The athletic trainers of every sports program are among the most critical and most often unsung participants. These are the people who make it possible for athletes to return to play after any of the assorted minor injuries they can incur in the course of a game.
Payson High School has benefited from the efforts of two student athletic trainers this school year in addition to the adults who supervise them.
Kacey Couch, a mid-year graduate, gave almost 500 hours as a student athletic trainer since last spring. Ciara Romance, a junior, who is now playing basketball, gave the program more than 200 hours during the same period.
Couch has been accepted at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and moved up there this past weekend. She hopes to get into the university’s athletic training degree program, but won’t know if she has been accepted until March.
Athletic trainer for PHS Ryan Howard thinks she has a good chance of getting into the highly competitive program — if her ability to tape an ankle is any indication.
“One of the requirements for getting into the program is being able to tape an ankle in under five minutes. She can do it in under three minutes. But I can still do it faster,” Howard said.
Couch moved to Payson in December 2007 from Ohio. While in Ohio she had the chance to work in a medical office where her stepmother was employed and discovered a love of medicine.
Since she also loves sports, the combination of the two was irresistible. Unfortunately, the student athletic training program at her old school was so highly competitive she could not get into it.
She had one piece of advice for her PHS classmates who are interested in becoming student athletic trainers.
“There is a camp for student athletic trainers offered in the summer at NAU and it is really good,” she said.
Couch was able to attend the camp with the help of Dr. Olivia Morris, who is the director of the athletic training/sports medicine program for PHS through Payson Regional Medical Center.
Romance wants to pursue a career in physical therapy, which she was introduced to through her best friend’s father, Scott Nossek, owner and operator of Payson Physical Therapy.
Working as a student athletic trainer has helped her develop skills she expects to use as a physical therapist.
PRMC CEO Chris Wolf said the hospital’s sports medicine program provides support for student athletes and also makes it possible for young people to get acquainted with the career opportunities in the field by becoming student athletic trainers.
The program was developed and started by Morris, an orthopedic surgeon, he said. Morris still directs the program, which also includes the services of Dr. David Cluff and Dr. John Vandruff. The PRMC program actually employs athletic trainers Howard and Anderson.
“The student trainers provide services to all the sports and really help augment the (sports medicine) program. I’m very proud of both of them,” Wolf said.
The program has been operating for about three years.
Morris provides the students in the program with the academic skills, while Howard and Anderson train the participants in the practical applications.
“They learn to triage the injuries and have also had an opportunity to observe related surgeries,” Morris said.
“Our goal is to help the athletes heal and get back to the game as quickly, safely and healthily as possible,” she said.
Morris said both Couch and Romance have been very professional and have become student leaders.
Anderson trained the girls starting last spring, making them ready to assist during the fall football season. When Howard was hired, he took over their practical training, with Anderson moving into more of an administrative capacity.
“I am very proud of them. They stepped up and did all that was asked of them. I was a student athletic trainer and I know all the hours it takes,” Anderson said.
Couch and Romance were presented varsity letters for their work as student athletic trainers at a Jan. 8 event.