Sitting in laboratories, medical school
students envision themselves performing life-saving surgeries. Law students
fall asleep in piles of books, daydreaming about sitting on the Supreme Court.
After all, every graduate student has a white whale that motivates his or her
efforts and pursuit of knowledge. For many athletic training students, this
white whale is working in the National Football League.
This summer, one of the NFL's most storied
franchises, the New York Giants, gave us the opportunity to realize that dream.
After completing countless hours of hands-on learning, working with some of the
preeminent athletic trainers in the NFL, our experience with the Giants will
remain with us for the rest of our professional lives.
Approaching MetLife Stadium on our first day
as intern athletic trainers was both nerve-racking and thrilling. Fittingly, our initial
assignment as "rookies" was assisting the athletic training staff with rookie
player physicals. At first, we could not believe that the same star players we
had watched getting drafted on television were now interacting with us as
members of the same organization. Any initial nervousness quickly faded with
the welcoming nature of the players and staff, and we were immediately
integrated into the check-in process. As we checked players in with an entire
mini-camp ahead of us, we knew our internship with the Giants' training staff
would be an unforgettable experience.
Rookie minicamp began the next day at the Timex Performance Center. The
impressive structure contains some of the most cutting-edge training facilities
in professional sports. We were shown the full range of rehabilitation and
training supplies available to the Giants' staff, including equipment like an
aqua treadmill. Neither of us had seen a facility like the Performance Center
before, let alone much of its innovative equipment. The structure was a
physical manifestation of the organization's commitment to the health and
performance of its athletes. As athletic training students, we were happy to
settle into such an incredible new home.
After our tour of the facility, Steve Kennelly, the Assistant Head Athletic
Trainer, discussed the Giants' rehabilitation philosophy. The first of many
such discussions, he detailed the organization's process behind returning
injured players back to peak athletic performance. Other athletic trainers also
took the time throughout our internship to discuss their own methods of
treatment and experiences in the NFL. The extensive knowledge and diverse
backgrounds of the athletic training staff were immediately apparent. Each
member of the sports medicine staff brought a unique perspective and specific treatment
expertise to the team. Together, the individual strengths of each athletic
trainer combined to provide the players with comprehensive treatment plans and
the highest quality of care. While the Giants' athletic training staff was
organized under a unifying philosophy, we were regularly exposed to a variety
of therapies and approaches. This exposure broadened our experience and
expanded our knowledge base.
After rookie mini-camp, we were invited to assist in the upcoming Organized
Team Activities ("OTAs") and veteran mini-camp. Although we were no longer
completely new to the organization, the invitation inspired excitement and
nervousness yet again. Upon our arrival to the first day of OTAs, the veteran
players immediately labeled us the "Rookie Trainers." Just as veterans test the
limits of rookie players on the field, many of them were excited to evaluate
and critique our skills in the athletic training room. Warmly judging our tape
jobs and treatments, many veterans began to return to us for specific tape
jobs, stretching techniques and massage treatments. The veterans' trust in the
"rookie trainers" definitely improved our confidence, and we began to develop a
rapport with them within the training setting. As the players developed
confidence in our abilities, we were afforded much more responsibility.
However, gaining an athlete's trust outside
of the training setting is also crucial to the success of an athletic trainer.
As OTAs and mini-camp progressed, we began to know the players on a more
personal level. For example, we knew what specific players would want at
certain points in practice, and we took the initiative to ensure that all the
necessary supplies were waiting on-field. Quickly integrated into the system,
our assistance in keeping practices running smoothly was recognized by the
athletic training staff. We would spend the early parts of practice split
between the offensive and defensive units, ensuring that water and Gatorade
were always ready. Later, we would meet during "team" activities to cover both
sides together. With each day, we developed a routine, gained confidence in our
abilities and learned valuable lessons.
Our time with the Giants also afforded us the
opportunity to observe some of the preeminent medical professionals in the
country. We watched and listened closely as team physicians performed
orthopedic assessments and discussed emergency action plans. As students, the
chance to see the composure and thought-processes of professionals was
particularly valuable. Additionally, we worked alongside the team's
chiropractor. After performing different manual therapies, he explained the
various methods he used and the rationale behind each treatment. Overall, the
athletic trainers and the medical staff were incredibly patient and consciously
included us when possible. We are truly grateful for their efforts and grew immensely
as athletic trainers through these lessons outside of the traditional classroom
When veteran mini-camp drew to a close, we
paused to reflect on our experience. We embraced our roles as "rookie trainers," each day gaining confidence and helping the athletic training staff more and more. After only a few short weeks working with the Giants, we felt part of the medical team providing services to the Super Bowl champions. Our unexpected
journey introduced us to five of the best athletic trainers in the NFL,
countless other medical staff, a team full of dynamic players and one of the
best organizations in professional sports. With Metlife Stadium fading into the
New York City skyline behind us, we left our internship fulfilled and
motivated. Our opportunity with the Giants provided us with a glimpse of our
white whale, and like Captain Ahab, we are ready to work toward returning
story published by the Professional Football Athletic Trainers
Society. Learn more about the Master of Science in Athletic
Training program at the Seton Hall University School of Health and Medical Sciences.
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