Any sports fan knows that hold-your-breath feeling of watching an athlete go down on the field, court, diamond or pitch. We cross our fingers and hope that the coach going to check on that athlete has enough training and common sense to uphold the pledge of “First, Do No Harm,” and we hope—or pray, depending on the injury—that everything will be OK.
Fans (and players and coaches and parents) at Spencer-Van Etten have been breathing easier since the school year began, and for good reason. When a player is injured, the first person he or she will likely see is a Certified Athletic Trainer.
Prestin Sample graduated from S-VE in 2015, and went on earn a B.S. degree, specializing in Athletic Training. While at Alfred, Sample worked with nearly all the teams, including softball, football, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, as well as the swimming and diving teams. That wide array of sports gave him a strong framework, as he learned first-hand how different the preparation can be. He said, “For contact sports, the preparation is much more intensive and takes much longer.” To prep the softball or soccer team, Sample said, might take an hour and a half, while three to four hours must be allocated prior to a football game.
Sample came to learn very quickly that what happens in a textbook might differ significantly from what happens on a field. For example, softball is generally regarded as a “non-contact sport,” but when an Alfred Saxon softball player collided full-speed with a fence in pursuit of a fly ball, such a designation was irrelevant.
I caught up with Sample in S-VE High’s makeshift training office prior to a girls’ junior varsity basketball game. He was working on Erika Coville’s shoulder, as the freshman looked on inquisitively. Asked about her shoulder, Erika said, “It’s an injury-related hyperextension,” and as he wrapped up the wrapping up, Sample said, “I crafted this taping system, as the braces don’t fit under the uniforms.”
Sample is employed by Lourdes Hospital, and is one of eight athletic trainers assigned to various locations. “We have contracts with six area high schools,” Sample offered, “plus we work with some club sports and we travel to community events, like 5Ks. We cover for each other when possible.” (The team of trainers is supervised by Dan Shaffer, who oversees the program and does the scheduling.)
Sample’s services are utilized by S-VE in a variety of ways, and he stated, “A typical week consists of a lot of practice coverage, some instruction on the new equipment in our weight room and some rehab work.” On game nights, he added, “I do a lot of prep work, and hopefully, I am able to enjoy the game but of course, I’ll step in if necessary.” As for travel, he said, “I don’t travel much, unless they make the playoffs.”
Abby Gentile is the girls’ varsity basketball coach, and as a former S-VE athlete who played when no such resource was available, she for one does not take Sample’s presence for granted. When asked how the arrangement has worked out thus far, Gentile said, “We just started the program this year, and I’ll tell you, it definitely brings peace of mind. I have witnessed several instances of on-site injuries, and it’s great to have him here.”
Ava Bruehwiler (a starter on the basketball team who will play soccer at Daemen College next fall) sprained her shoulder during a game this season, and knowing how badly she wanted to finish the season with her longtime teammates, was willing to put in the work to rehab her shoulder. She said, “Sample helped a lot. He came in early, stayed late, and I got back on the court.”
First-year Athletic Director Becca Saggiomo said, “I wasn’t here when the contract was approved – the wheels were already turning - but I was here to help Sample get familiarized with the school and the athletic program.” When asked to peer into her crystal ball, “Saggiomo said, “I hope to renew the contract, for sure. I’m advocating to keep the arrangement moving forward.”
As for his own crystal ball, Sample said, “I’m on the fence about returning to grad school, as I’m currently focused on getting some significant professional experience.” When asked how his current job experience differs from his time at Alfred, he stated, “It has been a big change, going from working with five Certified Athletic Trainers to just me.”
When asked about his long- range goal, Sample said, “I have always wanted to work with a pro team someday. My dream would be to work with the Detroit Tigers. That would be a cool experience, for sure.”