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A Look Into the Life of an Athletic Trainer With Mandy Oas

Courtesy of Tyler Knowles

This past Tuesday, I had the amazing opportunity to interview Mandy Oas. Oas is an athletic trainer at the University of Louisville and a Kinesiology professor at Utah State University. This year, Oas will be working with men’s and women’s soccer and men’s and women’s tennis teams and prior to transferring to Louisville, she worked with Utah State University’s gymnastics team. During this interview, I was able to ask her about her experience of being an athletic trainer and her journey of becoming one.

Courtesy of Joseph Myers

Oas was a lifeguard at the YMCA for 9 years and knew she liked working in medicine, specifically emergency medicine and being there for the initial injury because of lifeguarding. She then started doing more research in college and after speaking with Glenn Edgerton from Northern Arizona University she knew she wanted to pursue athletic training.

As previously mentioned, Oas used to work with Utah State Gymnastics. A normal day for her during that time would look something like this:

  • 6:00 - 7:00 am: Wake up

  • 8:00 am: Doctor visits, if any athlete needs to see a doctor for an athletic injury an athletic trainer needs to be present.

  • 8:30 - 9:30 am: Teach her sports injuries class

  • 9:30 - 10:00 am: Finish any doctor visits

  • 10:00 - 11:00 am: Lunch

  • 11:00 am: Start visiting with athletes or meet with physical therapist to discuss common athletes and make a game plan for them

  • 12:00 pm: Taping athletes pre-practice

  • 12:45 am: Meet athletes and coaches in gym

  • 1:00 pm: Practice starts.

  • Coaches and staff discuss plan for the day and rest of week (gymnastics practiced 4 hours 4-5 times a week)

  • Working on documentation. If there were athletes out,then she would be working with them.

  • 5:00 pm: Post-practice (recovery, ie cupping, stim, ice, etc)

  • 7:00 - 8:00 pm: Labs for class (depending on the day)

  • 8:00 pm: Going home and working on injury reports. If it was a travel weekend, then packing for that.

Courtesy of Mandy Oas

Oas got her undergraduate degree in fitness and wellness with a minor in nutrition at Northern Arizona University. She had to take extra courses to meet the grad school requirements, including extra anatomy and physics classes. She also was a first-aid tech for her school's football team, gaining observation hours to meet grad school requirements, plus some extra for learning and networking. Oas also did an internship with strength and conditioning.

She attended grad school at Northern Arizona University in the Masters of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT) program. In the program, Oas completed all of the requirements by CAATE to be able to sit for her national boards in 2 years including clinical rotations at Desert Vista High School, Metro Tech High School, and Stanford University.

Courtesy of Mandy Oas

Oas’ favorite part of the job is that she gets to see the athletes as people. A lot of the time, as fans, we put athletes on a pedestal, seeing them as superhuman and with no flaws, but being able to see them in everyday life and being able to see them succeed while helping them through injuries is not something everyone gets. As an athletic trainer, you make strong connections with your athletes. you are there for them for more than just physical health. A lot of the time, athletes feel comfortable enough with their athletic trainers to talk to them about just about anything, sometimes even seeking out their athletic trainers just to talk about things. Being able to understand these athletes as a person and being able to be an advocate for both their physical and mental health is an important thing to be able to do as an athletic trainer.

A quote that Oas loves:

“We have to put the person before the student and the athlete, otherwise we risk losing all three.”

Courtesy of Wade Denniston

Oas says “One of the hardest parts about being a young professional is learning how to balance creating a work-life balance. Although athletic trainers spend 6 years in school and have to pass a national board exam and in some cases state licensure exams, it can often feel like imposter syndrome early in your career. Thinking about if I really earned this title and am qualified to be responsible for the healthcare of these student-athletes can cause us to spend our personal time refreshing on medical knowledge. It is hard to set aside those two parts of our lives early on for the sake of being the best healthcare provider we can be for our student-athletes.”

Courtesy of Joseph Myers

Some tips Oas has for those interested in this career are to start as early as possible with observation hours, the more experience the better. One of the best things you can do is build positive professional relationships. A teacher you had in grad school could turn into someone that could write a letter of recommendation for you in the future. Make sure to figure out what you want to do (ie. clinical, industry, college, high school, professional, etc).

Ask questions! As scary as it can be, the more questions you ask the better off you are. Whether it is asking a teacher to clarify something or asking the person you are shadowing, all questions are important ones.

One final bit of advice from Oas: “It’s really important to create healthy self care habits in grad school that can prepare you for your career. Burnout is super common in the healthcare field especially in traditional sports medicine settings. Developing healthy coping skills, understanding how you feel regenerated, and setting work-life boundaries are essential to avoiding burnout.”

It is really important to learn from those with experience in your future field. You can follow Oas’ journey through her socials: Instagram and LinkedIn, she also said she is open to answering any questions from anyone interested in pursuing this career.

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