Event celebrates work of student athletic training aides
CASTLE ROCK – This week athletic training student aides from across the District gathered to put their skills and knowledge to the test during the third annual Athletic Training Student Aide Symposium and Challenge. This year, the team from Highlands Ranch High School claimed the title and traveling trophy, made appropriately with athletic tape.
About a dozen teams, representing the nine Douglas County School District (DCSD) comprehensive high schools took part in the event, which was held at Castle View High School on Monday, February 22.
“I thought it was a lot of fun and a really cool way for us to kind of have our own competition,” said Highlands Ranch High School junior Zoe Zalesak. “ We go to all the football games and bunch of other sports games and watch our peers compete. It is kind of nice to have a place where we can compete and show our skills and what we do.”
While the students do have the opportunity to earn an athletic letter for their work on the sidelines, Highlands Ranch High School Head Athletic Trainer Tom Sylva says the students deserve more recognition.
“I would say they put as much time into a season as the athletes themselves,” Sylva said. “They are there for the entire practice time. They’re there before and after. They’re also there for the games.”
Most of the aides are assigned specific teams and work closely to support the student athletes, wrapping sprained ankles and helping to respond to emergencies, always under the watchful eye of the school’s athletic training staff.
“It is not always glamorous,” explained ThunderRidge High School Head Certified Athletic Trainer David Whitelock, who had his aides filing papers about the athletes on the day we spoke. “There is also a limit as to what high school students can do, governed by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and their policies on high school students.”
Student Aides get close to the action, medical experience
Students become student athletic training aides for a number of reasons.
“I’ve had some that have done it because they like the chaos and they like the excitement,” Whitelock explained. “When they get down on the sideline and they realize that it is a different view of the game than in the bleachers or the stands.”
Whitelock and Sylva both promote the aide program as a great way to explore a possible career in medicine.
“I want to get high school students interested in the health profession of athletic training,” Whitelock said. “My desire is to foster a love for the profession, starting at the high school level.”
“We look for kids who are interested in the medical field,” Sylva added. “You could work in a physical therapy clinic, in a hospital, in a high school, in college and even with a pro team.”
He says companies like Nike and HP are now hiring athletic trainers for their workout facilities. They are also working for the military and NASA’s astronaut program.
“Both Zoe and I want to go into the medical field, so this is a great start for the exposure and working with people on a direct medical level,” Highlands Ranch High School junior Chasmine Malabanan said. “You get to learn a lot about anatomy and how to splint arms and look for symptoms and being able to diagnosis them.”
“Being a student trainer has drawn me towards wanting to work in an Emergency Room or something that is more hands on and considering some other options, sort of showing me more sides of the medical field,” Zalesak added.
“I think it is interesting to have an insight into sport, how muscles work, how your body is working when you are playing,” said ThunderRidge High School junior Emily Morris, who first learned about being an aide, when she was taking an athletic training class at the school.
“I couldn’t tell you why, but I really loved taping,” Morris continued. “Mr. Whitelock told me we have a club that does that and I said, ‘okay, that sounds cool.’”
Three events: One Champion
The challenge is composed of three events, beginning with athletic taping.
“They’re judged on functionality, neatness and getting the right components in to your tape job,” Sylva explained.
“There is more science to it than what people think. It is not just slapping tape. There is purpose to the tape jobs that we do and the steps that are done within the tape job,” Whitelock added. “It’s all based on what causes the injury and what structures need to be supported.”
The student teams were then asked to quickly find answers to specific athletic training questions.
“You’re given either a scenario or you are given a anatomical structure and there is something you have to dig up on an iPad,” Sylva explained.
Finally, the teams participated in a Jeopardy-styled game with five categories and different point totals.
It was a tight competition, but in the end Highlands Ranch High School’s Team won the challenge.
“The kids were elated. I was so happy for them. They really put in a lot of time studying,” Sylva said.
District Champions: Zoe Zalesak, Chasmine Malabanan, Tom Sylva (Head AT), Payton Walters, Crystal Reynolds (Assistant AT)
Whitelock says he hopes the event will celebrate the hard work all of these students put in, every day.
“We want students to know they’re appreciated and they help us do what they do,” Whitelock said.
“It is a really cool opportunity to have a competition that we can go to and that we’re passionate about,” Zalesak said. “When you work really hard on something, it is really cool to see that there are other people like us that are really into student training.”
“It was neat seeing how much talent there is in our school district. There are kids who have tremendous potential for medical careers,” Sylva added. “It is awesome.”
Editor's Note: Special Thanks to Keyser Images Photography for the amazing photos of the event. CLICK HERE to see even more pictures.