The first line of defence

Student-trainers get little recognition, coach says

Men’s volleyball outside hitter Jeff DeMeza. seen here in a Jan. 11 match against the Western Mustangs
Image by: Harrison Smith
Men’s volleyball outside hitter Jeff DeMeza. seen here in a Jan. 11 match against the Western Mustangs

Lindsay Fowler and Amanda Patzalek were the women’s hockey team’s first responders this year. As student-trainers, they acted as the team’s primary resource for dealing with injuries.

Fowler, PHE ’08, said working with the hockey team meant an intensive time commitment all year.

“They finished their season just after Reading Week, and they started training camp in August,” she said. “During the week, there were probably about 10 hours [of work], and then weekends away, obviously you’re spending your whole weekend with them.”

The team’s lack of a home arena and early-morning practices made her job difficult this year, Fowler said.

“This year was a bit of a struggle because of the arena situation,” she said. “We don’t have Jock Harty Arena, so we have to practice at the Memorial [Centre] at 6 o’clock in the morning three days a week.”

Fowler said it was tough to balance her schoolwork with her job as a student-trainer, particularly on long road trips.

“Sometimes it was difficult,” she said. “You definitely need to plan ahead, especially for away weekends. When you’re travelling to Windsor or something, and you’re gone Friday night until Sunday night, and sometimes getting back at three or four in the morning, that’s obviously a bit of a challenge.”

Fowler said she got into the program because she wanted to be a physiotherapist, but has since decided she’s more interested in public health. She said her experience was still valuable, though.

“I definitely learned a lot that I wouldn’t have otherwise,” she said.

Men’s soccer forward Tyler Swan said their student-trainer, Myk Kasteravicius, does a lot for the team.

“Pre-game, if we’re injured or we need our ankles taped or any sort of therapy, he provides us with that,” he said. “Post-game, he gets our ice for us, he wraps us, he gives us our cold tubs or any treatment we need. … He’s a vital part of our team because without him, if we got injured, we wouldn’t know what to do.”

Swan said the student-trainers who have worked with the soccer team are highly knowledgeable and approachable.

“It’s good in the sense that we have a trainer we can relate to,” he said. “They’re a friend of ours as well, so they can actually give us good insight.”

Dave Ross, Queen’s co-ordinator of athletic therapy services, said the demands placed on trainers and athletic therapists have changed dramatically since he came to the University 28 years ago.

“When I came in 1980, there was probably a trainer with the football team, maybe a trainer with the men’s hockey team, and that’s about it,” he said.

Ross said there are usually 34 student-trainers in the program, which runs on a three-year cycle.

“We get them in the second year of Phys Ed, and all the students that we recruit we take a year to train. They get a year of training without even being placed on any teams or anything like that, and in their third and fourth years, they’re placed with different teams.”

Ross said the thorough training tries to prepare the students for situations they might face with teams.

“The year of training is mainly to get them acclimatized to what goes on in their third and fourth year,” he said. “We’re hoping if someone gets injured in a game, whether it’s an ankle, a knee, a shoulder, that they’ll be able to respond, provide immediate first aid and know what to do.” Many student-trainers are now being taught to use automatic defibrillators in their advanced first-aid courses, Ross said. There are two automatic defibrillators in the PEC and one in Richardson Stadium during football games.

Ross said more student-trainers are assigned to sports where there’s a higher chance of injuries.

“It’s probably more of a risk-management type of thing,” he said. “Not all the interuniversity teams [have their own trainer], but certainly the major risk ones do, like football, rugby and soccer.”

Ross provides intensive training for all of the student-trainers, and he and assistant co-ordinator Vicky Wiltshire constantly oversee their work and attend many games, but they can never prepare

for everything.

“After 27 years, I’m still nervous about running onto the field,” he said.

Ross said student-trainers are either given honoraria by the department or paid through the University’s work-study program.

“There is an honorarium we give, but it certainly doesn’t pay minimum wage,” he said. “A lot of it is kind of a volunteer thing for experience and for interest, because a lot of kids may want to go into this sort of thing and they’d like this on their resume.”

Ross said he, Wiltshire and their student-trainers perform athletic therapy, which is based more on handling athletic injuries than physiotherapy, which often focuses on helping people with disabilities.

“We’re bound by a scope of practice that’s under the Canadian Athletic Therapists’ Association,” he said. “We’re not trained to work with respiratory patients or amputees and those types of things.” Ross said they could use more full-time athletic trainers, but they don’t have the resources.

“Do we need more? We always need more, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.

Working as a student-trainer’s a valuable experience even for people who don’t want to be athletic therapists, Ross said.

“The people who have left our program have entered many fields … [from] physio to medicine to massage therapy to teaching,” he said. “All of them have benefited and, if you talk to them, they always had a great experience here. … We had one of our student-trainers travel with the men’s rugby team this year to Argentina, and one of our other students travelled down to Florida with the volleyball team. Those are unique experiences for an individual to go and travel with a team.”

Ross said it’s easier for other schools that offer athletic therapy programs to recruit student-trainers for their varsity teams, as that’s often a mandatory part of their course load.

Men’s volleyball player Jeff DeMeza said he’s impressed with what student-trainers can do, but he’d prefer to see more professionals if the resources were available.

“I think student-trainers do a great job, but I just don’t think there’s enough support staff, people like Vicky or Dave or doctors,” he said. “They can only do so much with the dollars they have, and they do a great job with that, but they need to have more professionals to help them out.”

DeMeza said all the student-trainers he’s worked with have been enthusiastic and eager to learn, but he’s heard of student-trainers in other sports who weren’t as interested in their job.

“We’ve always had good trainers, but I’ve heard of rookie trainers who, not to say that they don’t know their stuff, but they just aren’t as invested as other trainers,” he said. “Adding another physio or having a part-time doctor on payroll would be a big help to all the varsity teams.”

Women’s basketball head coach Dave Wilson said their team’s student-trainer, Claire Ashburner, is a valuable asset to their program.

“Claire looks after our players,” he said. “It’s funny, the job of an athletic trainer in a program like ours, where it’s so long and so intensive, it’s a lot more than the tape-the-ankle, tape-the-fingers, tape-the-shins, that kind of thing. They actually become a source of confidence for our players. Once Claire gained the respect of the players, they put a lot of confidence in her to get us ready to play.”

Wilson said his program has had a student-trainer for more than 15 years and he’s always been very pleased with their work.

“I know it’s difficult now, with the amount of time required for a sport like ours where we’re so intensive,” he said. “For us, it’s an enormous benefit.”

Men’s hockey coach Brett Gibson said student-trainers play an important role as mediators between athletes and coaches.

“Sometimes we as coaches can be intimidating, and that’s the unfortunate part about it, but these trainers really act as a go-between,” he said. “They spend more time hands-on in the room interacting with the players, and they convince them that they’re there to listen.”

Gibson said the team’s trainers do a lot of work without getting much credit.

“I’ve had guys on other teams, coaches, come up to me and say how nice it would be to have guys like these guys on board,” he said. “That’s why teams don’t have them. It takes a special person. The trainers don’t get the glory, the coaches do. There’s no Trainer of the Year award, there’s none of that, but they’re invaluable to me.”

Check out the March 28 issue of the Journal for a look at Queen’s assistant coaches in part 2 of 3 in this series on the people behind Queen’s teams.

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