University City

Student athletic trainers support Vance and Mallard Creek sports teams

Shot-putter Alycia Springs is a two-time high school state champion, but the titles she won in the 2014 winter and spring sports seasons were not her first as a Mallard Creek High student.

Springs, then a sophomore, contributed to the Mallard Creek football team’s 2014 state championship season in the fall as a student athletic trainer.

While she is a prime candidate to be recruited as a shot-putter, Springs says she may also make her college choice based on whether schools offer an athletic training program in which she can continue to study.

Mallard Creek and Vance High both have student athletic trainers that are passionate about their roles and the support they give their school’s athletic teams. Those at Mallard Creek are also students in the school’s sports medicine program.

An athletic trainer is assigned to every Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools high school through a partnership with Carolinas HealthCare System. At Vance and Mallard Creek, the trainers are Margo Long and Eric Rogers, respectively.

Mallard Creek also has Amy Foster, a certified athletic trainer and the school’s sports medicine teacher. She has been on the Mallard Creek staff since the school opened in 2007.

The school offers sports medicine I, which has about 130 students, and sports medicine II, which has 25-30, according to Foster. Only those students in Sports Medicine II are eligible to apply to be student athletic trainers.

Candidates applied last spring and were required to submit teacher recommendations and to be interviewed by Foster and Rogers. Eight made the cut for this fall’s sports season: juniors Springs, Kennedi Parham, Alicia Tucker and Nia Comejo and seniors Crystal Rodriguez, Wes Hickling, Daniel Williams and Jailene Cabral.

Williams and Cabral are assigned to assist with the boys’ soccer and volleyball teams, respectively. The other athletic trainers work with the football team, where there are more student-athletes and the demands are greater.

“The opportunities they get to work with these athletes are pretty unique,” Foster said. “They are allowed to work so closely with them that it gives them a pretty good intro in the field so that when they do go to college … they are prepared.

“They are also helping out their peers. They are appreciated a lot.”

Foster estimates that student athletic trainers log about 25-30 hours per week. They are responsible for providing assistance in preparing materials and supplies for practices and games, and are allowed to perform such skills as caring for cuts and scrapes, and taping wrists and fingers.

“It’s a big time commitment,” said Springs, whose athletic training schedule will shrink once the indoor track and field season starts. “I have to balance out my sport schedule and athletic training schedule. It’s tough, but I enjoy my sport and being out here.”

At Vance, senior Bria Bonilla is Long’s only helper and serious about her craft. Whether it’s cleaning up her school as a member of the Environmental Justice Club or cleaning up her schoolmates’ abrasions as an athletic trainer, Bonilla says she just likes helping others.

She tried out for but did not make the tennis and softball teams as a freshman. The following year, Bonilla realized she could still play a role in her school’s athletic teams.

After her sophomore year, Bonilla attended a student athletic training workshop at Gastonia Forestview High where she learned how to perform CPR, how to use a defibrillator and how to tape wrists and ankles.

Bonilla likes the idea that her volunteer time will bolster her college applications. She says she might want to be a doctor some day and work with cancer patients.

One day last week, Bonilla was the one being treated before a Vance football practice. She was nursing a sore back she strained from over-exerting herself by carrying a loaded water cooler.

But Bonilla took her setback with a smile.

“I’m pretty sure (the athletes) appreciate what I do,” she said. “They are like brothers to me.”