At Thompson High, a finely-tuned high school football program involves more than offense, defense and special teams. A group of student athletic training aides don’t necessarily share the spotlight on Friday night but they are a huge part of the hard work and success of the program.
They certainly make life just a bit easier for Thompson trainers Michael Simpson and Clinton Barthelemy.
The students help by taping wrists and ankles and stretching the players. They set up for practice and help load and unload the trailer on game nights. They help get the players ready for practice and games.
“Anything we need to get ready for practice, they will set up for us, so that we can really focus on taking care of the guys we need to get ready for practice,” said Simpson. “They are with us every day, every practice, as long as the guys are here, they’re here. A couple of them come in on Sundays and help me out when we do film. I’ll take them out to stretch them, so they’re in here doing treatments on any guys. We have a big trailer that goes to every game with us. They help load it, unload it, make sure we got enough tape and any kind of supply we need. They do all that for us. Really, everything that we do, basically, they do, as long as we’re there supervising them.”
This year’s group consists of Nyla Crear, Bre Hobson, Princess Hobson, Chrishna Howard, Deena Jordan, Genna Mason, Molly Ann Mooney, Cooper Murphy, Madison Shea Spruell, Krewson Heller, Madison McSweeney and Kara Giles.
All of the student trainers are enrolled in a 7th period class that reports to football, just like the players. Simpson said, on practice days, most of them work with him at varsity practice while a few report to freshman practice with Barthelemy. All of them are involved on game day.
“It’s a good opportunity for us,” Simpson said. “It really helps us out a lot because we can focus on practice and they can focus on hydration or anything else that might be needed.”
Simpson is in his third season as the Warriors athletic trainer. He said the student trainer program was in place when he arrived. He added that most other high school football programs that he’s seen don’t have a student trainer opportunity that’s nearly as detailed as the one at Thompson.
“Every game we go to, we always see four or five guys or girls helping with water but I don’t think they do what we do,” Simpson said.
The students are chosen through an interview process that generally takes place just before spring football practice. Some of the current student trainers began in the program when they were middle schools students.
“The good thing is, we had such a young group at first, we’ve had the same people the past two years,” Simpson said. “But, we do make announcements and have an interview process, just before spring practice starts. That way, we can get some fresh faces in and, occasionally, we do have some people that leave. We only have one or two seniors a year.”
Simpson stresses to newcomers that the hours are long, but also beneficial.
“I think, it helps a lot because they can start learning to manage their time, with a job, and schoolwork,” Simpson said. “When they get to college, if they’ve got to work to help pay their way through college, they’ll know how to do their schoolwork and go to work at the same time. They know how to manage that time.”
It’s also nice to be an integral part of a program striving to win championships.