There is a saying is athletics: “the best ability is availability.” That is never more true than during the post-season. At this point of the season, every player deals with bumps and bruises compiled during a long and hard season. With no bye week on the high school football schedule, there is no time to “get healthy”.
Thankfully, we have an outstanding athletic trainer at St Johnsbury Academy who works collaboratively with our players, their families, and our physicians to determine who is injured, who is just hurting, who can play, and who must stay on the sideline come game day.
The relationship between the coach and athletic trainer must be one of mutual trust and confidence with both working toward a common goal: to return the athlete to safe participation as soon as possible.
Effective communication is the bedrock of this relationship. Our athletic trainer meets with me daily and often sends text messages throughout the day to update me on the status of our players.
This type of relationship and open communication ensures the athlete will not be put in conflict with the coach telling him, “we need you to play so that we can win” and the athletic trainer offering conflicting guidance, “you need another week to recover.”
Our athletic trainer is a highly educated health-care provider who has the overwhelming responsibility of providing care for hundreds of athletes all by himself. We do not want to make his job any harder than it already is. We support his decisions and coach the players who are available to play.
Ultimately as a coach, we must balance the imperative to win against the longer-term health of our student-athletes. As with most things in life, the long-term good outweighs the short term (perceived) benefit. I’d rather lose a championship this year and have a player return 10 years from now to tell me about how the program benefitted his development than apologize for career-ending injuries, chronic conditions, and the perception that short-term gains supersede doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.
I believe God injects people and situations into our lives for reasons, for seasons, and for lifetimes. I don’t say that to thrust my opinion upon you, but rather to reinforce there are concerns far more important than any individual player or game at stake here. How a student-athlete pursues his/her life and its meaning is far more important than Friday’s final score. I feel fortunate to have such a competent and conscientious trainer looking out for our team and managing “availability” of our student-athletes.
Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at firstname.lastname@example.org and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!