Athletic Trainers are “A Few Good Men”

29 Aug

A recent Facebook status update from a fellow Secondary School Athletic Trainer took aim at some frustration they had with dealing with coaches.  The status was inspired by the movie “A Few Good Men” and a classic rant by Jack Nicholson’s character Col. Jessup.  Here is the status:

I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep over wins and losses and you curse the ATC. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That victories, while glorious; and losses while tragic, are not nearly as important to me as the health and safety of my athletes. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, keeps kids safe.  You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about with other coaches, you want me on that sideline, you need me on that sideline. We use words like professionalism and loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a career spent protecting something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the safety that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way.

This ATs frustration with a coach is something we have all encountered in our professional lives.  In further communications with this AT, I came to know the full source of the frustration and I couldn’t believe the unprofessional manner this experienced AT had been dealt with by the coach and administration.  But that is not the focus of this blog post – the truth in his Facebook Status is – athletic trainers are often what stands between the athlete and the coach.

Coaches at all levels want to win.  Many of their jobs depend on whether they win or lose.  For some coaches, it is a win at all costs mentality.  They don’t care who gets hurt (physically or emotionally) in the process of winning.

Parents at the youth levels want their kids to win so that they will get a scholarship.  So they put tremendous pressure on kids to perform, to train all the time, to be on club teams year round, to go to camps all summer.

Athletes want to win and will often put themselves in harms way in order to play the next game.

Most of the time, this pressure to succeed at all cost only produces emotional injuries by robbing kids of their childhood, taking the enjoyment out of playing a game, putting too much emphasis on performance and not development, etc.

But increasingly, these athletes break down due to the physical demands of a year round schedule.  So increasingly there is more of a need for the full time services of a certified athletic trainer for secondary schools and youth programs.  And there lies the friction between professions.

Coaches need the safety blanket that athletic trainers provide.  Athletic trainers, attempting to prevent injury, will clash with coaches who put athletes in harms way.  Coaches will in turn begin to view the AT as a necessary evil.

It is in those tough working conditions that ATs worth their salt will thrive.  It may not be pleasant, but the focus is on professionally doing your job – to protect the athlete from further injury, to protect the athlete from themselves, to protect the athlete from their parents’ well-intention ignorance, to protect themselves from their coaches’ desire to win at all cost.

I have had the pleasure to work with coaches who care about the athletes more than the wins, who care about how the game is played more than the result, who care more about character than performance.  But occasionally, I have had to deal with coaches and parents who don’t get it. Not very often, but I do on occasion.

Fortunately, they aren’t around very long.

9 Responses to “Athletic Trainers are “A Few Good Men””

  1. Brian Robinson August 29, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

    Love it! Very well written.

  2. Michael Hopper August 29, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

    Paul, I had a coach tell me today that he was going with my decision whatever it was with a couple of different kids. That’s the first time I’ve had a coach tell me that. I’ve had near-arguments with coaches who weren’t willing to respect my decision. I told him I didn’t care if a doctor cleared the kid, Friday night that decision was mine alone. And he told me he was going with my decision.

    Sometimes we have to be “the bad guy” but they realize later why we make the choices we make…

  3. Patrick August 31, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    Well written

  4. Pete August 31, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    How often do we see coaches and parents arguing in a disrespectful way with doctors who make similar calls? Not very often. So, why trainers and not doctors?

  5. Dustin Fink August 31, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    Paul that is linkage material!!! BOOOOOM!!!

  6. klschartier November 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    I wish all of my coaches had my best interest and not their own. Thanks for the post.

  7. Justin October 19, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    Part of me thinks this is my CI…


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    […] Athletic Trainers are “A Few Good Men” Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  2. Promote the Profession x 2 « The Concussion Blog - August 31, 2011

    […] arise they are the bane of our existence.  I will share the fb status with you and then go to this LINK for Paul’s breakdown; I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You […]

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