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Athletic Trainer Careers

There is much variation in the roles of athletic trainers, totally dependent on the sport and context in which they are working.

However, the majority of athletic trainers support amateur and professional sports people by instructing and teaching them the basics of individual and team sports.

To do this, they use their own expertise to instruct teams or individuals in physical maintenance, training and technique. This is achieved through practice sessions and training programmes in which they perform specific exercises to  build strength and stamina.

With more advanced sports people, the athletics trainer may lead the individual or team through exercises that refine individual skills and bring out the very best of their physical potential.

In team sports, the athletics trainer frequently manages the team during practice sessions and competitions. This goes beyond developing physical prowess, for it also involves building team spirit and heightening morale.

Depending on the sporting level at which they are working, the coach may also be involved with team selection and strategy. This involves a degree of assessment and evaluation that requires a broader knowledge of the sporting environment.

The athletic trainer may be working on a voluntary basis within the community, outside normal working hours. Others may be teachers working with school teams to supplement their income.

Within higher education, sports coaching may be a part-time occupation combined with other lecturing duties. Or they may be employed by leisure centres to guide clients in their sporting or fitness development. Within sports clubs and gyms, coaching often represents a second source of income for people working in unrelated day jobs.

Training takes place both indoors and outdoors, so is frequently affected by weather conditions.

Day-to-Day Activities

The athletic trainer will usually be planning tailored training programmes to suit the physical and psychological development needs of their team or individual. Putting this into action, they will need to keep records of the subjects' performance and attendance. Evaluation of progress and the ability to break this down into assessments of strong and weak points is a vital aspect of this work, as is providing clear, constructive criticism.

On the physical side, the athletics trainer needs to be able to demonstrate the activity they are describing. This may involve breaking the activity down into stages. They also need to be able to adapt this to the needs and interests of the participants. It is not enough to get the participants to follow the actions - the trainer must encourage them to think further and develop their own knowledge and skills.

Identifying competitions and organising travel is central to the role. Often, the trainer is also the driver.

On the psychological side, the athletic trainer has to motivate and inspire those with whom he or she is working. Being in a leadership role, the coach must earn and retain the confidence and trust of those who are being trained.

Health and safety requirements must always be observed, both in respect of the environment and the participants' personal health.

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Would This Career Suit You?

Good fitness and sporting ability are obviously required for this work. The athletics trainer must be prepared to maintain their own physical fitness and skills, being aware that personal injury might damage their careers.

As there is such a strong element of psychological support involved in athletics training, it is also imperative that trainers are excellent communicators who are good with people. The ability to act as a team leader and motivate others is crucial.

Some theoretical background is essential - this varies in scope according to the role in question. Generally speaking, some knowledge and understanding of fitness, injury and nutrition is vital. However, the most accomplished sports scientist would be unable to fulfil this role if lacking good communication skills. Instructions and commands need to be verbalised clearly and simply.

With regard to community roles, an aptitude for working with large groups of children is often important.

An athletics trainer must accept irregular work hours and unavoidable travel to competitions and facilities. Overnight stays become more common the higher the level of competitors being coached. Because many roles are undertaken during weekends and evenings, the job can have an impact on personal life.

Salary and Prospects

Job opportunities for athletic trainers and sports officials will usually be best in school and other community sports. With such variety in roles and the levels at which they are fulfilled, there is little standardisation of salaries. Remuneration depends on the employer, hours and level of coaching.

Competition for professional sports jobs is very intense and progress will always depend on reputation and results.

Trainers in professional sport are likely to get a basic salary with bonuses relating to performance and/or prize money achieved. A full-time athletic trainer can earn £12,500 - £14,000. Hourly rates range from £7 - £25. An experienced athletic trainer working full-time may have the potential to earn up to £32,000, whereas volunteer trainers may only receive travelling expenses.

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