Whether you’re an athletic trainer (AT) for a college sports team, clinic, or sports organization, your main priority is to prevent, recognize, treat, and rehabilitate athletes’ injuries. You are the first person an athlete sees after they’ve been injured, and are an integral member of their ongoing treatment team. You also play an important role as the main link between the sports program and the medical community. As a result, your job requires you to wear many hats. The best ATs possess certain qualities and characteristics that help them fulfill these various roles efficiently. Here are some of the top qualities that make an athletic trainer successful:
1. Good Communication Skills
Having good communications skills is important in any professional occupation, however it’s especially important for athletic trainers. As an AT you work with a variety of different athletes in different types of settings. Having the ability to interact with almost any type of person is essential for being great at what you do. However, it’s more than just being nice; it’s about building a rapport with athletes. ATs who have good relationships with their athletes can be successful in treating them and getting them through their rehabilitation.
It’s also important to have the ability to communicate medical details clearly. Once an athlete sustains an injury, they might not fully understand everything that’s happening to their body. A good AT can explain injury and rehab details effectively so their athletes’ understand diagnosis and treatment procedures properly.
2. They’re Honest and Trustworthy
A national study conducted by The State University of New York at Brockport surveyed all NCAA Division III head athletic trainers. The goal of the survey was to determine the most desired qualities or characteristics athletic trainers should possess. Their results found that the most desirable characteristics were honesty and trustworthiness. This is due to the fact that ATs have access to highly confidential information about an athlete’s health, such as their medical records. This requires ATs to hold high ethical and legal standards. Violating these standards could result in legal issues not only for themselves, but for their organization as well. That’s why it’s imperative for ATs to be trustworthy and honest when it comes to their everyday tasks.
This isn’t only important for ethical and legal issues, it’s also essential in building trusting relationships with their athletes. An athlete who trusts their AT may feel more comfortable following protocols and programs designed for their injuries, another reason head athletic trainers in the national study found honesty and trustworthiness desirable traits. This can also make the AT more approachable for athletes when they need someone to talk to about a problem they may be having regarding an injury, trouble with school, or other personal issues.
3. Good Decision Making Skills
As ATs are right on the sidelines, they are usually the first to respond to emergency situations, making it essential for ATs to have good decision making skills. This can include making the decision if it’s safe for an athlete to return to the game or not. When these situations occur, make sure to gather all the information you have and make a decision that is in the best interest of the athlete. While you should rely on your training and experience to help you respond and diagnose the injury, you should also have confidence that you are making the right decisions. The best ATs use their knowledge about the human body and their experience working with athletes to make the right decisions regarding an athlete's’ health for the short-term and long-term.
An injury can be quite devastating, especially when it ends an athlete's season. ATs play a significant role in supporting their athletes during this difficult time. Being empathetic towards your athletes and realizing how difficult their recovery can be is an essential aspect of the job. Try to show them compassion and remain optimistic that they will get through this tough time. A great AT encourages their athletes to stay positive during a long recovery, and encourages them to not give up even during plateaus or regressions.
5. Being Prepared for Anything
Just as they say in the Scouts, always be prepared! Every AT knows that being proactive is essential, as they must be ready to respond and treat a sudden injury in practice or during a game. ATs should develop an emergency athletic plan to ensure all members of the sports medicine team know how to respond and provide medical assistance when a serious injury or illness occurs.
While being prepared for emergency situations is critical, a strong AT is also prepared for other types of situations, such as extreme weather conditions. For example, if the weather is very warm and humid, ATs should keep an eye on athletes if they show signs of dehydration or heat illness. Athletes’ safety is your main priority and that means being prepared for any incident or situation that may be thrown your way.
Want to learn more about athlete hydration? Check out this blog post.
Being an exceptional AT isn’t easy, but it’s certainly attainable by focusing on the safety and wellbeing of your athletes both on and off the field. By ensuring that you work on these qualities, you can create an environment where your athletes feel safe, supported and encouraged. So what are you waiting for? Go out there and be the best AT you can be!