New program may attract students but leave athletic trainers shorthanded

By Adam Zirkelbach*

The athletic training education program (ATEP), which was first accredited in 2002, will graduate their last class in the Spring of 2018 because the school is not re-accrediting the program.

Instead, the University created an exercise science program in the hopes of attracting more students with a streamlined curriculum, according to Michal Boehke, head of the ATEP and exercise science program.

This decision was made after conducting research that showed a Master- level ATEP program would not be successful, according to Boehke. He also found that many ATEP students graduating from the program were not becoming athletic trainers. Instead, they were pursuing other health care professions.

“Ultimately, the outcome was to not seek reaccreditation but instead to create the exercise science program” Boehke said.

However, some on campus are worried that the transition to exercise science will overburden athletic trainers. Currently, athletic trainers serve 23 teams and spirit squads, not including all the teams with junior varsity teams. With all these teams and student athletes, the four trainers might not have as much help as they are used to.

Head Trainer, Heath Duncan, relies on athletic training students to assist trainers in their responsibilities.

“We know we are going to get 15 hours a week from the athletic training students and we can count on them [to be at rehab, practices and games],” Duncan said.

His concern comes from the internship portion of the exercise science program. The students who do decide to intern with the athletic trainers might treat it as a work study and get the required hours and not come back.

Another worry of Duncan’s is not being able to show the interns, who decide to work with trainers, what athletic training is really about and how it works.

If the trainers do not get a lot of interns, they “will rely on a lot of volunteer work,” Duncan said.

Duncan’s worries stem from the reduction in clinical observations required by the new exercise science program. Previously, ATEP students were required to have 50 observation hours their freshman year and once accepted into the program they would need, with the athletic trainers, 7.5 hours per week as sophomores, 12 hours per week as juniors and 15 hours per week as seniors.

But Boehke says the reduced clinical requirement will draw more students.  The program is more attractive because students will not have the required clinical hours that ATEP students had.

Senior Hunter Doherty changed his major going into his junior year from biology to exercise science because the program offered more opportunity in his pursuit for future careers. He is currently doing his internship at Affiliated Physical Therapy in Nutter Fort, West Virginia.

“I enjoy the exercise program, even though it is a lot of information, more than biology because it is information I enjoy and actually want to learn,” Doherty said.

*Hadassah Curry also contributed to this report

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