By Josh Claywell, The News Enterprise
As the athletic director at LaRue County, David Dawson loves the safety net provided his coaches by the athletic training staff of Hardin Memorial Health’s Therapy and Sports Medicine Center.
As the dad of a three-sport athlete, Dawson loves the wealth of information the group provides parents and athletes alike and the fact that the trainers are there every step of the way through the recovery process from an injury.
For 10 years, it’s been a vital relationship between area schools and the athletic trainers provided through Hardin Memorial Hospital. The Sports Medicine team celebrated its 10-year anniversary this spring.
“That’s a tremendous asset for us and other schools as well,” Dawson said Tuesday. “We’ve had four or five trainers over the years, and each one of them have been great to work with. It’s very comforting. Obviously the coaches and myself are qualified to take care of emergencies, but these are people that see injuries and accidents more than we do. It does make it comforting that they are here each night.”
The group of trainers, which features eight full-time staff members and two on an as-needed basis, covers Central Hardin, Elizabethtown, John Hardin, LaRue County, Meade County and North Hardin high schools. It also covers the Elizabethtown Sports Park and Elizabethtown Community and Technical College.
One trainer is at each high school on a daily basis during the school year. Jeremy Steakley handles Central Hardin, supervisor Carol George is at Elizabethtown, Ricky Morse is at John Hardin, Maria Backes covers LaRue County, Chad Witzel is at Meade County and Kaleb Boydston handles North Hardin.
Morse, a 2005 North Hardin graduate, is a graduate assistant along with Alex Martin and Kirsten West. Chris Mudd, George’s husband, and former supervisor Eric Oliver can help when needed.
The staff has ebbed and flowed over those 10 years, but the group’s objective has never changed: to provide immediate assistance in the event of an injury during practice or a game.
“We’re parts of all these teams, and it’s fun for us to be on the sidelines and see those teams succeed,” George said. “(The last 10 years have) been a whirlwind. I love the community and I love where we are and the support of the schools. We couldn’t do this without the athletic directors and the principals. It’s been rewarding the support they’ve given us.”
As healthcare has evolved, so too has the Sports Medicine team.
The staff is always trying to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to injuries, from concussions to sprains and strains and everything in between.
The trainers act as a liaison between athletes, coaches and parents, and are always looking out for an athlete’s best interests.
Dawson said it makes things easier on coaches and athletic directors who may not have the amount of training George and her staff do.
“It’s peace of mind,” he said. “When you have athletes that are out there every day and want to be on the court and playing field and don’t want to let the team down, they want to get back as soon as possible. It would just put a burden on the coaches. The coaches already have a tremendous amount on their plate. It takes away a lot of stress that coaches already have. It’s just been a great program that HMH has offered.”
And it’s one HMH has provided free of charge to the schools.
Central Hardin Athletic Director J.C. Wright said that’s one less thing the schools have to worry about.
“Anything we can do that can help the kids and educate coaches too is an added bonus,” he said. “You can call 911 if needed, but you’ve got someone on campus and in the facility. It means a lot of the school and to the community. It’s been a great partnership. We work hand-in-hand pretty well with each other. It’s definitely a great asset to have.”
North Hardin football coach Brent Thompson said having the trainers on-site each day has been a blessing.
Coaches are required to be certified in CPR and other measures, but he said the trainers can do even more.
“One thing I tell my coaches is we’re going to abide by what they say,” Thompson said. “They’re more trained in stuff than we are, so we need to heed the advice of them and go from there.”
George said the area’s coaches and athletes have been great to work with over the years.
She also said the group has benefited from the partnership with the Sports Park and the city of Elizabethtown. The sides recently signed a new two-year agreement for HMH to continue providing services at the park.
“It’s been good and it’s been a learning process for us as to how best to serve a $30 million athletic complex and everything they’re bringing in,” George said. “And our relationship with the city has been great. I think it has been an attraction for those tournaments coming in knowing that there’s healthcare and knowing that it’s taken care of, and I know the city has appreciated that.”
And then there’s the partnership with Western Kentucky University, which provides graduate assistants to work with the program while earning their Master’s degree.
“We’ve only been doing it for a few years now, but it’s a good opportunity for us to get some extra help here,” George said. “It’s giving them an opportunity to get out there and get some field work. It’s allowing them to get their Master’s degree while pulling a full-time load here, and it’s allowing us to put a full-time person in the school.”
The Sports Medicine team has proved to be a vital asset in the area. After 10 years, Dawson said it’d be hard to fathom the trainers not roaming the sidelines at games and practices.
North Hardin baseball coach Ace Adcock agreed, saying it would make things more difficult on coaches if that safety net was no longer there.
“It’s benefited high school sports tremendously and has been an asset to the coaches and players by just them being there daily,” Adcock said. “What they do helps the coaches a lot, by just making sure certain protocols are being taken care of and keeping players safe.
“I remember playing without them,” he added. “Not having them there would be very difficult because it adds another sense of responsibility. I think it really eases coaches’ minds that things are going to be handled correctly not only on our part but there’s someone there to specifically handle those situations if a kid get severely injured.”
Josh Claywell can be reached at 270-505-1752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.