Training the trainers

Athletic training students at Temple High School crowd around their teacher and athletic trainer, Windee Skrabanek, left, as she explains to the benefits of cold water immersion to reduce inflammation and swelling. Skrabanek hopes people will have a better understanding and respect for how hard her students work and the impact they make on the school’s teams. 

Windee Skrabanek, one of four athletic trainers for the Temple Independent School District, said her students at Temple High School are the team behind the team.

She hopes the community will have a better understanding and appreciation for the job of an athletic trainer.

“We call them the unsung heroes because they are the people that you don’t really notice until you really need to see them,” she said.

Keeping student-athletes hydrated and assisting in basic first aid is part of what these student trainers learn in order to help in the care and prevention of athletic injuries.

Different levels of sports medicine courses educate students on the basics of the anatomy of the body and teach them rehab techniques along with proper taping and compression wrapping.

Student trainer Katelynn Eckenrode recalls being really nervous the first time she had to use that knowledge and help a player with an on-field injury.

“He went down and we ran on the field,” Eckenrode said. “It was exciting, but nerve-racking because they were in the middle of playing and he couldn’t go back in.”

She said it taught her to stay calm and look at the bigger picture.

“It’s not always just about the sport necessarily,” she said. “But it is about more about the athlete and how they are feeling.”

Skrabanek, who has worked at Temple High School for 12 years, said she has four previous students who are currently professional athletic trainers.

Bre’Layshia Hodges was one of those students and took Skrabanek’s sports medicine class before graduating in 2009.

Hodges is now a professional athletic trainer for the district serving the middle schools and making rounds at the high school as needed. She said she continues to learn from her former teacher and now co-worker.

“She always has a lot of insight especially from a professional aspect,” Hodges said. “And the impact that she has on the kids not only on the field but also off of the field. She is a mentor to me…and the opportunity to make a difference really drew me to the career.”

The year’s theme for the National Athletic Trainers’ Association is, “A safer approach to work, life and sport.”

“We want to educate our community and our athletes,” Skrabanek said. “Definitely, if our athletic training students weren’t here daily, we wouldn’t be able to have proper hydration and be easily accessible for all of our spring sports.”

She said her 16 students travel with the football and playoff teams and cater to 18 different sports throughout the year.

Of those students about a third of them have plans to pursue a career as an athletic trainer after high school and the rest have plans to pursue a medical career where they can still apply what they have learned so far.  

Student-athlete Presilda Martinez said one day she was the only person in the office when a basketball coach came in concerned after a basketball player’s knee cap was dislocated at practice.

“It was a good experience for me because it taught me how to stay composed,” she said. “It teaches me a lot because I did help this athlete more than I thought — it is not just about giving out water.”

Martinez said after that experience she decided that athletic training was her calling.

Alyssa Sykes, student trainer, said she also has had moments when she was a game changer based on what she has done on the sidelines.

“We had a player injure his ankle on the field,” she said. “So I helped with his rehabilitation. He sat out the whole game, but over time he got treatment and we did therapy on his ankle.”

Despite the student trainers being around the same age as the athletes they treat, Skrabanek said there is a level of trust and respect for the student trainers’ knowledge and capabilities.

“They really do have a good relationship and it comes from the history of the program which is a good thing,” she said. “So they really have a lot of trust in our ATS (athletic training students).”

Skrabanek said while the students are knowledgeable and capable, they also understand they cannot go beyond the scope of their practice.

“If they don’t feel 100 percent comfortable we ask that they don’t step in that room,” she said.

Temple High School freshman basketball player Breyaunna Sigler said while she has not had an injury, she is confident that the student athletes would be able to take care of her if the unfortunate were to happen.

“That’s because they have helped my teammates get back on the court faster,” she said.

As basketball season wraps up, the student trainers are preparing to assist the baseball, softball, track, tennis, soccer and power-lifting teams at the school, making sure these student athletes stay competitive.