Summer Plans

Ready or not, now is the time to start looking for a summer internship.

By Abigail Funk

Abigail Funk is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning. She can be reached at: afunk@MomentumMedia.com

Training & Conditioning, 15.8, November 2005, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/tc/tc1508/summer.htm

Yes, athletic training students are busy during the school year and deserve a summer vacation. And yes, summer jobs are a way to earn extra money for the next school year. But trading in that downtime and extra cash for a summer internship experience can enhance your resume before you even have a diploma in hand.

In this article, educational program leaders share advice on what types of internships you should look for and where to find them. They also suggest that the sooner you start looking, the better.

Prep for Real Life: The first reason to consider an internship is that it can be the edge to get you a job offer over a competing graduate. “Students are essentially all going through the same type of program and coming out with the same tool set,” says Timothy Howell, EdD, ATC, Assistant Professor and Athletic Training Program Director at Alfred University. “An internship can set a student apart from other applicants.”

Howell also says that an internship is a great way to see what options are out there after graduation. “One of our students contacted the athletic trainer of his hometown baseball team and asked if he could volunteer over the summer,” Howell says. “He must have enjoyed it and done a good job, because he now has a paid position lined up for next summer.

“We had another student who volunteered at a clinic over the summer because he was very interested in the clinical setting,” he continues. “And it was a good thing he tried it, because he realized that working in a clinic wasn’t a good fit for him at all.”

No matter what your specific motivation is, the hands-on experience is invaluable. “A summer internship is a time when students can gain more experience in a selected sport or work with a certified athletic trainer in an intense time period,” says Brent Mangus, EdD, ATC, Associate Professor and Program Director of Athletic Training Education at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. “Every student should try to work in a summer internship to gain more practice time with the art and skill-building of the profession.”

Options Out There: Unless there are special summer opportunities for athletic training students on your campus, it’s best to leave the comfort zone of your school’s practice fields, says Mangus. “Students can apply to the NFL for a paid internship. The US Youth Soccer organization has camps across the United States. And there are numerous sports medicine clinics in most larger cities that will hire students,” he says.

However, it’s important to check out who will oversee your work, especially if you’ll be interning with a youth league. “When working with an AAU team or other summer league, make sure you’re being supervised by a certified athletic trainer,” says Cliff Pawley, MEd, ATC, Program Director and Instructor of Athletic Training at Union University. “That will ensure you get the best education possible.”

If you’re able to find a paid internship in an area you really want to pursue, great. But there are some benefits to non-paid positions. “You’ll have more flexibility with an unpaid internship,” Howell says. “It’s usually the better option, especially for students who are exploring options and still want to enjoy their summer.”

Getting Started: To get a jump on your competition, Mangus and Howell suggest talking with your program director in the fall, so he or she can help you start strategizing for a position. This gives a program director time to start making alumni and peer contacts on your behalf.

If your program does not offer this type of assistance, start searching at the end of the fall semester. “Most organizations with internship programs that will be available for the upcoming summer begin advertising around the holidays or shortly thereafter,” Pawley says. “Your winter break is a good time to get started.”

“For instance, baseball internships are filled by the end of February or March,” Howell says. “If you don’t get started before January rolls around, you’re going to be very far behind in the whole process.”

Alfred’s department urges all of its athletic training students to become members of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), which puts out the NATA Newsletter with job and internship openings posted in the back. The NCAA News also has similar announcements, as do professional and minor league team Web sites. And don’t be afraid to call clinics in your home area to see if they need any summer volunteer help.

“Be aggressive in trying to secure a summer internship,” Mangus says. “It will pay off in the long run.”