Beyond the athletes

Oak Harbor High School freshman Kellie Newton hobbled into the field house connected to the gymnasium.

Her left leg ached so badly, she wasn’t sure she could participate in tennis practice.

A quick right turn into the training room and Newton found her answer.

Waiting with athletic tape in hand were four fellow students and Dan Patzer, head athletic trainer for the high school.

In a span of 10 minutes, OHHS senior Cory Winget and Patzer assessed Newton’s problem, taped up her quadricep and ankle and she was off to practice.

This is a common occurrence for Patzer and the 18 members of his sports medicine class, which saw nearly 20 athletes after school Wednesday.

“Really the only one who can assess is me, but I allow the students to look at an athlete with my supervision and then we’ll talk about it and say ‘what do you think,’ ” Patzer said. “It’s really a good learning tool.”

Although Patzer must look at any injury considered serious, the sports medicine students are allowed to tape and ice anything that is not severe.

Part of their first lesson is CPR, followed by basic ankle taping.

The focus of the year-long class shifts to anatomy and physiology where students learn about aspects of orthopedics and rehab.

The actual classroom portion of sports medicine is during sixth period, but students must also attend a seventh period where they either apply their skills by helping out in the training room after school or work an internship in a similar field.

Winget, who fell into the class his junior year by accident, said he is loving every minute of it.

“I was supposed to be in a health class, but it ended up being a health careers class and from there I went with sports medicine and stuck with it,” he said. “It’s just knowing how the body works, it’s amazing how it goes together — I wanted to learn more about how people handle injuries and stuff like that.”

If students pass with a B or higher, they can earn eight credits at Skagit Valley Community College. They must, however, put in a minimum of 180 hours in the field.

A way to gain those extra hours is through working with assigned teams — something junior Terrance Gibbs has done for two years now with the boys basketball team.

“Helping people out is fun for me, especially with athletes because I love sports,” he said. “It’s just makes me feel like I’m part of the team.”

Gibbs, who traveled to every home and away game, and attended every practice, has 311 hours accumulated this year. His goal is 360.

“I’m trying to letter,” he said.

Winget also spent several hours traveling with the girls basketball team the past two years.

“I got honored at senior night — that was a trip,” he said, laughing. “My mom was like, ‘I’m so proud,’ and I was like, ‘it’s a girls team though.’ ”

As for helping students their own age with medical assistance, junior Jennifer Marshall finds it a little strange at times.

“It’s kind of unexpected,” she said. “You feel like you have a higher knowledge.”

Although most of the students’ time is spent helping those who compete, athletic training is gaining its own respect among Washington high schools. The Oak Harbor sports medicine class joined 11 other teams in Stanwood on Wednesday morning for the second annual WesCo Sports Medicine/Student Athletic Trainer Competition. This was the first time Oak Harbor sent a team to the event, which is essentially a knowledge bowl for the field of sports medicine.

Places weren’t kept beyond the top three teams, but Patzer felt his group would have captured fourth place if they didn’t get such a tough first-round draw with two-time champion Edmonds-Woodway.

“Any other team and I think we would have placed,” he said.

Patzer, who is in his first year at OHHS, hopes that next year he will have more kids in the program and take a team to the state competition.

The possibility of more students seems likely for the third-year program as the popularity continues to grow.

“There’s definitely a shift (of popularity) moving,” Patzer said.

About half the students currently involved want to remain in the medical field when they move on to college.

Gibbs is one of those who wants to stay in athletic training, possibly even going to Patzer’s alma mater.

“I may try to attend Eastern where he went and kind of try and follow in his footsteps,” he said.

Although the future is no doubt on their minds, the focus of the sports medicine now remains on helping athletes like Newton battle their way through a long spring season.

“There’s just something about being a’s just nice to know you’re helping people,” Winget said.

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