Two Boise State Department of Kinesiology athletic training students, Mikey Tsukamoto and Andrew Gong, had a rare glimpse into the undertakings of hosting two rounds of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.
Though occasionally you may see athletic trainers run onto the field or court to provide emergency treatment to an injured athlete in the middle of a game, athletic trainers prefer to be part of the behind-the-scenes medical team who keep the athletes healthy and help games run smoothly and safely. Athletic trainers also work with athletes between games and in the off-season to help athletes with maintenance and injury prevention.
Athletic trainers are healthcare professionals who undertake a medical model of education — a combination of academic curriculum and clinical training. Boise State’s Department of Kinesiology has a highly regarded program and a unique, collaborative partnership with the athletic training unit in Boise State Athletics Department. All athletic training students, currently all undergraduates, rotate through Aahletics for clinical hours, working with a variety of sports teams. Both kinesiology faculty and the athletic trainers in athletics collaborate to find ways to meet Athletics’ needs and the kinesiology student’s educational needs within the parameters of what student athletic trainers are allowed to do by their national credentialing body.
“Boise State’s athletic training academic program was one of the things that attracted me to Boise State,” said Marc Paul, assistant athletic director for sports medicine for Boise State Athletics. “It has an excellent reputation and I enjoy collaborating with the faculty in the program to move both the academic and the athletics programs forward. Our unique ability to constructively disagree doesn’t happen in a positive manner everywhere.”
Paul was thrilled when Tsukamoto and Gong volunteered to help with the NCAA tournament. “The production that goes into the tournament is astounding,” he said. “Our goal is to make the process of receiving medical care while teams are visiting as easy and as straightforward as possible. For the tournament, we equipped four locker rooms for a total of eight visiting teams, balancing functionality and sponsorship placements, all of which is much more complicated than setting up for a regular game. We established medical services here in Boise – making sure a dentist, ER head physicians and nurses were all on call, lining up two pharmacies, reserving a massage therapist to be on site during the tournament, and more.”
On Sunday, March 11, Paul, Tsukamoto and Gong began meeting with tournament personnel and Taco Bell Arena staff to review routines, practice schedules, equipment and other protocols. The teams arrived in Boise on Monday and the tournament began with four, first-round games on Thursday, March 15. Tsukamoto and Gong touched base with Paul and others every morning and every evening throughout the tournament, which ended its games in Boise on Saturday, March 17. The work Tsukamoto and Gong did for the tournament was above and beyond their normal clinical hours with three other Boise State sports teams.
“Mikey and Andrew were outstanding,” exclaimed Paul. “They thought ahead about what the teams would need and took the initiative to implement everything. I’d raise a question and they’d tell me, ‘Yeah. We know. We got this.’ It freed me to be able to go do other things like check in with a new shift of EMTs and it made the whole tournament go really smoothly. The tournament director thanked me before leaving town and told me that he never once had to worry about medical. That’s a huge compliment.”
“It was a great opportunity for our students,” said John McChesney, chair of the Department of Kinesiology. “These students had the opportunity to interact with players and coaches, some of whom are quite notable. They were also able to network with athletic trainers, administrators and team physicians from around the country – a very rewarding experience to begin their athletic training career.”
“Where Mikey and Andrew are today is due to their growth and maturity from the athletic training academic program here at Boise State,” said Paul. “They took advantage of this opportunity, but their education helped prepare them to excel at it. They impressed a large number of people in the athletic training world.”
Tsukamoto will attend University of Nebraska in the fall. Gong has one more year with Boise State. Boise State is phasing out its undergraduate athletic training program and beginning a master’s degree in athletic training in summer 2018.