Thanks to the generosity of Payson Regional Medical Center, Payson High is one of the few small-town schools in the state that have access to a full time certified athletic trainer and also a program to educate and train student volunteers.
The trainer is 30-year-old John Navarro whose salary is paid by PRMC, but he spends the majority of his working day on the PHS campus looking after the health, rehabilitation and training needs of the school’s student athletes.
As part of having Navarro work at the school is a “Volunteen” program established by PRMC that currently certifies, teaches and prepares student trainers.
In turn, they work under the guidance of Navarro during team practices and at games.
Navarro arrived in Payson in August after teaching physical education and weight training for four years at San Tan High School in Queen Creek.
Prior to that, he attended Grand Canyon State University where he got his start in athletic training.
At San Tan, he also coached football and track and field, but says his hectic work schedule at PHS precludes him from coaching this season at PHS.
During the fall, he and the student trainers were responsible for looking after more than 200 athletes in the sports of football, soccer, volleyball and cross country.
The duties included the coordination and carrying out of treatment of injured athletes and communicating of results to coaches, managing the day-to-day operations of the training room, coordinating physicals for athletes, maintaining health records and maintenance and evaluation of equipment used by the athletes.
It wasn’t long ago at PHS when there was no full time trainer on campus and most of those duties were carried out by overworked and underpaid head coaches and their staff.
Now, Payson has a full time trainer, but he must shoulder a variety of duties.
“The biggest challenge of my job is being accessible to all the athletes, finding a balance,” Navarro said. “Since all the sports have different schedules, there might be (soccer) games going on at Rumsey Park, football practices (on campus) and volleyball practice (in Wilson Dome) — I have to try to balance where I am.”
Apparently he’s doing an excellent job of meeting the needs of all athletes.
“The best thing I like about John is he makes himself available,” said PHS Athletic Director Rob Varner. “When he is needed, he is easy to get a hold of.”
Lady Longhorn volleyball coach Arnold Stonebrink is among those who recognizes the challenges Navarro faces and what he contributes to PHS team members.
“Besides making emergency calls to take care of injured athletes, attending to rehab needs and keeping our med kit well stocked, John is doing an off-season agility and strength training program that will make my players, strong quicker and with more endurance.”
Football coach Byron Quinlan agrees Navarro is a huge addition to the PHS staff, “His personal knowledge and drive in regards to strength training will pay off for all Longhorn athletes.”
Since the end of the football season Navarro has begun working with those players not involved in winter sports. In after-school sessions, he trains and conditions them for the future.
“The kids love him and he is right at home in the weight room,” said Quinlan.
Varner also recognizes that the new trainer is a good fit, “I know he enjoys interacting with the coaches and kids.”
Next school year, Quinlan hopes to lure Navarro into coaching — if the trainer can fit it into his already packed schedule.
“He loves football and already is a real asset to the program,” Quinlan said.
Although Navarro is relatively new to the position, which last year was held by Ryan Howard, he has settled in like a seasoned veteran.
“It’s been great being here, it (the job) is a real good fit for me and my family,” he said.
His family includes wife Meghan and one-year-old daughter Rosa.
In his job at PHS, Navarro is also at the forefront of PRMC’s “Volunteen” program which next year he hopes will become an academic class, training students for work in the profession and perhaps step into the future as certified professional trainers. “The class would be an elective and there has been interest in it,” he said. “The student trainers are a huge benefit to the school.”