MINOOKA — March is a big month for many of us. The weather is warming up, March Madness is upon us and the Minooka Community High School athletic trainers program celebrates National Athletic Training Month, a month long celebration helping promote the use of athletic trainers.
Robert Flynn has been the main man when it comes to athletic training at MCHS, with this being his 13th year at the helm. He says it’s hard to do anything to celebrate athletic trainer’s month, as this is one of the busiest times of the year for Flynn.
“I’m going to be honest, I’m not doing much this year to help out the cause,” Flynn said. “Last year we did an open house, and in the past I’ve won two awards for public relations. We’ll still let people know that it’s athletic training month and we’ve put a sign up, but it gets tough to do stuff because of the spring sports. It gets really busy around here.”
That busyness has led to expansion over the past two years, as now MCHS has joined up with ATI Physical Therapy to help them with their athletic training needs. One guy in particular, Randy Highbaugh, is contracted out of ATI to help at MCHS, spending every day now at the school’s South Campus to help out with some of the spring sports. Highbaugh has been with MCHS now for close to two years.
“I get to see both ends of the spectrum. I treat in the clinic for two days a week, so I get to spend a little more time with my patients,” Highbaugh said. “And then when I’m here at the school, it’s a lot more of injury treatment, so it’s a lot more fast-paced trying to make sure guys are safe.”
Although the big boom in growth of people in Minooka has brought out ATI, another program was even starting before that. MCHS has a rare type of school in that it allows students to volunteer their time to helping out after school with the athletes.
Although the students can’t perform anything medically because they do not have their Bachelors degree from a university or college yet, they are able to do basic pre-med evaluations, helping out Flynn and Highbaugh big time if they are somewhere else when the player gets injured.
“They’ve been a great help. They learn first-aid CPR, so if there’s an injury on the field, and they’re calling me to get over there, they can start basic first-aid,” Flynn said. “It really helps because when a kid really gets hurt, their presence has really calmed down the parents and coaches because they’re nice and calm and start doing things before I get there.”
“A lot of the students that volunteer with us are interested in the health care field, whether it be a physical therapist, a nurse, something like that,” Highbaugh said. “I think the exposure they get with us can only make them better. They’re exposed to so many different injuries, so it’s a great experience for them. And they help us out with so many things, whether it be rehab of a player or just giving water to a player on the sidelines.”
The number of students has grown over the past couple years, with almost 40 students helping out this past fall. This growth has been huge for MCHS, and it has given some kids a chance to still be involved with athletics.
“It’s really fun, but it’s a lot of responsibility,” junior Nicole Vrabec said. “We have athlete’s health in their hands, and it’s a good feeling to get them back out there after an injury. You’re still involved in the community and sports because you get to see all these sporting events.”
During National Athletic Trainer Month, Flynn likes to use the most out of time to help generate buzz for a relatively young industry that only started about 50 years back. His philosophy is very simple.
“Family is first, school is second, and the activity is third,” Flynn said. “Our school has gone through enough to realize that family is first. I always tell my students that before they hang up with their parents they should say ‘I love ya. Bye.’ And that’s the kind of thing we try to push here. We treat each other as family, and we all get along pretty well.”