Trainers create comfortable atmosphere for athletes

by Matt Couture / Beacon Staff • October 21, 2015

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Head athletic trainer Mandy Nicoles works with baseball, softball, and men’s soccer players.
Head athletic trainer Mandy Nicoles works with baseball, softball, and men’s soccer players.

The circumstances that lead many to visit Mandy Nicoles and her Emerson athletic training staff aren’t always the brightest, but athletes at the college say they are thankful for the resources and instruction provided when injuries occur. 

Nicoles, the head athletic trainer, works with the baseball, softball, and men’s soccer teams. Each faculty member under her command is also typically assigned to three specific sports, allowing them to develop a relationship with the players they serve, according to Nicoles. 

“It gives them a point person to go to, it gives them a consistent face, and it gives the coaches somebody that they can consistently go to,” Nicoles said. “It keeps the lines of communication moving back and forth.”

Nicoles said that, in addition to their work in the fitness center, members of the staff are assigned to each home event hosted by Emerson and that trainers are present at all practices except cross country and tennis.

Freshman journalism major Kallista Leonardos underwent Tommy John surgery this past summer, also known as elbow surgery. Leonardos said she typically meets with Nicoles three times a week. Leonardos commended Nicoles for sending frequent updates to her softball coach and said the employees see results while fostering a comfortable environment. 

“People actually enjoy going in there and working out,” Leonardos said. “I like it for the physical therapy because they make it more enjoyable, and I don’t have to dwell on actually rehabbing my arm so much.” 

Nicoles said the staff’s job isn’t over when an athlete like Leonardos returns to the field. The faculty continue to monitor the progress of rehabilitated players for months after recovery. 

“We’re very preventative and long-term care focused,” Nicoles said. “Just because you sprained your ankle and can go back to play doesn’t mean we want you to stop working on your ankle strength.”

Leonardos also said she works with student trainers, undergraduates from nearby Boston University, who assist the full-time staff. Stephanie Rondeau, in her sixth year at Emerson, was initially introduced to the college as a student trainer from Northeastern University. Rondeau said she sees athletes from each of her assigned sports throughout the year, and usually works with around 10 students daily. 

Rondeau said she prefers to go beyond the simple issue she is treating during her sessions. 

“In general, I do have a philosophy that we need to treat the whole patient and the whole person and not just an injury,” Rondeau said. “You have to take into consideration everything they have going on in their lives and not just treat the one specific injury.”

Jessica Hamilton, a women’s volleyball player and junior marketing communication major, said the relationship between students and trainers is strengthened because any given injury could be career-threatening if not for rehab. As a junior, Hamilton is in her third season working with Rondeau.

“You just create such a special bond because you’re with each other for several hours each week,” Hamilton said. “She’s basically our mother away from home.”

This fall, Nicoles said there has been a slight increase in injuries on some of the normally healthier teams but that her team is “on par” with their usual workload. She pointed to the men’s soccer team as one group that has struggled through multiple injuries this season— the Beacon reported earlier this month that three players on that club had sustained torn ACLs. 

Sam Cervantes, who is taking care of the women’s soccer team this fall, said in his first months at Emerson, he has been struck by commitment to performance. 

“It’s nice to see the dedication the athletes have to the sport, which actually helps me do my job better,” Cervantes said. “They see that they get injured, they want to tell me that they get injured, and then they want to come in and actually get treatment for that.”

According to Hamilton, the frequency with which injuries are reported can be attributed to the atmosphere in the training room. Hamilton said she enjoys the company of the staff, and sometimes visits even when not nursing an injury. 

“For the majority of the athletes, when you come in here, you always feel a sense of safety,” Hamilton said. “Some athletic trainers come in and it’s all business, but here, they care also about your mental stability.”