CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — National Athletic Training Month is a time to honor those in the sports community who often don't get the recognition they deserve.
"They are specialists in prevention and care," said Texas A&M-Corpus Christi head athletic trainer Jerry Hilker.
These trainers labor behind the scenes and are rarely seen. But for coaches and athletes, you'd almost rather not see them. But when needed, they are always there to help.
"If one of our student-athletes goes down they work on them and get them back on the field as soon as possible," Ray High School athletic coordinator Craig Charlton said.
These trainers do it all, as they don't only stretch athletes out or roll tape on their ankles.
"We're physical therapists, emergency responders, rehab specialists, and even therapists," CCISD head athletic trainer Alfred Castillo said.
These days, athletic trainers are having to go through years of schooling to become certified. They have to get an entry-level master's degree to become licensed and certified in their field.
Just like players and coaches, the trainers are on those long bus rides home. They put in countless hours and are up late at night making sure athletes are in top shape.
"Most of these athletic events go very late and sometimes we don't get home until almost 11 at night," said Castillo.
In 2021, the slogan for National Athletic Training Month set by the National Athletic Trainers Association is: "Essential to health care."
In a time with COVID-19 that is more true than ever.
"Us as trainers we are doing antigen testing and PCR testing," Hilker said.
They're also essential to teams.
"I talk to them everyday," said Charlton. "They are just as valuable as any coach on the staff."
So here's to our athletic trainers. And the next time you see them, wish them a happy National Athletic Training Month.