To the Max

Honoring the NATA’s new President

By Shelly Wilson

Shelly Wilson is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.

Training & Conditioning, 10.9, December 2000,

As the first woman elected to the position of President of the NATA, Julie Max, MEd, ATC, Head Athletic Trainer at Cal State Fullerton, has attracted a lot of attention in the athletic training community this year. Much of the post-election focus and praise has been directed toward the milestone she’s achieved for her gender. But those who know and work with Max know that it wasn’t her feminine charm that won her the votes. It was her 20-plus years of unrelenting service prior to the September ’99 vote that clinched her the office.

Like so many other athletic trainers, Max’s desire to care for student-athletes runs deep. But caring for her profession is a job responsibility she takes on with as much passion. One glance at her resume reveals her voracious appetite for impacting the field. And for over a decade, her plate has been full.

Over the past 10 years Max has sat on or led 11 NATA committees, task forces, or boards and, in addition, has held three senior positions at either the district or national levels. She has also received 10 national, district, or university awards and honors for her efforts both with student-athletes and on behalf of the profession.

But Max has also taken her enthusiasm for athletic training beyond her athletic training peers and to the public. A self-styled ambassador for the profession, she has amassed a long list of presentations—ranging from eating disorders and injury treatment to staff management and the history of the profession—for coaches, high school students, athletic directors, health professionals, career-day audiences, and college students. She has reached mass audiences through numerous television and radio appearances, and she has sat on the editorial advisory boards of two professional publications: NATA News and Athletic Therapy Today. In addition, she leads a Division I athletic training program that serves 17 sports and 300 athletes and oversees 20 student athletic trainers. Oh yeah, and she teaches the department’s kinesthesiology courses, too.

For her outstanding and continuing service to the profession of athletic training and her recent rise to the NATA presidency, Training & Conditioning honors Julie Max as the December Above The Call Award winner. In this award profile, you’ll get to know the woman behind the title, in her own words. Here, Max discusses her work with the NATA, her hopes for her presidency, and new NATA initiatives aimed to assist high school and collegiate athletic trainers facing coverage issues.

T&C: How did you get involved in athletic training?

Max: I was very fortunate. I was an athlete, and I competed in every sport that I possibly could. In addition, I had a love of the medical profession. So I sought out a profession that would allow me to be involved in both areas, and I found out about the field of athletic training—the best blend of both worlds. It was in college that I really got involved, as a student athletic trainer.

What was it like starting your career at a point when there weren’t many women in the field?

There’s no question that it was challenging, but I never really encountered many obstacles. There weren’t very many female athletic trainers, and this was especially evident at the collegiate level. I knew to take on the challenge and be successful at finding a job would be hard work, but I was really focused and goal oriented. The gender issue was not going to stop me from accomplishing my goal.

How did you get involved with the NATA?

As a student athletic trainer, I was a member of the NATA. I think that early on I understood how important the national association was in the profession. I was also very fortunate that while completing my internship, one of my supervising certified athletic trainers, Bill Chambers, happened to be the President of the NATA. So I really had a firsthand look at the involvement at the national level. As a student, I was encouraged by those around me to be as involved at the state and district levels as I possibly could. As soon as I became certified, I did, in fact, get very involved at the state level. I sought out committees that interested me and simply volunteered.

What was it about serving on these committees that appealed to you?

I believe I saw involvement as a way to contribute to the profession. Even at an early age, I wanted to do everything I could to make sure our profession moved progressively into the future. I wanted to be a part of that.

Do you think your involvement in the NATA has expanded your understanding of the profession?

Absolutely. I had no idea of the enormity of what went into running an association—making decisions for the future of 26,000 members, and the impact that this particular Board of Directors has. I know of few other professions where its members truly love what they do and want to take that to the next level. Those in our profession want to continue to advance professionally, and, for me, this organization provides an opportunity to do just that.

Some athletic trainers may be wary of getting involved at the district or national levels simply because of the time and energy it takes. Is it as daunting as people might think?

I believe that is an overstatement, but it really depends on what particular committees you’re involved in. For the most part, it’s a wonderful way to see a different side of your association, how decisions are made, and the pressures that are often put on people in certain positions. I think you walk away with a very different appreciation for where this association is going by being involved.

But, balance is the key. I’ve been at this particular institution for 23 years. I love my job and I love my involvement in the NATA. It’s my responsibility to balance the two. The key is to remember what elements of your life are important to you. If you don’t give the things that factor into making you a complete individual time and attention—whether they be personal, professional, spiritual, or physical—then you’re really not going to be satisfied with any of them. But allowing myself the time necessary for my other pursuits helps me accomplish my professional goals.

How do you feel about all the emphasis that has been put on your being the first woman president?

