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Local medical institutions help pay for athletic trainers

Normally, having an on-site athletic trainer on staff is a position that’s too costly for most high schools to afford.That’s not the case for area schools.A shared financial arrangement between area high schools, the hospitals that employ the trainers, along with additional monies from local medical associations, provides funding to provide trainers for area public high schools.”So far as funding, each school pays $5,000 per year for an athletic trainer,” said Ross Peterson, the director of Rehab Services at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs.By contractual agreement, Peterson selects and hires the trainers for Glenwood, Roaring Fork and Rifle high schools. The athletic trainer position at Coal Ridge High School is hired and funded by Grand River Medical Center.”That’s an absolute screaming deal when you think about the cost of providing (an athletic trainer),” Peterson saidTo provide an athletic trainer at full salary “is in the range of $40,000 to $50,000 a year,” he added.”We decided this is so important and our school districts didn’t have the money to throw out there. We decided we’ll take $5,000 to help subsidize the program,” Peterson said.The rest of the funds come from the hospitals and from Orthopaedic Associates of Glenwood and Aspen, along with a subsidy from Glenwood Medical Associates.During the summer and on mornings during the school year, the athletic trainers take turns working at the hospital as rehabilitation aids.Beyond the $5,000 annual outlay, each high school is required to supply space, equipment and medical supplies for trainers to properly treat the athletes.Compared with other annual items a high school’s athletic department pays out, the money is well used. “That’s a minimal cost to (the schools) for a service that’s so valuable,” Peterson said.Hiring a trainer is a lengthy process.”We wanted to find somebody who was experienced and certified,” he said. “There’s an organization called the National Athletic Trainers Association. To become a certified athletic trainer, you have to go through a four-year program then sit for the exam.”Peterson uses a national search to find qualified applicants before extending an interview. He then uses other resources to pare down the list.”The things I looked at were not the person with the credentials,” he said. “That was very easy to find. It was the phone calls I made afterwards, looking at references and where they were and where they had been before.”Knowing where Jackie Underberg and Andy Henrichs had worked before, aided Peterson in making his decision to hire them to their current post at Rifle and Roaring Fork high schools.”Andy had been down in Denver and had worked at some high schools in Denver before,” Peterson said. “I knew where he had worked and who he had worked with. So that was a good connection for me to ask around.”Peterson also knew some people who worked with Underberg in Wisconsin.”Whenever you hear the comment, ‘I’d hate to have this person leave us,’ that’s always a good sign,” Peterson said.Another piece beyond knowledge of the trade is how well a trainer relates to others.”The big thing I look for is the personality,” Peterson said. “Because this is a tough situation. It’s a high pressure situation where there’s a lot happening at once. You have to make good, quick decisions.”You have to make sure to have people who can interact and communicate with the parents to what’s going on, and be empathic. You can have all the skills and the knowledge, but that doesn’t mean anything if you can’t carry it out in the real world.”


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