(YUMA, Ariz.) - In Yuma Union High School District history, school athletic programs now have the most experienced group of athletic trainers to date.
Kofa High School’s Kathy Hoover and Gila Ridge High School’s Jamie Behr have the longest tenures with the District among its trainers, while Yuma High School’s Kayla Fields, San Luis High School’s Jayson Nielsen, and Cibola High School’s Johannah Elliott have been brought in over the past three years.
“It’s the first time in a really long time that we haven’t had brand newbies in those positions,” said Hoover, who is in her 13th year at Kofa. “So, it’s a real advantage for us in being proactive and in (the) prevention of emergency situations. The experience level of that particular individual really, really matters.”
Led by Hoover and Behr, four out of the five schools have trainers who have been in the business for at least eight years. As required by the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) all of the trainers are licensed, medical professionals.
Such experience is even more important in a state like Arizona, where the average year-round temperature is among the nation’s top 10 hottest.
The trainers use guidelines from the Korey Stringer Institute to ensure student-athletes on each campus remain hydrated, acclimatized, and safe during competition and practice.
Each campus has an established framework for daily activity levels based on Wet Bulb Global Temperature readings that measure heat, humidity, wind speed, sun angle, and other factors.
“We are trained to design programs to help athletes reach their performance goals,” Hoover said. “However, that’s one piece of our scope of practice. The other piece includes emergency management, recognition of injuries and proper evaluation and diagnosis, rehabilitation. We are a field that incorporates a lot of skill sets, while other fields just specifically focus on one. The end goal is to be a healthcare resource to public schools and provide an in-between to reduce health care costs for families.”
The most significant role of the trainers' daily work is serving as a healthcare resource.
Trainers can evaluate injuries and provide treatment and rehabilitation services at their respected campuses with no out-of-pocket cost to student-athletes or their families.
“I can do it in school,” Fields said of providing treatment. “They don’t have to make an appointment and spend an hour in a [personal training] clinic. I can do it here after school.”
The experience is also more personalized because in many cases the trainers know the athletes on their campuses better than the physicians they would see off-campus.
“Having that sort of adviser at a school site is really a cost-saving measure for families and the general public,” said Hoover, who was named one of Arizona’s top 10 educators in 2016 by the Arizona Education Foundation.
In addition to their work with student-athletes, all five trainers are teaching Sports Medicine classes at their respective campuses as part of the Career and Technology Education (CTE) program. According to Fields, a typical daily schedule would include lesson planning, teaching two periods, arriving at the training room for rehab work and paperwork, prepping hydration stations for practices, monitoring athletes, treating any injuries, and breaking down equipment and stations afterward.
"The training staff is the best I've been around," Associate Superintendent Lisa Anderson said. "Not only are they out there managing the medical side of their athletic programs, but they are in the classroom spreading their vast knowledge to our students. We are very fortunate to have such a qualified, outstanding group of trainers across our campuses."
The trainers meet regularly, communicate through group messages, share resources in an online learning environment, and work together in preparation for game-day coverage.
“It means that our athletes are getting the best care that we can provide them,” Fields said. “And we are working together to do it.”