Building ChampionsThis is a special month for Sam Houston head athletic trainer Hope Parker.

March has been officially recognized as National Athletic Training Month thanks to efforts by the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA). With the slogan “Athletic Trainers – Working hard to keep you safe,” the NATA is seeking to stress the significance the importance of athletic training profession and explain how many people’s lives athletic training affects.

For Sam Houston sports fans, a simple list of recent outstanding Bearkat student-athletes who have achieved on a high level to bring national and regional recognition to the university should suffice in demonstrating the importance of the athletic trainer.

That list includes names like Timothy Flanders (football), DeMarcus Gatlin (men’s basketball), Danielle Demas (track and field), Lachlan Edwards (football) and Sally Clavelle (women’s basketball). Each of these student-athletes along with so many others have overcome athletic injuries to return to play and succeed.

“Athletic trainers provide prevention of injuries; recognition, evaluation and aggressive treatment of injuries; rehabilitation and education and guidance,” Parker said. “It’s exciting to see our profession receive national recognition.”

As part of the Bearkat intercollegiate sports team, Parker and her athletic training staff play a major role in helping Sam Houston achieve its goal of “Building Champions.”

“When a student-athlete becomes injured, the onsite athletic trainer is the first to respond to the situation. During this time, we assess the severity of the injury and decide the proper course of care,” Parker said. “There are many steps to an evaluation and we are trained to be efficient and quick to make decisions, especially when time is an issue – whether life-threatening or during a game situation. We also care for the day-to-day aches and pains of the athletes. We provide the best care possible to keep our athletes competing at their best. We are able to provide in-house care by using modalities and rehabilitation and reconditioning protocols.”

Huntsville Memorial Hospital serves as the official healthcare provider for the Bearkats. By joining forces, Sam Houston and Huntsville Memorial Hospital have created a team approach to athletic injury prevention, treatment and rehabilition of each student-athlete who represents the Huntsville community wearing the orange and white.

“Athletic trainers and the physician have to have a good working relationship and an open line of communication at all times,” Parker said. “We work closely together throughout the injury and return process due to them overseeing our care practices. With that being said, physicians also in the majority of cases return care to the athletic trainers for the decision of full return to playing status.”

One of the slogans from the NATA for National Athletic Training Month is “A safer approach to work, life and spirit.” Parker says there is a special bond that can develop between student-athlete and athletic trainer.

“A lot of times we develop lasting relationships with student-athletes who are dealing with long term injury situations,” Parker said. “We definitely get to know those individuals more in a continual one-on-one situation. We spend a lot of time with each of them and learn how to push them. Anyone who is a surgical case is going to spend at least six weeks with us on up to nine months depending on what the injury is. That’s a lot of time and energy both parties but in and trusut develops from there.”

Working in conjunction with each of the coaches in Sam Houston’s 17 intercollegiate sports and the university’s strength and conditioning staff, a major effort goes into injury prevention.

“Injury prevention starts with nutrition – fueling the body – and rest,” Parker said. “We all work together to make sure we are teaching proper techniques. We work with coaches to change mechanics if need be. As athletic trainers on the field or in the arena daily with the student-athletes, we keep our eyes open to see what needs to be fixed and what we can change to make things safer.”

Originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, and a graduate of Appalachian State in 1999, Parker came to Sam Houston in 2000 where she received her Master’s Degree in Kinesiology in 2002. She is an NATA certified athletic trainer as well as Texas licensed. She became Sam Houston’s head athletic trainer in June, 2003, after serving one season as assistant athletic trainer and two years as a graduate assistant.

“Since I got to Sam Houston in 2000, we have seen so many improvements in the program here,” Parker said. “The administration has increased our staff from two athletic trainers to nine. From that standpoint, we’re getting a good handle on improving our quality of care by improving our ratio.

“Our next step is to expand our current facilities. We’re headed in the right direction with the renovations to Johnson Coliseum and what’s being done there in creating a quality facility for our court sports and soccer. Space and more efficient places for storage is an issue. A solution is continuing to purchase and update equipment as needed and doesn’t need a lot of space. A pressing need is for an emergency cart/gator for athlete removal during a game and other events.”

Staying healthy and rehabilitating from injury is as important as anything necessary for Sam Houston’s student-athletes to succeed at a championship level. Alumni, fans and friends who wish to help the more than 400 Bearkats receive the medical and athletic training resources they need can help continue building Bearkat Champions by supporting them online through the Athletic Training Enrichment Fund Building Champions link.

One other important goal for the Sam Houston athletic training program is continuing education.

“We have started an academic program that is going to help us continue to put out well-educated and clinically sound athletic trainers,” Parker said. “We’re proud of the athletic trainers who have gone through our program and now are affecting the lives of student-athletes in high schools and other universities throughout Texas and the nation.”