Training ground

May 20, 2007|By KEN MURRAY

Not every county in the Baltimore area struggles to find and pay for certified athletic trainers in public high schools. Howard County has had them for more than a decade.

"There were budgetary limitations initially for us," said Mike Williams, who's in his third year as coordinator of Howard County athletics. "But our superintendent and our board of education recognized the value of trainers."

Here is how Baltimore City and its neighboring counties address the critical issue of athletic trainers:

Baltimore City

Public schools -- 19

Schools with athletic trainers -- 0

How the system works -- Coordinator Bob Wade hasn't been able to gain funding for trainers, so he hires an off-duty emergency medical technician for varsity and junior varsity football. He doesn't have coverage for other sports.

Quote -- "Year after year, I've been trying to get certified athletic trainers for the school system, [but] each time I've gotten shot down," Wade said.

Baltimore County

Public schools -- 24

Schools with athletic trainers -- 12

How the system works -- Coordinator Ron Belinko has funding in place but can't find enough trainers to fill the jobs. Seven of his 12 hires are teacher-trainers working at the school. The other five schools get visits from sports medicine clinics.

Quote -- "We use a combination of a sports medicine center and the stipend," Belinko said. "We're doing the next best thing to get trainers in school. People say it's not necessary, but I'd be naive and foolish to say it's not needed."

A. Arundel County

Public schools -- 12

Schools with athletic trainers -- 6

How the system works -- Coordinator Greg LeGrand said sports clinics have stopped sending trainers to his high schools, so he is trying to fund them at the highest level of the coaching stipend, at the equivalent of a football or basketball coach.

Quote -- "We give an allocation that says if you cover a football game, you get so much money," LeGrand said. "The real truth is, we can't find enough people to do it."

Carroll County

Public schools -- 7

Schools with athletic trainers -- 6

How the system works -- Coordinator Jim Rodriguez started the school year with seven trainers, but one left before the spring season. He contracts with two rehabilitation centers to provide the trainers, and the county supplements their salaries.

Quote -- "It works very well," Rodriguez said of his system. "[The centers] have done a superb job of providing athletic trainers for not only practices, but for all athletic contests. If there are multiple sports going on, the trainer is at the sport with the most contact."

Harford County

Public schools -- 9

Schools with athletic trainers -- 0

How the system works -- Coordinator Ken Zorbach said he has three clinics in the county that offer services of one hour per week for free, and the schools have the option of purchasing a second hour for $25.

Quote -- On the lack of trainers, Zorbach said, "I think it's a hindrance to the athletes that they can't have injuries diagnosed immediately."

Howard County

Public schools -- 12

Schools with athletic trainers -- 12

How the system works -- Two sports medicine clinics provide 10 schools with athletic trainers, who are contracted for between 20 and 25 hours each week. Two other schools have athletic trainers who are also teachers.

Quote -- "Whatever money we have, our supers and boards of education have decided it is money well spent and are willing to spend it," coordinator Mike Williams said. "I agree with them. To me, the athletic trainer is an absolute essential part of a good athletic program. Our number one priority is the safety of our students."

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