Juggling Jobs

Chuck Kimmel can juggle not just one, not just two, but three job titles! (Note: beginners should always start with two.)

By Kenny Berkowitz

Kenny Berkowitz is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.

Training & Conditioning, 14.7, October 2004, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/tc/tc1407/jugglingjobs.htm

As Head Athletic Trainer at Austin Peay State University, Chuck Kimmel supervises a staff of full-time, part-time, and student employees, along with providing primary coverage for the football team. As Assistant Athletic Director at the school, he is responsible for the menís and womenís tennis programs, the indoor and outdoor track and field programs, and the weight room. At the same time, heís the new president of the NATA.

Being a head athletic trainer is tough enough. Who in their right mind would want to take on any additional roles?

The idea is not for everyone, and it wonít work in every setting, but some athletic trainers are finding benefits to taking on duties outside the norm of their profession. Clearly, there are risks to expanding responsibilities, and you need the right support from the school and direct supervisors. But, with all the right pieces in place, a dual role can make a job more fulfilling, improve the quality of care, enhance knowledge, and expand job prospects.

The key to succeeding in a dual role, says Kimmel, is finding out as much as you can about the position prior to committing to any new responsibilities. "Before you take on an additional role, you need to know what youíre getting into," advises Kimmel, MA, ATC/L. "It should feel like an opportunity, not an obligation, and you should be excited about it."

Kimmel cautions other athletic trainers about the dangers of burnout, feeling overwhelmed, and getting in over your head. If athletic trainers are going to add new responsibilities, says Kimmel, itís important that some of their other tasks are taken away. The department needs to provide support for the new position, either with release time or additional staff, and should have a plan in place for the athletic trainerís transition into his or her new dual role.

"Ask exactly what your responsibilities are going to be and how your supervisorís expectations are going to change," says Kimmel. "Make sure your supervisor understands that the new duties may take time away from being an athletic trainer. Make sure he or she is comfortable with that and has provided staffing to allow you to do both positions."

Before taking on any additional tasks, Kimmel made sure that heíd be supported. "When I was first elevated to assistant athletic director, the only condition I had was that I get help," he says. "Thatís when I got my first assistant. Then my current athletic director added another assistant plus two interns, and with my new NATA duties, Iíve been able to add a third assistant. The university has embraced my NATA participation, which has been an extremely important part of all this. Because I would never want my athletic director to say, ĎDoes Chuck even work here anymore?í"

At APSU, Kimmelís role model for multi-tasking is his athletic director, who also works as the head menís basketball coach, and the two discussed Kimmelís dual roles carefully before they were finalized. As a result, for Kimmel, the positives of choosing to work multiple roles far outweigh the negatives.

"I know that many athletic trainers feel overworked and underpaid, and thatís something we hope can be addressed with time," he says. "But choosing a dual role is a separate issue, one that can take you into a completely different realm of responsibilities. When they work well, multiple roles can expose athletic trainers to different aspects of their profession, their department, their university, and their conference."

So, how does Kimmel actually manage the two jobs? The keys, he says, are prioritization and time management. "You need to have the ability to prioritize between what is and isnít important," he says. "If I have more than three or four things to do, Iíll make a list and attack them one at a time. In setting priorities, I think about urgency, and my question is always, ĎWhich would best serve our student-athletes?í"

Kimmel divides each workday into three parts, one for each of his roles. Arriving at his office a couple of hours early, he begins his work for the NATA, answering e-mails and handling paperwork. During the mornings, he sets aside two hours solely for athletic training, concentrating on rehabs. He makes it a policy not to answer telephone calls or schedule meetings for that time.

After that, he returns to his office, where he switches to his duties as assistant athletic director, meeting with coaches and handling administrative responsibilities. Then in the afternoons, he returns to his work as head athletic trainer, providing coverage for the football program and supervising his athletic training staff.

After finishing his first few months as NATA president, Kimmel continues to find his multiple roles manageable. Buoyed by support from his family, Kimmel sees his presidency as a new way of giving back to the profession. At the same time, itís expanded his understanding of the field, brought him into closer contact with athletic trainers around the country, and validated his decision to take on another task.

"One good thing about athletic trainers," says Kimmel, "is that we know how to multi-task. We always have several things going on at once, because thatís our job. The solution to taking on additional roles is to transpose those skills to the new position."

For Gina Leccese, Athletic Director, Athletic Trainer, and Health Teacher at Torrance (Calif.) High School, a typical work day starts at 7:30 in the morning and ends at seven or eight at night. After spending first and second periods as a health teacher, she works as the athletic director until four, and then concentrates on her role as athletic trainer.

"I love the challenge, and I love the kids," says Leccese, who is also currently pursuing a Masterís in athletic administration. "Wearing the different hats gives me a chance to play three roles. I like what Iím doing, and itís pretty easy to do all three at the same time. I just wear my hip pack and take my kit with me wherever I go."

