Trainers have it all wrapped up

Ryann Springer initially found the Athletic Training program a little easier at Eastern Washington University (EWU) than what she was used to.

“It was really repetitive and boring,” she said. “It was kind of low-level compared to the stuff here.”

After going through South Kitsap High School’s athletic medicine program several years ago, she had already learned most of the material from the program’s prerequisites. Thanks to a rigorous program at SKHS, she arrived at Eastern with class time and experience under her belt.

That experience shot her through the strict interviewing process to be one of the few accepted into the program, and eventually brought her back to South Kitsap, where she teaches alongside the program’s faculty head, Patrick Olson.

Now, students who follow Springer’s educational path here in Port Orchard won’t have to sit through the same material at Eastern, thanks to a college credit program implemented this year.

Students in the senior-level athletic medicine program, who are all in some form or another pursuing a career in medicine, can get college credit at Eastern and bypass some of the initial programs.

That’s because of the programs strong reputation for good education and hands-on experience. The students don’t just sit in the classroom — they’re out on the field working with the hundreds of athletes in varsity sports or at nearby orthopedic centers working with professionals.

“It’s not easy,” Olson said of the program. “They’re like athletes, except they go all year round.”

Olson and Springer’s seniors are always working on the program. During the lunch hour, Joe Razey, 18, and Jacob Ray, 19, work at an espresso stand in the school to raise money for the program, and spend their time after school at various sports events helping athletes stretch and bandaging injuries as they come along.

Off the top of their head, Razey and Ray could name a handful of games they each have coming up in the next week.

Olson said the students he works with are driven and very focused on a medical career. And higher education often expects students to hit the ground running their freshman year in college.

“A lot of these programs are stressing that they make that decision early,” he said.

And now at South Kitsap they can make the decision even earlier and come to the program with a resume already stacked with experience.

And the program gets results. Olson said that every South Kitsap student applying to Eastern’s Athletic Training program gets accepted, and it only accepts a handful of students each year.

“The students that started that program have done a nice job, so it opens a door for students that follow behind them,” he said.

South Kitsap Senior Katie Del Monte, 18, has been accepted at Eastern, and she’s confident she’ll get into the athletic medicine program.

Of the program at South Kitsap, she said, “It gives you so many opportunities. I’ve trained three sports and I’ve done so much more than other programs.”

But the thing that might stand out for all of these students is that they take it seriously. There’s no one playing doctor in the program, and the hard work they do is exciting for them.

“I love being with the athletes,” Del Monte said, “having a relationship with the athletes and taking care of people.”

Springer, who went through the program here and at Eastern, credits the energy and enthusiasm to her once teacher and now co-worker, Olson.

“He was my mentor when I was here,” she said. “I just loved his passion for it. The kids are so passionate, and they work so hard.”

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