Thanks to the Socorro Independent School District’s Athletic Trainers Program, students are learning first-hand what it takes to pursue a career in sports medicine.
“We are preparing the student athletic trainers for potential college programs and careers,” said Kinsey Abascal-McCown, athletic trainer at Socorro High School. “It is a valuable learning experience that can prepare you and give you a head start on things you will learn in college.”
The students learn firsthand all that is involved in taking care of athletes from making an ice bag to splinting a fractured arm. Those experiences have paid off for many students who have moved on to college with hopes of graduating with a degree in the field.
The district’s student trainer program is considered one of the top in the city, said Michelle Moe, athletic trainer at Americas High School.
“I believe that our program holds a student more accountable for their academic learning in the field of sports medicine and allows them to get a head start for any medical-related field in which they may be interested,” Moe said.
Albert Hernandez, director of athletics, said the SISD programs go above and beyond the high school level.
“These students work side by side with our athletic trainers,” he said. “They are taping athletes and providing assistance. They cover multiple events and work hard. It rivals any program in the state.”
All that hard work has led to plenty of success. Students have earned scholarships to study to become professional athletic trainers. Some have graduated already and are now ready to become board certified.
Recently, two former Montwood High School student trainers, both who are studying at Texas Tech University, earned internships with professional football teams.
Jered Hanley will be with the Washington Redskins during its NFL training camp in July and August. He was only one of five chosen from about 400 applicants. Alec Ramirez will spend his summer with the Atlanta Falcons after beating out more than 600 other applicants.
“It’s an incredible opportunity,” Hanley said. “The athletic trainers prepared me well. They gave me an opportunity to join and get as much experience as possible.”
The student athletic trainer program at any of SISD’s six comprehensive high schools is competitive and rigorous. Students must fill out an application, go through an intensive interview process and sign up for a sports medicine class in some schools or take it as a prerequisite. They also must become CPR certified.
The training continues on the field, the court or whatever surface an athlete performs. They have a long list of competencies to master. They are allowed to provide basic first-aid and taping under direct supervision of an athletic trainer licensed by the state of Texas, Moe said. They also work long hours.
“They are here before all the athletes and leave after everyone else is long gone,” Moe said.
Patrick Solis, athletic trainer at El Dorado High School, said they make sure students understand the expectations of the job.
“We let them know that they are expected to work over intersession, weekends, and work late nights,” Solis said. “They also have to maintain their school grades and other activities that they may be involved in.”
On a typical day, most students are taping ankles, assisting with treatment and rehabilitation or working practice and games, said Eric Fajardo, athletic trainer/sports medicine instructor at Montwood High School.
“Our goal is to have second and third year students evaluating injuries and making educated clinical diagnosis,” he said. “Of course, they should also know that this job will include serving athletes and constant cleaning.”
Some SISD student athletic trainers have taken what they have learned and competed in local, regional and national contests.
Montwood has won the Sun City Athletic Trainer Association competition four years in a row. It also placed first at the West Texas Sports Medicine competition, which involves all schools throughout Texas. The team came out in fifth place at the American Academic Competition Institute California Regional Sports Medicine contest last month in Los Angeles. In 2017, the program ranked No. 7 nationally by the AACI National Sports Medicine competition.
In the last few years, Montwood has sent eight students to Division 1 programs, including UTEP, University of Texas, Arizona State University and Texas Tech.
“These positions offer next level experience, large scholarships, traveling around the United States and multimillion dollar training rooms with the latest technology,” Fajardo said.
Montwood graduate Hanley earned a full scholarship to Texas Tech. He has had the opportunity to work during track season and spring training for football.
“I want to be an athletic trainer for an NFL team or with a Division 1 football program,” he said. “I definitely had an advantage because of where I went to high school. It allowed me to get as much experience as possible.”
Brandon Anchondo, a senior at Americas, has learned a lot in his sports medicine class and his time on the playing field. He is now hoping to pursue an athletic training degree. He will start at EPCC, graduate next fall and after basics are completed, move on to Texas Tech.
“This class has taught me a lot about injuries and a lot about physical therapy,” he said. “I always wanted to go into the medical field. This will allow me to do that, but also branch out into becoming an athletic trainer. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Chris Lopez, Pebble Hills High School athletic trainer, said there are many opportunities after college graduation for athletic trainers, such as in private business as well as military, and educational athletics at professional, college and secondary settings.
“Athletic training is a big time commitment,” Lopez said. “You need to make sure it is something you love to do, and make sure that you go through an accredited program. But there are many opportunities.”
Former Americas student, Valeria Delgado, just graduated from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and is now awaiting to take her board of certification. She is hoping to work in a high school.
“My dream is to be an athletic trainer for dancers,” Delgado. “I wouldn’t be this far if it wasn’t for the training I received at Americas. It prepared me for college and it made me realize what I wanted to do.”