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Full-Time Athletic Trainers Aid St. Joseph School District

Three Heartland athletic trainers are about to complete their first school year with Central, Benton, and Lafayette.
(ST. JOSEPH) Central, Benton, and Lafayette High School have each had athletic trainers for specific events in the past. But, the St. Joseph School District teams up with Heartland last summer to provide each school with their own. 

"Now we have them almost full time," Benton athletic director Mike Ziesel said. "We don't pay them a full-time salary thanks to Heartland. It's not about just taping ankles. It's about rehabbing, everything you could think of."

With the bulk of the salary payment coming from Heartland, three people now handle every student-athlete at the three biggest schools in St. Joseph. With that many bodies, the work day starts long before the game block does. 

"I come in, touch base with the nurse, and find out who I need to check on," Lafayette trainer Lyle Christensen said. "They're there all day, and we're there part of the day for practices and games, so they usually have the lowdown on what's going on."

Benton trainer Jenna Zettel, who moved from North Dakota to the north Kansas City area last year, said the size of a Class 4 school was daunting at first, but she's found a rhythm.

"When the school day ends, that's when the work really begins," she said. "I usually know where I need to go, who I need to be taping, who I need to talk to, and what coaches I need to contact."  

They, along with Eddie Derr at Central, have been a welcome addition for coaches who can now simply focus on coaching, rather than dealing hands on with injuries. 

"We're there to take the pressure off of them," Christensen said. "They don't have to make the decision whether that kid should go back or not. That's what we're trained for."

The extra set of hands has been a welcome change for athletic directors like Ziesel as well. 

"In our case, Jenna has done an excellent job of keeping track of physicals, impact testing, and making sure all of our athletes are in compliance," he said.

"It's been tremendous, the support I've gotten," Zettel added. "The athletes have developed a level of trust with me and the coaches have been nothing but supportive. 

Ziesel compared this current system of trainer care to what Suburban Conference schools provide around Kansas City. Although it's still in its infancy for this school district, it's off to the start he'd hoped. 

"The facilities that many of the Suburban schools have for their trainers are a little bit better than ours," he said. "We need to definitely upgrade that. But, again, it's just a blessing to have the athletic trainer here."
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