I’m very proud to be the first woman in this position, but I think a first in any arena is going to draw more attention than normal. I hope that at the end of my tenure, the evaluation of the success of my presidency will not be based on gender.

There’s no doubt that my being the first female in the position will be of some advantage. If my being the first female president draws more public relations attention to our profession, then that’s great. If it draws more attention to articles being written about our profession, then that’s wonderful. Any negative overtones related to my gender I trust will be overshadowed by the positive impact I will have on the NATA.

You’ve also stated you want your time as President to be about being a visionary, looking forward, and achieving new things for the NATA. What are some of the specific visions you have in mind?

I’m most interested in the issues that make positive changes to our profession. And those would be educational standards, public relations, third-party reimbursement issues, and international involvement.

Our focus on public relations will be constant and very consistent throughout the next few years—educating people about the role of athletic trainers. Increasing our profile will strengthen our efforts to achieve third-party reimbursement for athletic trainers. Our backgrounds, experience, and educational requirements hopefully entitle us to the same third-party reimbursement other healthcare providers enjoy.

On the international front, there’s no doubt we have seen interest from other countries to learn from us. Up until now, we have slowly, but very effectively, reached out to some of these other countries, and we will continue to do so more aggressively. We’re being asked by people around the world to conduct educational workshops—to be part of the education of their physicians and healthcare providers. We’re being asked to help set up our curriculum and academic programs in these countries. It’s very, very exciting because we’ve already been so well received.

What do you think of the new educational reforms?

I’m very proud of them and I am a huge advocate. Athletic training is a gold-standard profession when it comes to sports medicine and the protection of athletes. I believe that means we have to set standards not only for ourselves, but ones the community trusts. I think the best way to do that is to focus on how we can be the very best in our field. Educational reform will help make that possible.

You’re also a strong advocate of preparing student athletic trainers for the next century. What are your thoughts on how this can be achieved?

Developing well-rounded professionals is a key focus in the preparation of student athletic trainers. At Fullerton, we spend a lot of time educating our students not only on how to be the very best athletic trainers, but how to be the very best citizens. We work very hard on the balance of what it takes to be a great professional overall. It’s easy to teach the skills and techniques of the job, but that alone does not make a professional. There must also be attention to cultivating a caring attitude while we teach the interpersonal aspects of dealing with patients.

I think another critically important aspect of our particular program is the emphasis we put on our student athletic trainers regarding the importance of getting involved with the national association early on. Many programs do not emphasize the need to become nationally or politically involved. We really feel that emphasis provides our students with a huge asset. We promote scholarships, we ask our student athletic trainers to attend programs at the state and district levels, and we raise money to fund their attendance at these events. It helps them to see beyond their own athletic training environment. The more exposure they get, the more interest they’ll have.

Today’s student athletic trainers are the future of our organization and our profession. The sooner they get on board as to the issues that are relevant not only for today, but also for tomorrow, the sooner they’ll become excited about making changes that allow our profession to grow.

When it comes to student athletic trainers, what are your thoughts on how broad or narrow the scope of their involvement in an athletic training program should be?

I know that it’s a controversial issue. I wish it were not. In our particular program, our student athletic trainers’ academic responsibility has to be their first priority. What they learn in the classroom, what they learn in their athletic training courses, their ability to complete their degrees must be first. Their clinical involvement in athletic training is certainly equally important in terms of their exposure, but as head athletic trainers, we have to remember that we don’t have our students here to replace the labor of a certified athletic trainer—and that’s the controversy. You can’t have a workplace or institution with 500 athletes, hire only one or two certified athletic trainers, and think you can let the student athletic trainers pick up the load. It puts the students in too many illegal, unnecessary, and compromising positions where they have to make decisions that they’re just not qualified to make yet.

What are your thoughts on this problem facing many ATCs today: New sports, teams, and athletic department demands stretching coverage resources to the limit and beyond?

There has definitely been a concern that adding more and more sports, intramurals, and practices is diluting the efforts of the athletic trainers. But the NATA has a new set of recommendations from the Appropriate Medical Coverage Task Force that can help this situation. These recommendations come after a two-year period of research, and this committee put them together as a way to measure if institutions are medically covering each sport appropriately. It also states how the NATA defines appropriate medical coverage.

I think this is going to be of tremendous help not only to college administrators in terms of risk management, but also athletic trainers. We hope that head athletic trainers will take this to their administration and will use it as evidence to voice their concerns. It’s a new document that will aid not only our profession, but will contribute to the protection of the student-athletes.

What is your advice for those ATCs just starting out on how to achieve the level of success and respect that you have?

Focus on being the best you can be in the classroom, in the athletic training room, and as you deal with others. Choose integrity as your goal and always remember that goals are dreams with deadlines. Set your goals high and don’t be afraid to walk through the next door knowing that you learn constantly from those you serve.