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Student trainers help athletes compete

Courtesy of Melissa Armiento-Van Loon Madera High School student trainers gather after a sports medicine day at Kerman High School on Nov. 9.


They oftentimes stand away from the field of play, waiting for their opportunity to help an athlete out. Most of the time, their efforts aren’t needed, but when they are, Madera High Schools student athletic trainers jump into action.

The class of 23 students practice and study to learn about how to handle anything from first aid to CPR to basic wound care to anatomy.

“Because we’re already at the end of the semester, the kids are actually taught how to train an athlete in and perform a hot assessment,” said Melissa Armiento-van Loon, ROP sports medicine instructor. “They report to the athletic trainer and report their findings. The trainer will verify the findings and ask their opinions. They don’t just go off and perform their skill set. There’s a checks and balances system in place. Together, they will talk about how to assess the injury.”

Armiento and the students have been working behind the scenes since Armiento started the program in 2004. At first, Armiento had softball players volunteering to help out, but vice principal Jeff Mendoza saw the hard work of the volunteering students and saw a need for student training classes.

“When I became the head trainer in 1999, who better to ask for help than my softball players,” Armiento said. “I trained them and taught them basic taping skills. I would have them in the fall and coach them in the spring. Mr. Mendoza came up in 2001 and asked if the kids get credit for this. I told him they were my softball players and they wanted to come out to volunteer to help out. He said there’s some funding and we can get a class and credit for this.”

Armiento and Mendoza got the ball rolling in 2001. After talking with other local sports medicine classes, Armiento created the curriculum and were up and running in 2004 with sports medicine and athletic training.

“Right now, in the sports medicine, they get three units of college credit,” Armiento said. “With athletic training, we’re still working on that with the junior colleges. They get college credit for taking the classes. They also get a lot of hands-on experience and that’s where the after-school hours come into play. While they are learning a lot, we become really close and bond tightly.”

Armiento has 23 students enrolled in the ROP sports medicine class and that number is bigger than college classes.

“My magic number is 20 students,” Armiento said. “In college labs, it’s about 14-16 students. Instead of keeping an eye on five groups, I have to keep an eye on 10 groups.”

Armiento is a full-time teacher at Madera High School after spending the past 17 years as the school’s head athletic trainer. She now teaches three sections of medical terminology along with two periods of sports medicine.

Armiento takes a group of students to compete in the ROP Career Skills challenge at Fresno City College.

“We’ve done really well and have gotten invitations to other competitions,” she said.

Armiento also tries to take a group of students to a competition in Southern California.

“It’s a lot of funding and we try to fund raise for it,” she said. “The competitions are huge because we get to compete against other programs.”

One of the biggest events for the ROP sports medicine class is the CIF Central Section cross country championships at Woodward Park, which is also hosted by Madera High School.

“Cross country is one of our highlights,” Armiento said.

Her students line the finish line area, helping runners as they cross the line and aiding them if they have fallen or have an injury.

“We went to the chute and I went over their duties when we first got to Woodward Park,” she said. “I was the example so they had to catch me. We were practicing and it took just 10-15 minutes on the run through. We went to the table and we have 2-4 at the training table because we always have someone asking for ice.”

After looking back on the day, Armiento spoke like a proud mother because there wasn’t a situation that her kids couldn’t handle.

“They were on point,” she said. “I was impressed with them because we have adversity and challenges constantly. They always rise to the occasion. We got so many compliments about how the meet was run, especially the kids. When you’ve done something for a while, you anticipate needs and we make it work.”

Armiento has built a reputation and trust among coaches at Madera High School. However, Armiento feels she still has to prove herself every day for her students and for the athletes.

“Building that trust doesn’t happen overnight,” she said. “I tell my students that I have to prove myself day in and day out. Here, every single day, it’s a constant proving myself again. Every single year, I have to build that trust with every single parent with their athletes. They go from not having a trainer to help and guide them to knowing that there’s a trainer on campus to help them. They can go from missing two weeks to just two days.”

Also developing that trust are the student trainers, some of whom get assigned to teams throughout the year.

“Separation starts to occur when students get assigned to teams,” she said. “Everybody is a student athletic trainer. Their goal is to be ‘certified.’ That means they are cleared to take ankles and other stuff. That helps take the load off. The trainer can focus on other training jobs. It really helps the entire sports medicine program. Now, the trainer can focus on phone calls and communications.”

Although Armiento has taken a step back from her head athletic training duties, she is proud of what she has established with the ROP sports medicine class.


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