Marist Athletic Training Program
By Tara Guaimano
When someone is down on the field, go to them.
This is an undying value for an athletic trainer’s life both on and off the field, according to Marist Director of Athletic Training, Dr. Michael Powers.
“It is just that kind of mentality,” said Powers. He emphasized his commitment to holding the Marist Athletic Training (AT) program within the School of Science to standards of empathy, intelligence and skill—relayed from his time as an AT educator and professional.
According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, the athletic training profession focuses on sports medicine in relation to emergency care situations, injury and illness prevention, clinical examination and general diagnosis. Students take on the same coursework as the other Marist science majors, while working closely with Certified Athletic Trainers within their required field work and internships.
The Marist Athletic Training program currently stands as an undergraduate science major, but it has been nationally mandated by the AT Strategic Alliance that the minimum professional degree level of AT will be a master's. This will be fully implemented at Marist by 2022, and within the next several years nationally.
The program is expected to grow nationally with the turn to the master’s program. “We can handle more students for sure,” said Powers.
Putting forth their skill and interest in both sports and medical training, Alexa Svensson and Stephanie Carpiniello, sophomore AT majors, are athletes aiming to recycle their passions to help other athletes throughout their professional lives.
“From the emergency and first responder care, to the prevention and rehabilitation techniques, and the population of Certified ATs that we work with, I thought the major would be perfect for me,” said Carpiniello, who spent her last clinical rotation at Arlington High School in Lagrangeville, NY.
“You’re doing clinical rotations where you are ‘doing—’ you are not just watching, you are taking what you’ve learned in class and now applying it,” said Powers. Beginning sophomore year, all students work in three different 10-week internships per year with Marist Division I teams and various local high school teams.
All students have done at least nine different internships and have completed over 1000 hours of work by their graduation date. “A lot of times with the Bio majors, when they do have an internship—which isn’t always required—it is a lot of just watching,” said Powers. “These internships are truly doing things.”
The innate will to see “someone down” and “go to them” lies close to home for Carpiniello—as she has experienced the obligation to support her teammates on her Harrison High School basketball team in Harrison, NY. Svensson has also expressed dual commitment and interest both on the field and in the lab as a midfielder for the Marist Division I Women’s Soccer team.
Senior AT student, Sonia Hau, grew up as an All Star Cheerleader and basketball player—having spent her last set of clinical hours with the Marist Division I Men’s Basketball team. “Working with the guys is awesome; they are all very kind and respectful to the sports medicine staff,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun getting to watch all of the games.”
Hau aims to eventually work in civilian athletic training for a branch of the military.
The clinical work hours require time on the field for games and practices as well as time in the training room, working closely with Marist athletes’ injuries and facilitating preventative measures like stretching, icing, and wrapping. They are required to complete 150 hours by the end of each semester, equalling to about 15 hours per week.
“The hope is that—we don’t want [athletes] to get hurt—but we want them to be hurt, because when our students are out there we want them to really learn how to evaluate it,” said Powers.
When freshmen enter Marist as AT majors, they are admitted into the pre-professional phase of the program, where they undergo their basic science and core courses while spending 60 hours per semester shadowing an upperclassman.
Students are then required to reapply into the AT major, in the professional phase for sophomores, juniors and seniors, at the end of their second semester. “This year is very challenging, but very exciting,” said Carpiniello.
The program extends their athletic training and medical professional program with a series of annual volunteer work, assuring that the students do not limit their experience to typical team sports environments.
Students are able to observe and network with healthcare professionals while volunteering at the New York City Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C., and the Poughkeepsie Marathon every year—as well as the Boston Marathon for senior students only. “They get to see some things that they might not normally see with sports like football or baseball,” said Powers.
AT is one of the only undergraduate programs at Marist that requires a senior thesis. Each January, seniors are required to attend a national conference to present their research. “We really try to build their resume beyond just getting good grades and doing well in their clinicals,” said Powers.
“Just getting into Marist as a freshman doesn’t assure that you’re going to make it,” said Powers. The undergraduate major is increasingly intensive, as students are held to retention criteria throughout their four years in the program.
Powers explained that many students enter as freshmen with expecting a personal training or fitness focus in the curriculum. “They don’t realize how much of a medical aspect there is,” he said.
The current sophomore class began with over 20 students, but is down to 11, with only 6 in the professional phase. “The numbers are constantly changing,” said Carpiniello.
Senior AT student, Elizabeth Cieszko, outlined her four year plan as an AT student. “By junior year I was taking more major specific classes—orthopedic testing classes and rehabilitation specific classes,” she said. “The workload had increased and the clinical work remained the same, only having to attend to higher expectations.”
She explains that the senior year the coursework deals more with the administrative duties of an Athletic Trainer, which she carried out while working with the Marist Division I Football Team throughout both the preseason and the regular season.
General grades and overall time effectiveness and management play into the high program dropout rate, as students are subject to not only regular science lab and coursework, but also a time-intensive clinical schedule.
“People do not realize how much of your time you have to dedicate to it and they're also not willing to do so,” said Svensson, who spent her last rotation at Spackenkill High School in in Spackenkill, NY. “If you're really interested in the program then it is definitely feasible to handle.”
“The ones that finally make it through and get to that senior year are all successful,” said Powers. In the past four years, the program has had a 100 percent first-time passing rate on the national certification exam, granting all Marist AT undergraduate students acceptance to graduate school or employment directly after graduation. Passage of the certifying examination is a requirement for licensure in most states, according to the National Athletic Trainers Association.
The rush onto the field when someone is down reappears as the wholesome pressure of being an athletic trainer, reflecting the constant readiness that comes with the nature of the profession. “There is a certain type of individual who ends up doing this—one who really has a personality of helping,” said Powers.
“I love this major because it presents me with a new challenge every day,” said Cieszko. “It is extremely rewarding to be working with an athlete and watching him or her go out and perform knowing you made it possible for he or she to be on that field.”