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Day in the Life of a Physical Trainer

Get to Know Me:

My name is Alexis Smolka, and I am a junior at Florida State University in the Athletic Training program. In my first year in the program, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the women’s basketball team and the football team. In addition to my classes and clinical rotations, I am involved in Dance Marathon and dance with the Seminole Tap Troupe. After finishing at Florida State, I hope to apply to a graduate program for athletic training or physical therapy.

1. Why did you choose to work in sports?

After being in dance for a few years, I knew that I wanted to work in the field of sports medicine, but I didn’t know what I wanted to study within the field. What really sparked my interest in physical therapy was watching a friend recover from a knee injury, seeing her progress and being able to come back to dance practices in less than a year. That’s when I knew that I wanted to help athletes that go through a similar process when recovering from an injury.

2. What is a typical day like for you?

On a typical day while working with the women’s basketball team, I go to class in the morning, go to my clinic from about 12-4pm and then go home to study and prepare for the next day. While working with women’s basketball, I help set-up water and Powerade coolers for practice, pre-practice treatments, overlook practice with the head athletic trainer in case of any emergencies, and break down after practice along with post-practice treatments. On the other hand, for football, every day looked a little different. My days could start as early as 4:45 am or as late in the day as 3pm. Most days I’d be in the training room for a few hours doing treatments with the players to help recover in between practice days. On practice or conditioning days, I help with field set-up, some pre-practice ankle taping and treatments about an hour and a half before practice or conditioning starts with breakdown and treatments after practice. My schedule was a little busier working with the football team so if I was not in class, I was either on the field at practice or in the athletic training room doing treatments with the players.

3. What do you like most and least about your job?

My favorite part of working with the sports teams at Florida State is being able to do treatments with athletes and see their progress from when they were first injured or from their surgery. It is extremely rewarding knowing that you are a part of the recovery process for these athletes and help them get back on the field doing what they love. There isn’t any certain aspect of my job that I would necessarily choose as my least favorite. Although each week and each day are different, which can be challenging at times, it presents an opportunity to work on being flexible and managing your time well.

4. What is the typical dress like?

While working in the training room or on the field/court for practice, all the athletic training students are expected to wear our issued sports medicine shirts and basketball shorts. For game days, we usually wear our sports medicine polo with either khaki or black pants. Specifically for football game days, athletic training students also wear a pack that has everything we may need including extra athletic tape, gauze, OTCs, and electrolyte packets.

5. What special qualities or skills do you see as important for success in your job?

The most important quality important for success in this job is adaptability. Every day may not look the same, so it’s important to be flexible and ready to make a change if it is necessary. Another thing that my preceptor always tells us is to keep our head on a swivel. Especially when watching a football practice, you never know where someone would get hurt or signal that they need something, so it is crucial that athletic trainers and students are constantly aware of everything happening on the field. Lastly, since you are working with athletes, coaches, equipment staff and everyone else involved in athletics, someone looking for success in this job should be personable. Many days are long, stressful, and emotional, especially if an athlete recently got injured, so communication and interpersonal skills are critical to succeed in this field.

6. Where do you see yourself in 5 years career wise?

In about 5 years, I see myself graduating from a graduate program either working as an intern with a college sports team or in a physical therapy practice working with athletes. Although I am still not sure which field of sport medicine I want to focus on in graduate school, I know my future will be filled with working with athletes either as an athletic trainer or a physical therapist.

7. If you could give any advice for people wanting to go into this field what would you tell them?

If this is what you are truly passionate about, go for it! Start networking now and getting to know athletic trainers, physical therapists, or anyone in the sports medicine field. One thing that I learned from being in my major is that a lot of athletic trainers know each other from previous work experience or from college, so one connection could turn into several and potentially be recommendations for a job at the high school or college level, or even with professional athletes.

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