Trainers have a winning tradition to uphold

It’s not the most glamorous of jobs. The hours are long and sometimes tedious.

Most of the time, no one really notices if they’re around. There’s no glory, no cheers or congratulations.

But still, there they are each and every day, arriving before practice and games, staying as late as needed, cleaning up after everyone else, taking care of everyone else.

And winning six straight state titles in the process.

And the South Kitsap Athletic Medicine team is looking for more later this month.

“We have a lot to live up to,” senior Kristine Siler said. “And just knowing that is kind of an incentive to work hard. There’s a lot of responsibility and commitment. A wanting to do well for myself and the class.”

When most people think of athletic medicine — or trainers, as they are commonly known — there is the image of nothing more than just taping ankles and handing out water bottles. But under the watchful eye and tutelage of Pat Olsen, things at SK have changed.

Olsen, who took over the program 11 years ago, has transformed it into a full-blown learning program that regularly sees kids study some form of medicine in college — which, in turn, leads to careers in either a medical field or as professional trainers or teachers.

But it wasn’t always that way.

“It was pretty traditional (when I got here),” Olsen said.

Traditional in the sense that the head trainer left his real job in a clinic each afternoon in Ballard to trek across the Sound to run the show.

The training room was in the boys locker room and a group of close to 50 students could choose from just two classes that were pretty much beginning level.

Over the next few years, Olsen expanded the curriculum to include three beginner-level classes, two intermediate classes and an advanced class that follows college-level instruction.

And all the classes have work experience attached to them.

“I took a first-year biology class at Lewis & Clark, and it was so far over my head,” Olsen said. “I decided that when I got into this, that I wanted to prepare (the kids) for not just what they would be doing here but what they are going to be doing later on.”

And the kids have responded both in the classroom and in the field, Olsen said. That’s evident from the six straight athletic medicine titles the school has earned.

“The kids have responded. The expectation is set up that they can do it,” Olsen said. “And when you tell them that, they don’t believe you. But after they go somewhere and come back, then they understand it.”

And many of South’s former student trainers have returned as nurses or doctors or firemen and told Olsen it was easy for them because the coursework they saw in high school turned out to be the same many of them saw in college.

“That’s the big thing – you want them to be successful later on,” Olsen said. “You’re putting the framework down, but they’ll add to it later on.”

While Olsen and his assistant Freda Evans have set the table, so to speak, it has been up to the kids themselves to put in the work and study the course load.

Many, like Siler, Amanda Galla and Michelle Krischel say Olsen’s advanced class is by far the hardest class they’ve taken at South Kitsap and is regularly the one that sends them home with the most work to do, on top of everything else.

“I think I’ve put in about 700 hours this year,” Galla said of the advanced class and fieldwork she did for the football and girls basketball teams. “It takes up a lot of time, but it’s like a family setting, so it’s more fun to be here. I think people would rather be here than anywhere else.”

And the types of things covered in the class, especially the advanced class, are nothing short of hard.

“We’ve made it hard for a reason,” Olsen said. “It should be something that when they’re done, they look back on it and go, ‘You know, that was hard but it fulfilled what I expected it to.’ So I think that’s part of the situation."

Commitment is a big part of the SKAM program, and that’s why most of the classes are littered with athletes.

In the advanced class alone, there are Galla, Brittany Miller and Chantal Boddie from the fastpitch team, Stephanie Milne, Alicia Cleaver, Randee Robinson and Siler from the soccer team and even Brandon Kelly, who played football and was a state-placing wrestler.

“They understand the commitment and what the work ethic is,” Olsen said. “They understand sports, too, so they are around it a little bit and can enjoy it.”

That was the case for Siler, who played tennis as a sophomore, but after taking the intro class, got hooked and gave the sport up to do athletic training for baseball her junior year.

“That was kind of like a hard decision for me to make,” Siler said. “But I don’t regret it at all.”

Olsen said knowing sports helps but some of his better students have not been high-school athletes.

Most notably is Krischel, who plays club soccer but did not play for the Wolves. Yet she is at the top of the class.

“I love sports,” said Krischel, whose fields work included football, wrestling and baseball. “Sports itself, the whole area, has just drawn me to this profession. I like being on the field. The medicine part of it. I’ve always wanted to help people. But the combined effect of helping people but being in a sports atmosphere is what really draws me to this.”

While Krischel is toying with the thought of medical school, others, like Siler and Galla, will opt for trainer positions with professional or college teams. Or maybe even return to the high school level to teach.

But with all the commitments and studying, there is also rewards. The advanced class took a trip to New York over spring break and toured Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., as well as touring a local high school’s athletic training facility and took in a lacrosse game.

But now their attention turns to a seventh state title — one that both Siler and Galla said they would take over state titles in the chosen sports.

That shows the commitment that Olsen preaches.

“The kids that are drawn to it obviously enjoy it,” Olsen said. “But they also understand that they are not afraid to make a commitment to it. It’s the same as if they are interested in a sport. They make a commitment to whatever that is.

“The common thread, if you just ran a thread through all of them, is that they’re not afraid of work and they’re not afraid of taking a risk,” Olsen said, “and following it through to see where it leads. And that’s important in life.”

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