Passion for the Profession

A loss of district funding didn’t keep Dave Sherden out of contributing to the field.

By Kenny Berkowitz

Kenny Berkowitz is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.

Training & Conditioning, 13.8, November 2003,

When budget problems came to Oregon in the early 1990s, Portland’s public school system was hit particularly hard. Since then, some schools have shortened their academic calendars, trimmed extra-curricular activities, and in some cases, threatened to cut athletics out of their budgets entirely.

At inner-city Franklin High School, administrators saved money by eliminating their part-time athletic trainer position. Yet Dave Sherden, ATC, ATR, remained active in the profession even as his athletic training duties at the school were eliminated. He kept a hand in the field as coordinator of medical coverage for the state wrestling tournament. And while remaining a teacher and coach, Sherden served as president of the Oregon Athletic Trainers’ Society (OATS) from 1996 to 1999, helping write, lobby, and fund-raise for the passage of the Oregon Athletic Trainers Act, which governs the licensure of all the state’s athletic trainers.

In addition, he’s the Chair of the Oregon Board of Athletic Trainers, overseeing compliance with the new statutes and licensing of all new athletic trainers. And Sherden helped found a local chapter of OATS, called the Westside Athletic Trainers Society, where he hopes to provide new opportunities for athletic trainers who are just joining the profession, and where he serves as interim Secretary-Treasurer.

“The profession has grown so much in Oregon since I became president of OATS,” says Sherden, “and I saw a need to create a local group where new athletic trainers could take positions of leadership on committees. My hope is that the organization can encourage people to become more involved in the profession, and help us develop more leaders at the local level.”

Sherden has since returned to athletic training at Franklin, with a part-time position paid for by fund raising, in which he works solely for the football program. Monday through Friday, he spends an hour each afternoon in the athletic training room, examining and rehabbing injured student-athletes. On Thursdays, he covers home games for the freshman and j.v. teams, which alternate from one week to the next, and on Fridays, he covers home and away games for the varsity team, where he is assisted by his squad of athletic training student aides.

“It feels good to be back,” says Sherden. “I’m able to be involved with the student-athletes again, which is very satisfying, and I can devote my attention to being an athletic trainer, even if it’s only for a few hours a week.”

“He makes sure that the kids have somebody to turn to,” says Tom McCarthy, Head Football Coach. “With Dave there, we know our student-athletes are getting the best care possible, from someone who really cares a lot about them. He’s willing to go the extra mile to make sure our players get what they deserve.”

“He’s very, very good at what he does,” agrees Scott Santangelo, Athletic Director at Franklin. “At our level, it’s really hard to find a certified athletic trainer. Dave does it because he absolutely loves teaching, he loves working with kids, and he loves football.”

Sherden started out at Franklin High School in 1987 as a student-teacher from Lewis and Clark College. A couple of years earlier, as an undergraduate biology major, he’d been planning a career as a teacher and coach—until a course in the prevention and care of athletic injuries, taught by athletic trainer Jerry Krummell, ATC, ATR, changed his life.

“I had never met an athletic trainer before, because we didn’t have one at my high school [in Redwood City, Calif.], and I didn’t even know what one was,” says Sherden. “Then I met Jerry Krummell and realized athletic training was completely up my alley, because it involved sports, science, biology, and medicine—all the things I was interested in. I started hanging out in the athletic training room, and after a year or two, Jerry encouraged me to pursue the profession seriously. So I did, and I ended up landing a teaching job in what was at the time a very tough market.”

Over the next decade, as Sherden worked at Franklin as a part-time science teacher and part-time athletic trainer, the market got even tougher. By the mid ’90s, his athletic trainer position had been trimmed to two seasons, and by the late ’90s, it had been cut entirely. Without room in the budget for an athletic trainer, Sherden went to work as an assistant track coach in the spring and assistant football coach in the fall, which allowed him to remain involved with the teams and support his student-athletes.

Then in the 2002-03 school year, Sherden got out of coaching entirely because of the time it took away from his newly expanded family life—he and his wife Paula had their first child, daughter Mary Catherine—and resumed athletic training in the new football-only role.

“He’s wonderful with the kids, and they love him,” says Santangelo. “If they’ve got an injury, they know he’s going to tell them the truth, and they’re very appreciative. It’s great to watch him work, because he doesn’t get stressed out. He’s an expert, and that’s how they treat him.”

At his busiest, Sherden covered more than 40 teams a year at Franklin, and remembers a pair of injuries as his biggest rehab challenges. In the first, an athlete with severe scarring from a dislocated elbow was given a regimen of strengthening, stretches, joint mobilization exercises, and counseling to recover. In the second, an athlete with stenosis in his cervical spine was experiencing stingers every time he took to the football field; after a treatment of rotation, flexion, side-bending, and strengthening, he was able to compete pain-free, finishing the season as the team’s long snapper and not suffering any lasting damage.

Over the course of the football season, Sherden usually treats four or five injured athletes at any given time. In this year’s first two games, he’s already treated a forearm fracture, thigh contusions, subluxating rib, and a set of hip pointers. Meanwhile, he’s continued his full load of classes, teaching courses in Life Science, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and Athletic Training, which has more than 30 students this year—the largest enrollment the class has had in all his years at Franklin. The course provides a broad-based curriculum for his students, who can earn community service credit for work as Sherden’s student training aides.

“A lot of the students in the class are athletes, so I want to teach them about the nature of injuries, treatment, and recovery,” says Sherden. “I want them to learn about terminology, tissues, the physiology of injury and healing. They all come out with some basic treatment skills, and even if they’re basic skills, like strapping an ice pack to a sprained ankle, it gives them a sense of their value to the program.

“The best part of this job is taking students who are emerging from childhood, and putting them in a position where they realize what they’re capable of doing,” he continues. “They learn to set high standards for themselves, and to get a positive experience out of setting goals. They get some knowledge that the general public doesn’t have, and if they can use that to explain something to someone else, that’s going to help their self-esteem. And from talking to their parents, I know the students are showing off at home, watching ‘ER’ on television and explaining the terminology.”

When school is out, Sherden spends as much time as he can taking care of his 18-month-old daughter, fixing her meals, and playing together in the backyard. Finding a healthy balance between work and family has been very important to him, even though it’s forced him to cut back on the time he spends as an athletic trainer.

“The set-up at Franklin allows me to keep a hand in athletic training and still have a good family life,” says Sherden. “It allows me to get home at a decent hour three days a week, see my daughter, see my wife, and still stay involved in athletics and sports medicine.

“Even if it’s only for an hour, I get to keep in touch with the team and the profession,” he continues. “I love studying medicine, I love keeping up with the profession as it changes and evolves, and I love working with kids—especially student-athletes.”

According to Santangelo, Franklin High School’s athletic department appreciates Sherden just as much as he enjoys being involved. “We’re really lucky to have Dave here at Franklin,” he says. “He comes and talks with the athletic teams about safety, just because he feels it’s important. He talks to the coaches, and makes sure that all the teams are being taken care of. If he weren’t here, it would put a lot more stress on all of us.”