College Park’s “Doc” By Trish Heaney
College Park’s “Doc”
By Trish Heaney
If you have ever watched professional sports or even caught a college game, you have no doubt seen sports medicine professionals attending to players. They are the ones that jump into action to assess, treat, and, hopefully, get the athletes back into the sport they love as quickly as possible. And if the injury is catastrophic, they are there as first responders.
Back in the not-so-recent past, having a high school sports medicine program was only for the fortunate ones, and most schools could not afford it, especially when districts were cutting funds to keep sports at their school. We know how important sports are in developing young people and providing the health benefits they need, but with sports comes injuries. None are more devastating than when Ryan Joseph, a College Park wrestler, fractured his neck two years ago. The need for sports medicine professionals at high schools is real and necessary.
For College Park, that need was filled by Chris Croft, former president of the College Park Athletic Boosters. In the winter of 2012, he approached Al Douex, who was working at DVC. “Chris came to me and asked if I would be the athletic trainer at College Park. At that time, I was only teaching classes at DVC and thought it would be a good opportunity.” That winter and spring, “Doc,” as he is known at school, became the sole trainer for College Park athletes. It was his first chance to work with high school students since all of his previous jobs were at colleges and universities. It was challenging work, but with a student body of over 2,000 students and 24 sports teams, having a sports medicine doctor is a necessity.
After that first season, then principal Paul Gengler approached Doc about running a sports medicine program at CPHS. He would be able to teach students, run the sports medicine department, and develop a program that would serve the athletes for years to come. “I had an epiphany,” said Doc, “A program is a program, whether it is at a university or at a high school. I had the opportunity to create something that was all mine.” He had 105 students enrolled in the fall of 2013. “It was a learning experience. I was used to teaching graduate students and had to remember that these kids did not have the same background.”
The program consists of 2-3 classes of Level I students. From that year’s crop, students are interviewed and evaluated to go to Level II. The standards are high. These 8-12 students are not only there to instruct the new Level I students but run evaluations and assign rehabilitation of injured athletes. Doc supervises all of this. It can be mind-boggling juggling all of these hats: teacher, mentor and trainer, but he is invigorated by the work. “Looking at what these kids do when they leave here makes me giddy. Their maturation is amazing, and knowing that I am a part of that is incredible.”
Of all of Doc’s students, 80% of them have or are studying some form of health in college. He also has former students who are now studying to be sports medicine professionals. “When I realize I used to treat 30 athletes from a team and now I teach 30 students to treat 30 athletes, I realize what an impact I am making on these students.”
Doc is indeed doing something right. He has made connections with doctors and therapists to treat the athletes. Dr. Bader from Muir Orthopedic has volunteered to be the team doctor for all football games. He also applied for the Level II students to get college credit for their work with the athletes. When asked about his dream for the program, Doc quickly answers, “I want this program to be one of the premier programs in the East Bay, and I want a state of the art facility to be able to properly treat the student athletes.” Since the current home of the sports medicine program is held in the defunct home economics room, I can understand his desire.
I encourage you to come watch a high school game. It can be any sport, rain or shine, and Doc will be there. While you are there, you will get to see the well-oiled machine that Doc runs. His trainers are professional and competent. He wouldn’t have it any other way. But while you are there, be sure to hear his laugh and see why his students will never forget him and come back to visit him often.