, but also requires countless hours of rehabilitation and clinical time.

Ray DiVirgilio, who happens to be among the first students who graduated from Kean’s AT program, is the Program Coordinator. After graduating in 1986, he has traveled around the country and gained experience working with high school, college, olympic and professional athletes while also earning his Master’s Degree.

DiVirgilio elaborated on what it takes to be an Athletic Training major. The aspiring AT’s journey begins during the spring semester of their freshman year. During this semester the students take introductory and lab courses. They then continue to take their beginner AT courses in the fall semester of their sophomore year. Throughout this time period, the students are only intended AT majors and therefore in the first week of December submit their application to the program.

“Along with that they have to hand in a reference letter from two people that they worked with either in camps or they were bosses or anything that would tell about their character,” DiVirgilio said.

During the spring semester of their sophomore year, each student is required to have a physical done, go through an interview process and score an 80% or higher on a written and oral practical. Throughout this time, and the rest of their time in the program, students must maintain a grade of a B- or higher in all of their Athletic Training classes and a cumulative GPA of a 3.0 or higher.

“If they do all that then they are indoctrinated into the program and it doesn’t get any easier,” DiVirgilio said. “As I tell my juniors, I said their  rst semester is going to be their worst semester and the reason is, is because they’re going to AT courses where they’re learning all these health related courses and they’re also doing clinical time at the same time.”

It is understandable how putting in 20 hours a week at a clinic, maintaining high grades as a student and somehow maintaining their own social and personal life can become stressful very quickly.

“So they feel like they never have any time to themselves because like all students they put more time than they should, that they need to, because they get fully engrossed in the program,” DiVirgilio said.

DiVirgilio described the program as a family. When a student is putting that much time in and out of the classroom into this field, they are going to gain valuable relationships and bonds with their fellow students, teachers and certified trainers they work with. With the AT community being as small as it is, everyone knows each other on a very close level.

Graduates of the AT Program at Kean have found themselves working on each side of the Seattle Seahawks-New England Patriots Super Bowl, with the Carolina Panthers, the Detroit Lions, Circus Soleil in Las Vegas, as well as with the United States Ski Team.

While some stay local and some branch out, an Athletic Trainer can find themselves working in a variety of fields. Graduates have utilized this program to further advance
their career in the healthcare industry by becoming doctors, physical therapists, physicians assistants and chiropractors.

AT’s can find themselves working in any field that is based around physical activity including broadway, stunt actors in hollywood, the military, Nascar, rodeos, dance companies and the FBI. The possibilities are endless in a world that does not stop moving.

Students are required to be at Kean during physicals for athletes in the summer. For clinical time students can be assigned to a Kean sports team, work rehabilitation hours at Kean, work at other colleges and in high schools.

There is not a set amount of clinical hours each student is required to complete. Instead DiVirgilio described the time spent doing clinical rotations as time spent gaining more experience by working hands on with real patients.

The demanding program attracts very high caliber students, but at some point, many will realize the extent of the work they are putting into it, is not for them. There is a traumatic drop in the number of students in the program each year. Currently there are 82 freshman and 48-50 sophomores intended AT majors and there are 15 juniors and 17 seniors in the program.

At the end of their journey here at Kean, an AT major will take a certification exam which, in the event that they pass, allows them to be certi ed around the country.Different states may require a state license and other criteria, but the certification is applicable across the nation. Some international areas also recognize the certification.

A junior student in the AT program, Calli Scheuermann, was inspired to take on this major through her experience playing sports since being in grammar school. She has experienced injuries as a volleyball player and can credit athletic trainers for rehabilitating her back to health, in the shortest amount of time possible.

“I was extremely grateful for the help that I received while being hurt and I knew that I wanted to assist athletes with their injuries in the future,” Scheuermann said. “I hoped to be able to reciprocate the care that I received unto those who needed it.”

With a main goal of receiving her doctorate in physical therapy, Scheuermann has also considered becoming a high school athletic trainer. If she chooses the latter she would pursue a master’s degree in exercise science. Whichever path she takes, athletic training will have served as an essential stepping stone in leading her in the right direction.

Scheuermann elaborated on the point DiVirgilio previously made about the strenuous workload and time commitment it takes being an AT major. She describes being an AT major like being a full-time athlete year round.

“If a student is not in class, he or she is either in the rehabilitation facility, setting up for practice, at practice or studying,” Scheuerman said.

Athletic trainers assigned to a sports team arrive to practices an hour early and also have to stay after. So a two and a half hour practice for an athlete, can really be at least a four hour practice for the trainers.

Now in the fall semester of her junior year, Scheuerman feels she is ready to begin helping athletes with the knowledge and experience she has gained thus far in the Athletic Training Program. She has been working with athletes in rehab since the football team started pre-season on Aug. 13. Throughout the fall she is assigned three rehab slots a week so she can continue gaining valuable experience through interacting with athletes.

“They should be commended for what they do because they give a lot of themselves and don’t ask anything in return,” DiVirgilio said. “ at’s basically what the profession is. If you’re a giver it’s great for you but you have to make sure you give time for yourself.”

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