Promote the Profession – Part 2, Communication

17 Jan

Throughout this blog, I have written my opinions on why an AT should be at every high school in the US, but this blog is too small a forum to accomplish that goal.  What it will take to achieve that level of care for all high school athletes is a collective effort by thousands of ATs across the country to promote the profession.  This series of blog entries will seek to give ideas to the AT on real life ways that they can also promote the profession.

Part 2 – Communication

Communication is a vital aspect of athletic training.  Our education, experience and presence are negated by a lack of communication skills.  Much of my personal focus for continuing education has been on manual therapy techniques, functional training ideas, etc. but all of that knowledge is worthless if I can’t communicate that knowledge to the people who need it.

Verbal Communication

ATs in the traditional setting are constantly speaking to athletes, coaches, parents, administration and other medical professionals.  Athletic trainers must also be aware that speaking to a 7th grade football player about their sprained ankle will be different than speaking to the parents about the injury.  The manner in which an AT communicates  is a window into the demeanor and character of not just the individual AT but also the entire profession.  It is human nature to judge people by the way they speak.   We judge people who talk down to us as having a superiority complex.  We judge people who are really quiet and shy as not knowing what they are talking about.  We judge people who curse a lot of lacking education.  It is therefore important for an AT to occasionally listen to the way we speak to others and analyze if our speaking ability portrays what we want it to portray.  Above all, our communication should exude professionalism, expertise in our field and a caring attitude.  A favorite quote of many in the medical field is “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication is a difficult task for our profession.  I say this because much of our real work is performed behind the scenes and out of the public eye, so often the public perception of us is a guy/girl who sits around and watches games all day, or drives a golf cart everywhere to watch games and practices.  Since the general public doesn’t get to see ATs at work in the athletic training room, there is a misperception of our job.  It is important that our non-verbal communication (how we carry ourselves and how we dress) be above reproach. 

In my opinion it is not in my best interest to get emotionally involved in the games I attend.  Why?  Because I am there to provide medical care to both teams in my situation.  In my region of the country, varsity football are the only teams that ATs travel with, so for all other games it is just me who provides athletic training services to both teams.  I can’t be yelling and screaming for my team to win and then have to provide injury care to the opposing team; it doesn’t look professional to the opposing team, coaches or fans.  I must have the mindset that I am the medical professional hired to care for all the athletes on our fields and courts.  I must carry myself that way.

It is also my opinion that how we dress has an affect on public perception of the AT profession.  I try to choose my wardrobe for the day with the thought of  public perception.  Ask yourself this: “How would you be perceived by a parent who you are talking to the first time?”  Does a t-shirt, gym shorts and sandals portray the athletic training profession in a possitive light to the public?  They can in the some circumstances (swim meets?), but not often in my opinion.  I also think it is impossible to write absolute rules for what an ATC can wear to a game or practice to portray professionalism.  Different regions of the country and different communities have different styles and thoughts on dress.  Florida will be different than Wisconsin; New Jersey will be different than Oregon.  But, the AT must give regard to how they dress and the public perception of the dress. 

Athletic training is at the brink of great growth in the traditional setting in my opinion.  I think that there will be great growth in the traditional high school setting with a several thousand jobs being created.  It is important that these new positions are filled with ATs who are professional in the knowledge, communication and appearance.  These new postions will be the first time many in the public will have direct contact with an AT.  It is always hard to undo a wrong first impression.  Make sure the first impressions that you make are good ones.

One Response to “Promote the Profession – Part 2, Communication”

  1. 01keeper January 18, 2011 at 10:49 pm #

    Agree 100%.

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