Area student athletic trainers tape ankles and tighten bonds

Klahowya student athletic trainer Jodie Schaffer tapes Katie Stephens ankle during the aptly-named Tape Off. Schaffer and taping teammate Kendra McLaughlin both finished in the top six.  - Photo by Aaron Managhan
Klahowya student athletic trainer Jodie Schaffer tapes Katie Stephens ankle during the aptly-named Tape Off. Schaffer and taping teammate Kendra McLaughlin both finished in the top six.
— image credit: Photo by Aaron Managhan

Sports by definition are a competition in which opponents strive to be the very best at whatever it is they do.

So why should sports medicine be any different?

Area student athletic trainers got out of the training room and into action last weekend as part of the 12th Annual Washington Vocational Sports Medicine Competition and Symposium, hosted at Olympic High School.

And while this competition still pitted students against one another, more than anything, the event brought the nearly 500 participants even closer together.

“It’s awesome,” Olympic junior Ashlee Wheeler said. “It’s a little bit crazy but it’s a lot of fun. All the schools are here. It really was a lot of fun for me.”

Kitsap County was well represented at the competition, with South Kitsap capturing its eighth consecutive state sports medicine title with 1,514 total points, derived from scores on a three-part written examination, an oral practical exam and other qualifiers like GPA.

The Wolves’ score was 85 points ahead of runner-up Stanwood, with Wenatchee, Auburn and Issaquah rounding out the top five.

Olympic finished in eighth place and North Kitsap took 10th, showing the county remains among the state’s strongest for sports medicine programs.

“This county is very lucky,” Patrick Olsen, head of South Kitsap’s sports medicine program, said. “I really believe that.”

Central Kitsap and Klahowya also participated, as did Bainbridge. In fact, the Eagles were the only 2A school to participate.

“It was actually better for me so I know what I need to do to better prepare the students,” first-year Klahowya program head Chris Hiatt said. “The nice thing is, we have high schools around here with sports medicine programs. All have been around for a number of years. Picking their brains helped me the most.”

Events got underway Friday as the competitors observed Olympic High’s mock crash and following airlift. After that, the groups took turns touring Silverdale’s Benik Corporation, which makes neoprene sleeves and protective gear for athletes and teams worldwide.

After lunch, participants returned to OHS for official opening ceremonies, running through the rest of the day with speakers and workshops. Students also underwent the first portion of the written exam.

Day two included the remainder of the tests, more speakers (including Silverdale’s Dr. Dan Diamond, a Hurricane Katrina volunteer), the tape-off competition and the awards ceremony.

“What a whirlwind affair,” Oly sports medicine instructor and event organizer Scott Peck said. “It was nice to get Oly back on the map. That was kind of neat. And the kids met a lot of new people.”

Three out-of-state teams took place in the competitions, coming from Oregon, Kansas and Texas.

Olympic junior Ester Fowler said that made the event even better.

“The experience was a lot of fun,” Fowler said. “I thought it was really cool to have a team from Texas come here.”

Everyone involved thought the conference was a great learning experience for the kids.

“It gives my younger kids a chance to see what they actually know,” Hiatt said. “And what they need to learn for the next few years.”

“A lot of it is just the hands-on experience,” CK sports medicine teacher Ken Ahlstrom said. “And to hear the experiences of the speakers. To see how they do in the testing-type situations is always good. It’s just another chance for them to excel in a pressure situation.”

“I’m just as proud as I can be of the students at Olympic High School,” Peck added. “They just did a great job. And they put up with me for those months.”

But it’s easy to find common ground when all the program leaders work so closely together.

“It’s really nice,” Olsen said. “We’re all really good friends. It’s nice to have people that understand the experience of what’s going on. I’m really proud of (my colleagues) as well.”

The instructors also were pleased at the opportunity for the kids to see that there are plenty of like-minded individuals out there.

“That was kind of special,” Peck said. “Just seeing what other teams do and how they do it. I was just hoping people got to mingle around.”

Students certainly got bonding time. For example, while waiting for the first speaker to begin Saturday, a group of mostly Klahowya students began playing the Pony Game, in which the bulk of players form an outer circle with a few inside.

The players inside then began running while singing, going from running, to dancing face-to-face with someone, back-to-back and side-to-side. It wasn’t long before the small group of about 15 grew into a larger circle of about 40.

“That’s the best part,” Peck said. “Getting the other schools involved.”

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