Providing Athletic Training Services for Sport Clubs

May 12, 2011

A Future Trend?

Nicole Piscitelli
Assistant Director
Informal Recreation and Student Development
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Over the years, Sport Club Programs have developed into sophisticated student organizations. Campus Recreation departments invest thousands of dollars each year while Sport Clubs recruit talented players, pay coaches, and travel all over the country to compete. Administrators continually support and guide the club organizations by implementing policies, hosting educational sessions, and providing services to meet the needs of the sport club participants.

A major issue and possible trend that Campus Recreation Departments are facing is whether or not to provide some level of athletic training service for sport club participants. Athletic trainers provide a depth and breadth of knowledge beyond that of a student with first aid and CPR certifications, or even that of an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Athletic trainers are highly educated and skilled individuals providing services that range from injury prevention to rehabilitation. The ability to provide athletic training services is an excellent addition to a sport club program; however, securing funding and resources can be an obstacle.

Based on a short survey, follow-up emails and informal discussions with other professionals in the field, common trends seem to be emerging. Common themes emerging include:

  • Providing a full-time certified athletic trainer
  • Utilizing graduate students in athletic training programs that need practicum hours
  • Utilizing undergraduate and/or graduate students who are not certified yet have minimal training in basic injury prevention and care
  • A combination of the above.

In many cases, universities with the means to provide a full-time athletic trainer have noted that it is not feasible for one athletic trainer to be present at all practices and contests. To address this issue, universities have established appropriate and reasonable protocols. Protocols include:

  • Utilizing the full-time athletic trainer for high-risk clubs while using student employees to assist with practices and some contests
  • Requiring a minimum number of first aid and CPR certified sport club participants on a roster
  • Training students to tape, stretch athletes, and to perform basic injury evaluations.

Another common trend is staffing an athletic training room on campus. Sport Club participants may receive treatment at the training room during set hours for sport club participants or schedule an appointment. The services include injury assessment, taping, stretching, treatment and education in injury prevention. Some universities indicate the training room is located in campus health services, while others are located within the student recreation center. If space and resources are the issue, exploring a relationship with campus health might be a viable option. Examples of partnerships include:

  • Paying a portion of a full-time athletic trainer or sports medicine doctor position
  • Contributing towards supply costs or costs associated with graduate assistants
  • Providing set times to treat sport club participants.

Sport Club Programs complement the academic experience in serving as a catalyst for students to apply knowledge and skills. Hence partnering with an academic program (e.g. Kinesiology) appears to be a natural fit for a campus recreation department since the objective of both entities is to educate students. In discussions with academic programs, it is important to highlight the fact that students will be introduced to sports not commonly offered by intercollegiate athletic programs (e.g. Taekwondo). This will enable educators to expand the opportunities offered for students to increase their breadth of knowledge.

Each university has distinct and unique characteristics, and what works at one university may not work at another. The following examples highlight the approach taken by two universities, one which provides athletic training services, the other which is currently exploring new partnership options available on campus.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a unique situation in which they partner with Campus Health Services to provide a full-time Athletic Trainer. The Department of Campus Recreation covers 90% of the salary, with the Sport Club Program contributing the majority of the funding. The remaining 10% of the salary is provided by Campus Health Services. The Physical Therapy Clinic located in the Health Center is open four hours a week to the general student body and sets hours specifically for sport club participants. In addition to providing a full-time athletic trainer, UNC employs graduate students who are certified athletic trainers. In order to pay the salary of the graduate assistant, a partnership exists with intercollegiate athletics and academics. Both athletics and academics contribute 1/3 of the graduate assistant salary. In return this graduate assistant serves the varsity Men’s Lacrosse team and teaches an academic class within the Exercise and Sports Science Department. Due to the number of clubs at UNC, staffing every practice and game is nearly impossible; therefore they have prioritized the needs for athletic training service. High risk sports such as Rugby, Ice Hockey, Lacrosse, and Football all have athletic trainers present at home games. Depending on the club schedules, other options such as a floating trainer, staffing the training room and/or foregoing athletic training service are utilized. Again, each university is unique and this model is an example of a successful collaboration that incorporates partnerships among four different departments in order to meet the needs of the sport club program and university.

At the University of North Carolina at Greensboro discussions between the University Health Center and Campus Recreation are in their infancy. The health center has identified a need for a full-time sports medicine individual as the number of sports related injuries has increased. Additionally, Campus Recreation has demonstrated the need to have an athletic trainer present for all home sport club contests. With the health center currently having partnerships with both athletics and academics it seems that campus recreation could be an extension of this partnership. The vision of such a partnership consists of a graduate student hired by campus recreation to serve as the sport club program’s athletic trainer. The trainer would work closely with a sports medicine doctor to provide treatment for sport club participants. Because the University Health Center and Campus Recreation both report through the Division of Student Affairs the hope is to combine efforts to secure funding thus benefiting and meeting the immediate needs of both departments.

On a final note risk management is always a hot topic. Providing athletic training services and coverage may reduce the liability universities face when hosting competitive contests. Providing athletic training services is a growing trend and how to fund them is a challenge. The Sport Club program may provide an excellent opportunity to collaborate with multiple departments on your college campus. As resources continue to become scarcer, universities should explore the possibility of developing relationships with athletics, academic departments and health services to find a model to best meet the needs of not only the sport club program, but also the university.

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