LUMBERTON — For the past four years, Robeson County has taken the lead when it comes to keeping high school student-athletes healthy.
With the help of Southeastern Regional Medical Center, all six high local schools have had their own athletic trainers, a rarity in surrounding counties and across the state.
“Before athletic trainers were here, say an athlete was injured, they probably went to the doctor and the doctor just says they’re out two weeks,” Athletic Training Supervisor Caroline Taylor said. “They go home and sit and do nothing for two weeks and then maybe they come back, maybe they don’t. With athletic trainers out here, we can do rehab during that two week time, and most of the time, get them back sooner.”
The program was started by former county athletic director Ronnie Chavis and continued by Jason Suggs, who followed him in the position.
“We were the trendsetter when we started this,” Suggs said. “Mr. Chavis started it off right before he left, I picked it up and we have been doing this ever since my first year.”
“They got a contract together with SRMC and the public schools of Robeson County, where we provide an athletic trainer for each of the six county high schools,” Taylor said. “They are full-time athletic training positions and it just takes off that responsibility from the coaches to deal with injuries.”
In the past four years, the program has shown its benefits, with faster and better treatment for athletes in the county rising to the top of the list.
“As a part-time trainer and teacher where I was at before my first responsibility was as a teacher. (I was) teaching three classes a day, and my athletic training responsibility didn’t start till 3:30 in the afternoon, which by then you are tired because you started at 7:30 in the morning,” said Chris Green, who is the trainer at St. Pauls.
“It’s a lot better to come in knowing that that’s what you’re doing and prepare your day for athletic training and rehab and to be able to treat the athletes and the students with the best possible care you can.”
Green is entering his second year as the trainer for St. Pauls after working as a teacher and trainer at Jack Britt for seven years before that. Green said there are other benefits to the program as well.
“(Trainers) have meetings every week and we communicate on a daily basis and a weekly basis about injuries, about what’s going on at our school compared to what’s going on at other schools,” he said. “Dealing with coaches, dealing with insurances, dealing with parents, that kind of stuff.”
Taylor said the program isn’t just about helping athletes recover.
“We do different community activities throughout the year,” she said. “One of those is we supply sports physicals in May of every year for each high school.”
Taylor said many of the kids in Robeson County schools had never known what a trainer did and since starting the program, kids from local schools have started to show interest in careers in athletic training.
“They didn’t know what we were,” Taylor said. “They see what we do and they become interested in it, so to try and grow the field of athletic training in our area, we’ve started that sports medicine camp in the summer.”
Taylor said the support from the schools has been incredible.
“They see the difference that this made, with us being out here,” she said. “Especially with the kids getting back out to play quicker, and they know that they’re returning to play in a safe manner, not just coming back wondering if they’re really better or not.”
Suggs said every year he receives questions from other counties about how the program has worked.
“Moore County, Cumberland County, all these counties are calling me asking how we’re doing this and I speak to them about things our hospital does for us,” Suggs said. “The hospital has been outstanding to help us out and it’s been a trend-setter as far as other counties.”