The Gatorade Person
McNamee, Roger Clemens' "trainer,â€ has been one of the most recognizable and notorious faces in sports this year. You've seen file clips of him on ESPN, CBS, CNN and pretty much every network, working out Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. Not to mention him on Capitol Hill getting called a liar (hilariously) by republican Congressman Dan Burton.
But Quinton Sawyer, we call him "Qâ€ sent the angry text to make a distinct delineation between certified athletic trainers (ATC's) and what McNamee is.
"He was a personal trainer and anyone can do that, you don't have to be certified,â€ Sawyer said. "That field is not as strict on certification and on who can call themselves a personal trainer"
ATC's are the nice-yet-sometimes-annoying people who carry the water and Gatorade to players during competition. You see them run out on the field or court during timeouts in their khaki shorts, team designated polo's and visor and make sure super-athlete Johnny didn't hurt his pinky too bad.
Serving Gatorade and wearing team designated polo's, however, is just their public face, behind-the-scenes they are just as important as an athletic director, head coach or administrator. They spend countless hours, early in the morning and way past fourth meal, giving treatments, diagnosing sprained ankles, rehabbing torn ACL's and doing whatever is necessary to keep athletes at their optimal working condition.
They are the players' friends, the psychologist and to some degree their doctor.
So, when I found out it was National Athletic Training month, I figured now was as good a time as any to give them their flowers while they're living or however that phrase really goes â€“ after all, when the journalistic equivalent of McNamee gets in the spotlight, I'll probably feel the same way as Q.
It's a shame though, just like black head coaches. there are few black athletic trainers. In fact only one HBCU, North Carolina Central University, has an accredited undergraduate athletic training program.
ATC's for a professional franchise or college basketball team can sometimes hold in their hands, livelihoods, winning-seasons and booster contributions.
If an athletic trainer lets a player who was injured back to early they can face legal action. So they often have the final and definitive word on whether or not the student-athlete or player plays.
"Ultimately I'm directly responsible for the well-being of the student-athlete,â€ said Sawyer, who is a men's basketball and volleyball ATC at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, La. "I have the right and responsibility to withhold someone if their injury is serious. When I interned in the NFL, it was routine for former players to attempt to sue teams and ATCs for wages or lost playing time, claiming there was mistreatment or mis-diagnosis."
That's an awful lot of power for the Gatorade person.
So to all the ATC's out there on your grind, especially Q, Geoff, Meghan, Mary and Dean, mad props. In athletics you're some of the most undervalued people there are.