With responsibility for 22 teams playing home games at facilities that are up to two miles away from school, thereís no shortage of challenges for Leccese. She supervises 22 head coaches, plus all their assistant coaches, and makes a point of spending time with each one. During the football season, she works to avoid scheduling conflicts, providing athletic training coverage for all the football games herself, and enlisting the help of her principal and assistant principal to cover athletic directorís duties at other contests. The rest of the year, Leccese generally provides athletic trainer and athletic director coverage for home games. All year around, sheís always on call.

"Sometimes it feels as though my jobs donít ever stop," says Leccese. "I get phone calls at all hours of the day and night, and sometimes Iím in the middle of my job as athletic director when one of my health students walks into my office with a question."

Her solution? To manage the transitions from one task to another, she stays very clear on her priorities: Taking care of athletes comes before everything else. She also emphasizes the importance of being flexible as she goes from athletic director to athletic trainer and back again.

To cope with the workload, she has student aides who help tape ankles and stock the athletic training room, and student teaching assistants to help grade quizzes, input team rosters, answer telephones, and double-check the athletics calendar. Leccese does much of her preparation at home, and the bulk of her organizing and scheduling during the summer, when she can work in her office without distraction.

Most of all, after two years working as both athletic director and athletic trainer, sheís learned the value of being organized. "The only way to keep everything running is to stay on the ball and always be very organized," advises Leccese. "You have to be prepared at all times for the moment when you need to change roles. The key is learning when to stop doing one job and start doing the other.

"Before you take on an additional role, make sure youíre up to the task," she continues. "Make sure you have the time and energy to put 100 percent of yourself into your job, because thatís what itís going to take. If you have the will to do it, it can become very, very fulfilling."

For Pete Friesen, who works as Head Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Coach for the NHL Carolina Hurricanes, the way to keep calm during hockey season is to quit drinking coffee. And the way to provide his athletes with the best possible care is by coordinating his roles to create a unified, year-round program that emphasizes injury prevention.

"When you can combine the athletic trainer and the strength and conditioning coach into one person, you can maintain a common theme in your athletesí training," says Friesen, MS, ATC, PT, CSCS, CAT. "That way, thereís less likelihood of athletes over-training or under-training. When the two jobs are separate, the athletic trainer and the strength and conditioning coach can sometimes work at cross-purposes.

"Strength coaches have to push their high-performance professional athletes to the nth degree," he continues. "And sometimes, athletic trainers donít have a good handle on what strength coaches are doing, and there can be contraindications in the training that they donít recognize. You can have a strength coach pushing his athletes very hard, while the athletic trainer is trying to hold them back. And that can be a big problem."

To handle the demands of his double role, Friesen uses the off-season to order all the equipment and supplies heíll need for the upcoming year. He also takes educational courses at that time, working to improve weaknesses in either field and to stay current with the latest thinking, techniques, and equipment. That way, when August rolls around, heís able to concentrate on his highest priority: using his dual role to get his athletes into the best possible shape.

"I want to spend 99 percent of my time in preseason on conditioning, with the understanding that if I start that emphasis at the beginning, I can help prevent injuries from occurring," says Friesen. "I integrate all the exercise programs Iíll use during the season, so the athletes will know how their bodies are going to respond. Then, as the season goes on, I spend less time on conditioning and more time on rehabilitation. As professional hockey players, if I tell them what to do, theyíre able to monitor themselves. And that frees me to work more on injuries."

Mastering the combination of the two roles has, ultimately, kept Friesen motivated. "As an athletic trainer, having multiple roles can keep you from burning out," he says. "Itís tremendously fulfilling when you can do both jobs."

Before 2001, the University of Maine at Farmington had never had a full-time athletic trainer or sports information director. But after working there for three years as a part-time athletic trainer, on top of nine years in the athletic training profession, Gina DiCrocco was glad to add "Sports Information Director" to her job title and become a full-time employee.

"Itís definitely been challenging for me," says DiCrocco, MEd, LATC, Head Athletic Trainer and Sports Information Director. "As the sports information job has evolved over the last three years, the work has definitely become more intensive. But I like it. The fact that I can spend part of my time writing press releases and part on athletic training has kept both jobs feeling fresh. I donít think every athletic trainer would want to do it, but itís kept me from getting burned out."

As sports information director, DiCrocco is responsible for updating and maintaining the departmentís Web site, writing press releases and game summaries, taking photographs, keeping statistics, and reporting scores to the North Atlantic Conference. To juggle her two roles, DiCrocco focuses on sports information in the morning and athletic training in the afternoonóbut she keeps her schedule flexible, because her most important responsibility is athletic training.

"When athletic training issues come up, they always take priority," says DiCrocco. "After a game, I donít do any sports information work until all the players have been taken care of, even if that leads to a pretty long day. And if I fall behind on sports information, I can get help from the people around me."

When she first took on the additional responsibilities, DiCrocco requested help from her supervisor, and currently supervises six student employees, five in her role as athletic trainer and one in her role as SID. She relies heavily on her student staff, delegating tasks such as event set-up and tear-down, stocking the athletic training room, and Web site updating.

