After a multi-year effort by College Council (CC) the College has hired a part-time athletic trainer for club sports. Heather Patterson started on Aug. 18, helping with preseason varsity sports and has since transitioned to working with club sports.
Patterson’s main focus is on rugby; she attends each game and practice. She also holds a sports medicine clinic Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Cole Field House, where all club sport athletes are welcome to have her examine their injuries.
“Rugby is a high-intensity, high-risk sport. It is a sport that is grossly under-covered medically,” Patterson said. “Rugby players at [the College] now have a great opportunity to get the treatment they deserve.”
The push for a club sports trainer has been in the works for several years now. “For many years, CC has wanted a trainer for club sports, but it was non-prioritized because the administration considers club sports to be ‘autonomous,’” said Emily Dzieciatko ’15, CC co-president.
In the past, CC had paid for gauze, bandages and other medical supplies for club sports. With more space available because of the construction of Weston Field and because of the recent rise in concussions in club sports, an athletic trainer had become more of a priority. As a result, the administration heeded CC’s request to hire a trainer.
CC currently covers registration fees, ambulance fees and 55 percent of club sports’ coaches pay while the College covers facilities expenses and the new trainer. In addition, the College has also recently expanded insurance for club sports. By filling out several pieces of paperwork at the start of a season, each student receives additional coverage for any injuries he or she may experience during the season. In addition, club sports participants are now required to complete some baseline testing before competing.
“So for instance if you get concussed you can compare how you’re doing with how you were before you got hurt so that they know when you can return to practice. That was a loop that club sports didn’t have to go through before now,” Erica Moszkowski ’15, CC co-president said. So far, much of Patterson’s work has been focused on muscle sprains and strains. She has at-tempted to educate athletes on how to prevent these muscle injuries, which are common at the beginning of a season. She also has dealt with concussions, both responding to them and teaching players how to detect them. On the logistical side of her work, as her position is new, she is educating the athletes on what services she provides and when they can come in to the training room.
Club sports athletes have found Patterson very helpful, with ultimate Frisbee “utilizing the pro-gram the most,” according to Patterson.
“I feel a lot more secure now at practice. Before, if I felt pain or soreness I wouldn’t know what it was or how to treat it. It feels great to have someone with experience who is dedicated to your body’s wellbeing,” Paula Mejia ’16, a member of the women’s rugby team, said.
“I was surprised that Williams never had a trainer [for club sports] before because my high school always had one [for fencing]. It’s better late than never. Trainers play a big part in keeping athletes safe,” Kristina Hwang ’18, a fencer, said.
“Rugby players have to get used to being told when they should and should not play,” Patterson said. “However, players have been forthcoming in reporting concussions and coaches are being supportive. I have not felt any resistance whatsoever.”
Other schools in the NESCAC have trainers for various club sports teams, including colleges such as Bates, Tufts, Bowdoin, Colby and Middlebury.
“Usually schools don’t cover club sports [with trainers], but other schools in NESCAC are start-ing to,” Patterson said.
Prior to working at Williams, Patterson worked at Central Connecticut State University with the women’s basketball team as a graduate intern while getting her master’s degree in exercise science. Before that, she worked with the University of Hartford men’s soccer and basketball teams. She received her bachelor’s degree in athletic training from Castleton State.
CC has further plans for improvements to club sports. It hopes for coaches to receive fair pay and increase storage for athletic equipment.
According to Dzieciatko, the athletics department has recently stepped in to ensure that coaches for club sports are hired at “a fair monetary rate and through the proper procedure. This allows us to make sure that the coaches get a yearly pay increase, which is something that may have been overlooked when only students were in charge.”
In addition, storage “is a struggle that all student organizations face,” according to Dziecitako. Two years ago, CC funded a shed for men’s rugby to store their equipment.
They also hope to increase funding for transportation. Right now, some sports are required to provide their own transportation.
CC is also concerned about students driving themselves home after games during which they were injured. “It is dangerous for rugby players to have to drive back to Williams after potentially receiving head injuries in a game,” Dzieciatko said.