On the Front Lines: Trainers
Blood, sweat, breaks, and tears—the athletic trainers have seen it all. Through long hours and strenuous work, Maine West athletic trainers continue to heal and rehablitate athletes.
The professional training staff at West—which includes head trainer Chuck Marth and athletic trainer Ryan Melligan—works with students in two important ways: as first-responders to athlete injuries and as teachers to West students who help out in the training room.
These student-athletic trainees work side by side Marth and Meligan, where they are expected to put in 15-20 hours per week helping to care for injuries and prepare supplies for the sidelines. “It’s a privilege to be able to learn sports medicine from Chuck and Ryan,” trainee junior Meghan Paluch said. “Besides the trainers being a lot of fun, I’ve learned so much, and it has completely changed my junior year for the better. I wish I started freshman year because I could’ve learned way more in four years than two.”
With learning and training also comes everlasting friendships. “I’ve become friends with people I never thought I would get close to. Sometimes the best part isn’t even helping people, but instead being surround ed by the other students,” Paluch said.
Trainees spend at least three days a week helping out with wrapping, icing, and other miscellaneous tasks. “It’s fun while working because you meet new people while also learning new things,” trainee senior Annie Lipinski said. “The best times are when I have to pull shin splint wraps off people. All you hear is them screaming from the pain.”
Although there are upsides to the job, there are still long hours of drowning in paperwork. Every athlete must sign in to the system to record their injury, rehab plans, and recovery goals. For Marth, as head trainer, a third of his job is to keep statistics about injuries, maintain medical records on every kid who gets hurt, and monitor the training budget and supplies.
“No two days are the same. Everyday that I come in it’s a different story. There are no two injuries that are exactly the same, and it’s always challenging me. There’s a lot to this job you have to understand from rehabilitation to emergency medicine,” Marth said.
The trainers work hard to help athletes recover after grueling injuries, and their work saves athletes from having to spend time, money, and energy seeking treatment elsewhere. “Ryan was very supportive through it all. When I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do something, or I was scared to do it, he encouraged me to. He really helped me boost my confidence. After I recovered, I was very thankful for them because I felt as if my knees were ten times stronger than what they were before I was injured,” junior Julie Brizzolara said. “Chuck and Ryan are both really busy, but they manage their time well and are always there to answer any questions whether they are basic or not.”
With the job comes gruesome injuries that stay with the trainers forever. “I was working at Reavis High School in Burbank in the late 1980s. A wrestler broke his neck. He was going to fall down in a pinned situation. Rather than getting pinned, he landed in a bridge form. He landed on the top of his head. I was about eight feet away and heard the bone break. It sounded like a dry stick breaking,” Marth said. “Even before the referee stopped the match, I was already out on the mat. My athlete was unconscious and spazzing. We got him stabilized and to the hospital. A year later, he was back to wrestling.”
March is National Athletic Training Month (NATM), a month dedicated to “promoting the profession and expanding it,” according to Melligan. “We try to get kids to explore it as a career path and have parents realize the importance of trainers and the work we do.”
As Maine West athletes continue to soar, so do the athletic trainers. “It’s a team effort. Our number one thought is the well-being of our athletes, no matter what,” Marth said.