Lockhart ISD athletic trainers providing more than just medicine
When a football player goes down after a brutal tackle, or a basketball player hits the hardwood following a cheap foul, the clock stops. The crowd goes silent, the cheering ceases, and everyone stands still.
But for the athletic training department, it’s time to get to work.
Athletic trainers are the ones bringing water to out-of-breath athletes during time-outs, being a crutch to help lift injured players off the field, and, as seen during the Alamo Heights football game, calling the ambulance when the injury is too severe to treat on the sidelines.
You don’t see athletic trainers on the highlight reels. Their actions aren’t dissected on talk sports radio. But the work they do behind the scenes as medic, coach, and counselor is an integral part of the athletic program.
“We have to prepare for everything,” co-athletic trainer Amy Dahlberg said in an interview Monday. “You have to prepare for any scenario and hope that it doesn’t happen.”
Dahlberg is one of three trainers on staff with LISD, serving student-athletes at Lockhart High School. This school year marks her first in Lockhart, but she’s already making her mark for her open-door policy, hard work ethic, and providing a safe space for student-athletes.
A self-described “momma bear,” the students affectionately call her “Coach D.” They come to her with their injuries, but often open up their hearts as well.
“It starts off talking about injuries, and then we talk about life,” she said. “Sometimes it’s not about an ankle injury, it’s just that they need someone to talk to.”
For Dahlberg that mothering role comes natural to her. She chose to not have children of her own, instead becoming stepparent to her husband’s two children. But she sees herself having 400 kids each school year, a role she relishes.
“They are my kids, they are my family,” she said. “I do want to take care of them and make sure I can be that mother bear to them and be someone they can lean on if they need it.”
Down Not Out
Getting injured is never fun. It hurts. And for athletes, it often takes them away from the sport they love.
But for Dahlberg, it led to her destiny.
When she was a junior in high school, she suffered a season-ending injury. As someone who grew up on sports fields the idea of being away from the action, particularly for her final year, was difficult.
Her softball coach could see the value in having Dahlberg in the dugout, and the joy it brought her. The coach suggested talking to the athletic trainer about a new role for senior year.
Instead of pouting about not getting to play, she seized the opportunity. She became a student-trainer her senior year, and the head trainer mentored her to pursue the profession.
Dahlberg got her degree at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, Texas and has been a trainer ever since.
“I enjoy what I do every day,” she said. “I don’t ever look back and think there is anything that could have been better for me.”
Paying it Forward
Years after her own high school experience as a student-trainer Dahlberg now finds herself paying it forward. She’s in charge of training and mentoring her own group of students-trainers who help her keep the athletes safe on game day.
“I’m only one set of eyes on that sideline in a football game, and I need their eyes and their ears,” Dahlberg said.
Lockhart High School seniors Elizabeth “Liz” Smith, and Baltazar “BZ” Galindo, both 18, are leaders in her student-trainer crew, and people Dahlberg can count on in serious situations.
When junior Jesael Baders went down with an ankle injury during the November 20th football game, Dahlberg relied on her seniors.
“It’s important to know that I can ask them to get something done and they are going to do it,” Dahlberg said.
Both Smith and Galindo took the same intro class during their sophomore year and have stayed with it for the last two years. They give up Friday nights, endure the sweltering Texas heat during early season practice, and lug heavy water containers to keep the team hydrated.
Smith doesn’t see it as giving something up but gaining camaraderie.
“I enjoy the spirit of being on the field. I’d rather be on the field than in the stands,” Smith said. “I love to be a part of something.”
Smith plans to attend Tarleton State University this fall with the intention of studying athletic training.
Galindo, who plans to study orthopedics in college next year, acknowledges the hard work, but also sees the reward.
“That’s what motivates you,” he said. “On Friday, end of the week, all that work pays off.”