SPRING HILL- When news broke in late September that a 16-year old Citrus High School student-athlete died during a practice, the calls have become much louder not only in Citrus County but in Hernando County as well, to have athletic trainers on-site full-time.
The topic has been discussed for years, but the tragic loss has brought more attention to the dire need for athletic trainers. “I know our county’s athletic directors (ADs) have been fighting for full-time certified athletic trainers (ATC) well before I became an AD,” Springstead Athletic Director Dustin Kupcik said. “But over the past five and half years I have been the AD here at Springstead, it has been a constant topic of discussion amongst coaches, parents, and ADs.”
“The need for ATCs is a topic of discussion at every county AD meeting. Additionally, we have expressed the need for full-time ATCs to the Hernando County School District (HCSD) cabinet members over the past few years.” Kupcik doesn’t sit alone on the topic of feeling the absolute need for full-time athletic trainers on campus. There are other county athletic directors that have also voiced their opinion on the county’s need, as many feel the safety of the student-athlete becomes everyone’s first and foremost concern when out on the field/court/track. Central Athletic Director Al Sorrentino shared his thoughts on the need for full-time athletic trainers in Hernando County. “The benefits of having certified Athletic Trainers in our schools are many. First and foremost it ensures the safety of everyone in our athletic programs but for some reason in Hernando County, we continue to drag our feet. This keeps hitting closer and closer to home with recent student deaths in Citrus and Hillsborough Counties. It’s time this was made a priority,” Sorrentino said.
When it comes to the need when an occurrence happens, sometimes schools have a certified athletic trainer that doubles or triples up as a teacher/coach. That’s exactly what Hernando High School has, fortunately, on their side, according to Leopards’ Head Coach Earl Garcia III. Garcia III formerly coached in Hillsborough County under his father Earl Garcia and his thoughts were broad, from how there have been no ambulances at games to no full-time athletic trainers. “We’re lucky enough to have one on campus as a teacher. Every team isn’t that fortunate. People think about the actual injury part but it’s the maintenance and daily treatment that is usually more important. There (are) also no ambulances at the games on Friday night which is mind-blowing to me. That needs to be addressed immediately. In the wake of that incredibly terrible situation at Citrus two weeks ago, there needs to be money set aside to fix that at once. If player safety is number one then schools need help from the county,” said Hernando Head Coach Earl Garcia III.
Pressure on the Hernando County School Board to take a serious look into the possibility of full-time athletic trainers is growing louder, the concern for player safety remains at an all-time high for all of the public schools in the area. There are states around the country that mandate having athletic trainers and Florida, unfortunately, doesn’t. The level of heat that hits Florida causes major concerns when it comes to an athlete passing out on the field of practice or play.
There’s been much more dialogue among those involved with high school sports for such a need and it’s not going away anytime soon. Nature Coast Athletic Director and Coach Emily Gore touched on how it would be a huge relief for every school in Hernando County to have athletic trainers on-site regularly. “Adding athletic trainers in Hernando County is something we all would love to see. There are many benefits for the athletes and coaches. Head coaches have a long list of responsibilities and having that certified trainer to make decisions regarding player safety and health would be a huge relief,” Nature Coast Athletic Director Emily Gore said.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.