They are glanced at and then forgotten in the pages of the yearly football program, and the importance they provide to football teams is never really understood.
This week when the Battle of Big Sandy takes place in Bridgeport, two of the area’s most prolific training staffs will take the field with their respective teams.
They will be the first ones to arrive – and the last ones to leave. Hours before kickoff they will be gathering all the necessary supplies to get them through the three-hour battle on the field and then putting it all up after the dust clears.
“It’s a lot to ask from a high school kid,” Decatur head trainer Fernando Escobar said about the commitment it takes to be a student trainer. “They do all the hard work. They set up the field, the water during practice and games. They set up the equipment I need during the games. Without them my job would be twice as hard.”
Any student has the opportunity to be a trainer, but being a member of a training staff is not for everyone. Just like players, they are held to a certain level of responsibilities. Grades must be kept up, and practice must be attended daily.
Most students are unable to work because of the time commitment it takes to be on staff.
“I look for kids that are responsible and that will be here every day,” Bridgeport head trainer Billy Newsom said. “It’s very hard for them to have an outside job because it’s so time consuming.
It’s the same guidelines as players as far as no-pass no-play. I need them to be good communicators. As they get older in the program they will gain more responsibilities.”
Before they gain those responsibilities they have to get their feet wet, with a lot of on-the-fly situations.
“The first time Coach Newsom told me to cover up a cut I had no idea what to do,” Bridgeport trainer Taylor Reynolds said. “Things are a lot easier now. It’s a lot different than just handing out water.”
Although a lot of the students are not quite sure what they are getting into, most end up loving the work they do.
“I thought it was going to be more standing out here and having a good time,” Decatur senior Marissa Martinez said. “You do have a good time, but you also have to work. You have to be interested in the players and know what each of them needs to be in this class.
“It’s amazing. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s an experience that not everybody gets.”
The experiences the students share on a daily basis create a bond between fellow trainers and players that can’t be denied.
“It’s such a family bond,” Bridgeport’s Sarah Lingo said. “We really know the players and each other.”
When high school is over most students in the program turn their training experiences into a career.
Newsom has seen numerous former students become physician assistants, nurses, athletic trainers and physical therapists.
Current student trainers at Bridgeport and Decatur are thinking about following the same paths.
“It’s going to turn into a career,” Lingo said. “I want to be a physical therapist or athletic trainer.”
Escobar is also a trainer at Wise Regional Health System, which gives his students the opportunity to observe from that angle.
“It’s fun knowing you get to help a football player or any athlete in the smallest way,” Martinez said. “I think I will follow this career. Coach Escobar has fun while he’s at work, and I want to have a job where I can have fun.”
Trainers from both programs understand that it’s not just for them; they have to be in it for the athlete, too. A lot of the Friday nights that many high school kids crave are given up to help student-athletes.
“I want the students, parents, athletes and coaches truly recognize that we are in it for them,” Newsom said. “No matter what sport they are playing or who they are playing for we are here to take care of them. If a player from another team gets hurt we are just as willing to help them as anybody else.”
No matter who wins or loses Friday, both of these staffs will be able to take something with them that will last a lifetime.
Now that’s something worth remembering.