Thursday, July 23, 2020

Ep. 52.5: Work 'With' not 'For': An AT's Guide to Why These Words Matter

By: Joel Luedke

Language is important. Context might be even more.

"for" [fawr; unstressed fer]
-with the object or purpose
-intended to belong to, or be used in connection with
-suiting the purposes or needs of
-in order to obtain, gain, or acquire

"with" [with, with]
-accompanied by; accompanying
-in some particular relation to (especially implying interaction, company, association, conjunction, or connection)
-characterized by or having

From: http://organizationalagility.net/posts/words-matter-actions-matter-more/

In a time when words matter more than ever we'd like to focus on the working relationship between ATCs and coaches. Long has been held the idea that the athletic trainer is part of the team and an extension of the staff. These are all great things but can have potential unintended consequences. In the sporting context, assistant coaches and managers work 'for' the head coach. It is my contention that the athletic trainer most certainly does not work 'for' the coach but 'with' the coach and the associated staff. 

While the difference can seem sublte and potentially not even worth considerable thought I believe the
definitions above prove otherwise. As the concept of a medical model in athletic training/sports medicine continues to gain traction in collegiate athletics and the NCAA has written into the rules unchallengeable authority and autonomy when it comes to medical care of student-athletes this clarification is paramount. An athletics trainers purpose is to provide care for the student-athletes and focus on their well-being. This is primary to anything else related to competition and winning. 

This role can becomes blurred if there is a perception that athletic trainers work 'for' a sport coach. Based on the definition of this short and simple word the idea of "belong to," "used in connection with" and "suiting the purposes or needs of" can be alarming. If a coach were to think the ATC is there to serve at their will to try and win compromises not only the work of the ATC but the well-being of the student-athlete. Picking another, seemingly simple, and short word allows for a completely different approach to the relationship. By working 'with' a coach and their staff there is a send of relation and working in conjunction and having interaction in order to accomplish goals of the student-athlete, coach and team.

There are countless great working relationships out there between coaches and ATCs but the truth remains that the well-being of the student-athlete and the autonomy of the ATC isn't always present. Different situations can be difficult for athletic trainers. When you're young in the profession and a coach has been around longer than you've been alive there can be a power dynamic that can be hard to work around. This is where is imperative for an ATC to feel like they can stand their ground and know their role and value when it comes to student-athletes well-being and care, we are often their most objective option and potentially last resort. 

Recent surveys from the NATA and reporting by ESPN have brought to light concerns from athletic trainers about pressure on medical decisions from coaching. A a few thesis papers this was looked at in the collegiate level brought more to light about some of the expectations and opinions that coach's have towards athletic trainers. Statements like:

As a profession we must be able to stand our ground when we know it is necessary and support each other when these cases arise. Remember, you work WITH coaches and not FOR them. There is a difference and it can make or break the care of a student-athlete.

+One coach responded that he believed his ATC was too conservative with injuries, and this conservative approach bothered the coach. The coach went on to say that he had not approached the ATC about addressing this problem
+While it is the primary job of the coaches to help the team win games and become better competitors, it is the athletic trainers’ job to ensure the safety and health of the athletes. Although, it is important that athletic trainers understand that coaches might not always utilize their suggestions regardless of how pertinent and potentially effective they may be
+One coach explained a time when he tried to present an idea about a rehabilitation program and the athletic trainer responded defensively saying, “No. I know what I’m doing, this is what we are going to do.” He expressed that coaches have had a lot of experience with injuries and while their ideas “may not be conventional,” they may “help with the healing process” and do not deserve to be shut down in such a defensive way.
+One coach mentioned that “athletic trainers should understand they are in the service position, so they need to be available,” while another mentioned that “the better [athletic] trainers are the ones that [understand that] their time is around the players time, not their time.” Multiple coaches made it clear that an athletic trainer’s willingness to do whatever is necessary at any time is critical especially during the season.

If every you need ideas or support please reach out to us. ATChat.  Joel Luedke.


+Definitions from www.dictionary.com
+Alexander, L. (2013). NCAA Division I coaches and athletic trainers: An examination of professional relationships and knowledge of the athletic training profession. (Unpublished master’s thesis). San Jose State University, San Jose, California.

Mensch, J., Crews, C., Mitchell, M. (2005). Competing perspectives during organizational socialization on the role of certified athletic trainers in high school settings. Journal of Athletic Training, 40(4), 333-340.

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