Without any prior experience in sports information, DiCrocco is mostly self-taught, learning about Web design through university workshops and some reading on her own. For DiCrocco, the advantage of working two roles is clear: Sheís able to simultaneously pursue two different professions and explore the similarities between them. With good skills in time management and a supportive supervisor, DiCrocco has managed to avoid being overwhelmed.

"If youíre looking for something new but donít want to change professions completely, multiple roles are a great way to explore other ideas and learn new skills," advises DiCrocco. "Donít be afraid to explore an opportunity, or even to create a new one for yourself. Just make sure that you manage your time, and that youíve got supportive supervisors. Because if you donít, itís not going to be a good situation for anyone involved."

Rodney Brown, MA, ATC, CSCS, EMT-B, likes to joke about his good luck in finding work. Now 51 years old, heís spent his entire professional life in and around his hometown of Tuscaloosa and is currently the Head Football Athletic Trainer at the University of Alabama. Much of that "good luck," however, is a result of the experience heís gained by taking on multiple roles throughout his career.

Before starting his current job, Brown coordinated outreach for Druid City Hospitalís Sports Medicine Department while also serving as Director of Rehabilitation for Alabama football and a part-time instructor in the athletic training education program. Before that, he worked for nine years at Tuscaloosa County High School, where he was the schoolís athletic trainer, health education teacher, and football coach.

"Iíve worked in every setting an athletic trainer can, except for professional sports," says Brown. "Having that range of experience has taught me to balance multiple responsibilities, adapt to different conditions, and organize my time effectively. Itís been a great advantage for me, and it helped me wind up here at Alabama.

"Having all those opportunities has made me a better athletic trainer, no doubt about it," continues Brown. "Experience is the best teacher, and having been at all these different settings, Iíve seen how the profession works."

As a high school athletic trainer, he learned how to work creatively within a limited budget. As a clinic outreach coordinator, he learned how to administer a staff of athletic trainers working with middle school, high school, college, and recreational athletes. Along the way, heís earned credentials as a strength and conditioning specialist and an emergency medical technician.

Over the years, heís seen combinations of roles that have worked wellóand some that havenít. Working simultaneously as a high school football coach and athletic trainer, Brown felt he couldnít do justice to either jobóespecially when one of his athletes was injured in a game. But once he dropped coaching, he was able to fit his teaching alongside his athletic training, with his academic work in the classroom striking a balance with his hands-on work in the athletic training room.

"Teaching health education and working as an allied health professional complemented each other, because thereís a lot of crossover between the two," says Brown. "As an athletic trainer, I spent a lot of time counseling athletes about nutrition, exercise, supplements, and drugsójust like I did as a health education teacher. With those two roles, I really enjoyed my work."

For Brown, the other key to effectively balancing his two roles was having a schedule that allowed him to do one job at a time. Unlike the combination of football coach and athletic trainer, the dual role of health teacher and athletic trainer worked because his tasks were clearly separated, with mornings devoted to teaching and afternoons spent training and rehabilitating his student-athletes.

Brown would have been happy to work at Tuscaloosa County High for the rest of his career, but instead, his multiple roles kept leading him to increased job opportunities, until he found himself back at Alabama, his alma mater. "When my students ask me about building their careers, I tell them, ĎYouíre probably not going to be as lucky as I was,í" jokes Brown. "But seriously, Iíve never had to move, never had to put my resume on the job hotline, and never had to send my resume out to a bunch of people at once. I tell my students that whatever setting they find themselves in, make the most of that experience."

After working for 15 years as an athletic trainer, first at Indiana State University, then at Providence College, and then at Rhode Island College, Kathleen Laquale decided that her MEd and ATC werenít enough. So she went back to school, taking classes while still working full-time, and finished two and a half years later with a doctoral degree and a second role: nutritional counselor.

"As a head athletic trainer, athletes kept coming up to me and asking questions about nutrition," says Laquale, PhD, LATC, LDN, Associate Professor in Movement Arts, Health Promotion, and Leisure Studies, director of the athletic training program, and sports nutritionist at Bridgewater State College. "They would ask, ĎWhat should I eat? What shouldnít I eat? Am I eating properly?í For years, I read articles to answer their questions, until I decided what I really wanted was to get a doctorate in nutrition.

"That degree has helped me out many times in dealing with athletes," continues Laquale. "As athletic trainers, so many people look to us for answers. We wear so many hats, and thatís why itís important to be schooled in a wide variety of areas."

Laquale is accustomed to multiple roles, having worked as an athletic trainer, track and field coach, chair of the graduate curriculum committee, NATA executive board member, international lecturer on stretching, and reviewer for the Journal of Athletic Training. In all this time, sheís only found one pair that didnít work: coach and athletic trainer, especially when she had to stay home to cover one contest while her team traveled to another.

The key to multitasking, advises Laquale, is learning how to budget your time efficiently, delegating tasks to others, and being careful to avoid burnout. For her, studying a specialty has helped keep her motivation levels high and brought her a sense of fulfillment.

"I found two areas of specialization, stretching and nutrition, that Iíve truly enjoyed, and itís made my work very fulfilling," says Laquale. "Finding an area of focus that you enjoy makes all your jobs easier, enhances your knowledge base, and enriches your life."