LVHS student trainers play big role

They can be seen at any Leavenworth High athletic event peering closely at the action, ready to go at any moment.

Their intensity is not because they are hoping the Pioneers win – although that does play a part – but it’s more about making sure the athletes know someone has their backs.

Seniors Katie Waldrop and Abigail Waugh and junior Elizabeth Bert are three ladies who have joined forces with LVHS’ head athletic trainer Ron Wollenhaughpt to form a trio of student assistants who are an important part of the healing process.

There are no high levels of qualification needed to be a student trainer at LVHS, but there is a process – a simple one.

“The process is come to me and talk to me if you are interested, that’s what all three of these did,” Wollenhaughpt said. “It just goes from there. They can start as a freshman and there are no requirements.

“The best thing is just to get the athletes in and out. Be efficient and be diligent. Athletes can be trying at times. Give them what they need and get them out. At the high school level, you don’t have much time to spend with them. You have 15 minutes to take care of 100 athletes.”

Many start, but usually tend to weed themselves out.

“Sometimes when we get into the program and it’s not working out, I tell them it’s not working out,” Wollenhaughpt said. “We have three girls who are knowledgeable, interested, dedicated. It depends on the student trainer. These three are excellent. Quite a few times, I can leave here to go out to the field and they can take care of things in the training room. You don’t want to leave them by themselves – although I had to leave Elizabeth alone at a soccer game and I let the coaches know.

“They can tape and ice, they cannot diagnose injuries. They can do the standardized testing (for concussion) with a coach. They turn over (the decision) to the coach.”

Bert, a competitive swimmer, Waldrop, a soccer athlete, and Waugh, who toiled in gymnastic, powerlifting, track and swimming, all came to the training room to help others after being aided themselves in their own recovery processes.

“I really just enjoy the body and everything about the body, so it is really interesting for me and it is something I want to do in college,” Bert said. “It’s about kinesiology – the movement of the body, bones and muscles, all parts of the body and how it works.

“I was in physical therapy my sophomore year and I was in there every week, it interested m. I liked working in that room getting better. Working with the athletes, they really want to get better and get back out on the field.”

“I started athletic training because I have always been injured personally so I know how the body is supposed to work and have always been interested in it,” Waugh said. “I want to do something with it in college and after college. Working with people is really fun and important to me and I like helping people out.

“Freshman year, I was diagnosed with a back problem. I had fractured my back three times. So I had done a lot of physical therapy and saw a lot of doctors. I liked working with people and the whole process of getting better and being there to help people to rehabilitate. Working with my physical therapists and meeting Ron, it was interesting to learn all these new techniques and how they work.”

“I was always in the training room and started helping Ron with it,” Waldrop said. “It started off just being something to do for fun, but now I actually want to double major in nursing and physical therapy.

“I got diagnosed with a stress fracture in my left tibia my freshman year, so I was out for a while. After I had a cast, it took me a while to get back playing soccer and I had continuous problems with my shin. It wasn’t until I came here that I noticed I was improving. Halfway through my sophomore I realized this was something I really wanted to be doing.”

Boys are a minimal part of the process at LVHS – and usually at other local schools too – but why are girls more involved?

“The past experience with boys, I don’t think they have the time commitment for it,” Waugh said. “For us, being in sports at different times of the year and being able to balance sports and this, it’s just how much you want it versus if you can do it.”

“Sports has a lot to do with it, because in the spring I can’t do it because of soccer,” Waldrop said. 

Wollenhaughpt said more boys sign up for athletic training in their college years.

The ideal number is to have at least three trainers per season.

“It’s always great to have someone in the training room,” Wollenhaughpt said. “Then you have one with me, one in the training room and one can float. I can have as many as I can, because you can work with schedules that way. These kids (are doing a lot of things). If you have six, you can better work around schedules.”

The rewards for the work are more altruistic than anything else.

“The most rewarding thing for us is being able to clear someone and say, ‘Yeah, you’re good,’ after working with them and doing all this stuff with them,” Waugh said. “We can be a part of the process from the beginning to the end and we build a relationship with them.”

There are the common frustrations as well.

“When you ask whether or not, when taping, if it’s too tight or too loose and they don’t say anything and then complain later,” Waldrop said. “If you can just communicate with me I can help you out. I tell boys to get ice and they don’t always come back in. Sometimes they want to be tough and not acknowledge they are hurt.”

“Athletes, they’ll come in that first day and then you may never see them again and two weeks later you will see them with the same injury and that is really hard to work hard with that because they aren’t keeping up,” Bert said. 

The work and dedication of these student trainers has not gone unnoticed.

“Our training staff and our managers do an outstanding job,” LVHS head football coach Mark Littrell said. “They have a high level of maturity and they have a great work ethic. Our head trainer, Ron, does an outstanding job of teaching the trainers what to do with certain types of injuries and how to treat the players.   

“Tara Walker, is one of our managers. She has been with the program for four years and also has a great work ethic.”

“I think they do a great job of working with our student athletes and an even better job of listening and learning from our trainer, Ron,” Pioneer athletic director James Vanek said. 

The three girls appreciate everything Wollenhaughpt has offered them.

“I met him my sophomore year and he’s helped me with a lot of things injury-wise and emotionally,” Waugh said. “I am always learning and every day we learn new things in this line of work. He cares as much about learning as we do.

“He definitely knows his stuff,” Waldrop said. “He’s always there to listen.”

“There is not a day where we don’t learn something new,” Waugh added. “He’s kind enough that if we do a mistake, he corrects it in a nice way. It’s always a good, happy, environment here. It’s always a good day. If we are in a good mood then the athletes will be in a good mood and it’s all good.”

“It’s a happy mood in here with all the athletes coming in,” Bert said.