Shannon Koch is the athletic trainer and has worked at PHS since 2001. Koch also attended PHS, and was inspired to pursue her profession because of current gym teacher and former athletic trainer Carlos Salazar. She likes being able to watch sports and helping kids recover from injuries.
Q: Could you describe what an athletic trainer does?
A: An athletic trainer handles everything from when someone gets injured to emergency care on the field, getting them off the field, getting them seen by the appropriate doctor or emergency room, and then also getting them back into playing by doing physical therapy, rehabilitation, and things like that. Once they are ready to come back into playing, we can tape them … so they can return safely.
Q: What made you want to become an athletic trainer?
A: I actually was a student here [at PHS]. My sophomore year, [Carlos] Salazar came, and he was the athletic trainer. I was playing sports, and one day he came up to me and asked if I wanted to be a student trainer. I didn’t know what it was, so I said, “What’s that?” and he explained it to me; it’s been history since then … I started working at [The Hun School of Princeton], and then right around my birthday in 2001, [Salazar] called me and said, “Hey, I’m taking full-time teaching, do you want to come over to the high school?” and I’ve been here ever since.
Q: When Salazar showed you what it is like to be an athletic trainer, what intrigued you the most?
A: I was a lifeguard, I’m an EMT—I’ve always been involved [in] helping injured people… help[ing] them get back, working on their strengthening, and things like that, that whole gamut. Plus, I don’t have to stay inside; I don’t think I would do well in an office job where I’m inside for eight hours a day. Here, I’m in the office for a few hours, but for the majority of the time I’m out at games or practices watching everybody.
Q: What kinds of education did you have to pursue in order to become an athletic trainer?
A: To be qualified to sit for the National Exam, you have to [a] have four-year undergraduate degree from an accredited school. I went to East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. Once you get your Bachelor’s, you can sit for the exam if you went through an accredited program. They also have a Master’s in athletic training. Obviously in athletic training, the more education you have, the better jobs you’re going to get—you’re going to be qualified for more jobs. So it is recommended to get a Master’s degree, but it’s not required once you get your athletic training certification.
Q: Do you feel that athletic trainers don’t get the credit they deserve?
A: I actually do feel that way. Athletic trainers do get mistaken for personal trainers in other jobs. I don’t want to discredit those jobs, but we are a large part of what goes on behind the scenes. A lot of times it is the doctors or other groups that get the credit for getting people back on the field, but athletic trainers are usually the ones that are helping the most.
Q: What is your favorite part of your occupation?
A: I love athletes and sports. So for my job, to be able to come in and watch sports all day, help the kids, and help groups of people that are injured is the best. I can’t think of anything for me to do that is better … I don’t consider [this] work because I’m having a good time when I do it.
Q: What’s the most interesting experience you’ve ever had as an athletic trainer?
A: There [have been] a lot actually. You know, there [are] always funny stories. Kids are always funny; they’re keeping you on your toes. As an athletic trainer, I was able to work with Sky Blue FC, which is a women’s professional soccer team, which was an amazing experience. Coming and working here, we get a lot of athletes that end up DI and DII-bound, so being able to be a part of that is always a great thing.
Q: What are the tougher parts of being an athletic trainer at PHS?
A: The toughest is the schedule. We have a set start time, but we do not have a set end time. So it is hard to plan dinner. Winter seasons are very long, so I do not get home until usually around 8:00–8:30 [p.m.] on days where it is just practices, and then when it comes to night games like wrestling matches, ice hockey games, or things like that, it can be 10 or 11 o’clock when I get home. So it is really hard to schedule family activities … Still, it comes with the territory; you know that going into it, so it is not a surprise. Every once in a while [the school] cancels after-school activities and I get an afternoon off.
Q: If you had any advice for those aspiring to be athletic trainers, what would it be?
A: Know what you’re getting into. Research it, and know that this is what you want.