Through the hot and muggy summers to the cold and breezy nights of autumn, they are there for it all. Through the joyous victories and high spirits to the brutal losses and the all time lows, they are there for it all. Through the salty attitudes and little to no recognition for the work and time commitment, they are there for it all. But who are they?
They are the group of girls who have dedicated themselves to be there for every moment of the football season. They are the group of girls who care about others and want to help others succeed. They are the duPont Manual Football Athletic Trainers. They are Seryn Bentley (12, HSU), Rodijett Jones (12, YPAS), Marisa Blakey (12, HSU), Rachel Morgan (12, HSU), Dana Luu (10, VA), Koda Coleman (10, HSU), Aubrey Stevenson (10, HSU) and Madison Bush (10, HSU). While their jobs of getting water and taping ankles might not be glamorous or high profile as catching a pass or tackling an opposing player, that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.
Dealing with teenage boys and intense coaches on a daily basis can be very stressful for the trainers. Not only do they have to adapt to being yelled at and handling the every need of the players, but they also have to be aware of their attitudes. In a sport as intense as football, it is very easy for players and coaches alike to lose their cool; in no way is Manual football an exception. These girls have to maintain a level of maturity that would be difficult for most. Instead of snapping back with a rude remark, they have to brush the comments off and continue with their job.
“The hardest part is dealing with them being smart and rude. Just having the pressure to get everything done as soon as they want it. Like, if they tell us to get them water and you’re not on your game and getting them water then they’re going to yell at you,” Stevenson said.
What drives someone to give up their afternoons after school, their Friday nights and many Saturday mornings? For a few of the young ladies, they already know they want to do something within the medical field or athletic training when they go off to college and life beyond Manual. Having an opportunity like this early on allows for them to build the early skills needed to be successful down this path in the future.
“I’m applying to be a trainer at UK and I want to major in kinesiology and go into physical therapy,” Morgan said. Something many people do not know is that colleges actually offer scholarships for people to come into their athletic training departments. So just as high school football helps the boys get recruited, it helps the girls get scholarship offers as well.
Each trainer was inspired to join the athletic training staff for a variety of reasons. However, for a few, it was simply for the love of the game.
“My freshman year at Crimson Day when I met Nila White (Class of 2015) and she told me that she was a football trainer and all the stuff she did, it got me so interested. I waited for spring ball and that’s when I fell in love with the job,” Bentley said.
Bentley has been a constant in the football training program throughout her four years at Manual. She is also a three year girls basketball and first year track and field trainer as well. For her, this transformed from an after school activity to something she is deeply passionate about.
“It has become basically the only thing I do five days a week and sometimes more. I love the boys and they really made me stick with it, even when I was fed up with the job. Training was the only thing there for me when I went through rough patches in my life, it gave me something to look forward to,” Bentley said. Without athletic training she would not have the opportunity to receive some of the scholarships she has her eyes set on.
Unfortunately for Morgan, she was forced to walk away from her beloved sport of volleyball due to severe knee injuries. Like most natural-born athletes, she couldn’t be kept away from sports for long.
“Since I can’t play volleyball anymore, I’ve wanted to [be a trainer] because I want to do it in college so it was the perfect opportunity to do it and to get a head start for college,” Morgan said.
After years of watching her older brother Jakob Morgan (Class of 2016) take on the field every Friday night, and now watching him as an athletic trainer at the University of Kentucky, Morgan found football training as her sports fix. When her time as a trainer at Manual comes to an end in the near future she will be deeply saddened to end this chapter of her life.
For Stevenson, Luu and Coleman, the story is a bit different. They all joined the training program on a whim. Both Stevenson and Luu were encouraged by a friend to step out of their comfort zone and venture into the world of athletic training.
“If you want to become a trainer, become a trainer for the sole purpose of helping the players out. Not because you want to get into the games for free or because you want to be around the players and you just want to flirt with them. You actually have to do work during practices and the games and you have to learn how to wrap and learn how to treat wounds,” Luu said.
Coleman got into the training sphere because her mother simply wanted her to become more involved at the school and participate in extracurriculars.
Bush dreams of going into sports medicine in her future and she knew that training with Manual football was an opportunity to gain valuable experience she couldn’t pass up.
“I enjoy doing it because of the bonds I’ve made with players, coaches and other trainers. I aspire to do this when I’m older,” Bush said.
Bush has been a fan of football for as long as she can recall, and she is also an athlete on the Manual Girls’ Basketball team. By training she was able to have a fun way to get more involved with the sport she loves.
“Training has given me the opportunity to see what part of my future would have in store and it has been a deciding point on what I want to pursue,” Bush said.
Jones decided to become involved in athletic training because she plans on minoring in physical therapy in college. She knew it was crucial to get in some experience before she went off to college in just a few short months. Despite the challenges she has faced throughout her career as a trainer she is determined to take another step into the athletic training world as part of her future.
Most people go to football games on Friday nights with only one group of people in mind, the boys on the team giving it their all under those timeless Friday night lights. Of course they are the main focus, they are the reason for the sport. However, they aren’t there on their own. They are nothing without their support system backing them. They are nothing without the girls who are there on the sidelines ready to tape them up, run out and hydrate them, or even be their own personal verbal punching bags during stressful and frustrating moments.
While the boys take the field, the girls take the sidelines anticipating every need of their boys, yes, their boys. Because as long as those boys are on the field, practice or a game, this group of girls is right there supporting the boys. As the saying goes, “behind every strong man is a stronger woman.”