Turns out, the five-time Arena Football League (AFL) Champion Arizona Rattlers have a secret weapon off the field – Carrington College students!
“Since 2006, the Rattlers have partnered with Carrington College’s Mesa campus and its Physical Therapy Technology program to offer students hands-on work with the team’s athletes both before and after games each season,” said Rattlers coach Kevin Guy. “I can say – without a doubt – their hard work has helped our team physically and mentally both on and off the field.”
Through the partnership, each Monday during the Rattlers regular season, which takes place from March to August, players visit the Mesa campus to obtain post-game athletic massages and stretching, most often focused on reducing inflammation and edema caused by the weekend’s games. Then, each Thursday of the season, as many as 10 students at a time travel to the Rattlers training facility – also in Mesa – to focus on pre-game therapies.
“We have students who also end up doing their full externship rotations with the Club, meaning they perform 180 or more hours serving as sports medicine interns assisting the head athletic trainer, “said Phil Schauer, Physical Therapy Technology Program Director at the Mesa campus. “These students actively learn skills that will prepare them for a transition into a healthcare field.”
Students are prepared for this unique testing ground by first successfully entering the basic areas of study in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, human movement and movement disorders.
“We are focused on providing a broad base of knowledge covering issues related to the muscles, bones, nerves, ligaments and tendons,” said Schauer.
But, according to Schauer, there is nothing that compares to real world experience like this.
“It’s funny, most celebrities and professional athletes look so much smaller when you see them in person,” said Matthew Zahradnik, a current student. “This is absolutely not the case with the Rattlers. Watching them on television just does not do them justice – they are bigger and stronger than you can imagine, not to mention absolutely fantastic to work with.”
According to Schauer, the program does more than prepare students for the physical demands of the job – it teaches them soft skills including bedside manner, projecting maturity and professionalism as well.
“What I hear most from employers is the need for health care professionals to have exceptional soft skills – which are not easy to teach and even tougher to demonstrate in a job application,” said Schauer. “Integrating on-the-job career coaching throughout the duration of the student lifecycle makes all the difference. Not only does it provide a much-needed support system, it allows students time to build their confidence.”
Just as the Rattlers practices are to prepare the team for each Saturday’s match-up, the purpose of externship opportunities – which also includes the opportunity to work in a similar type of partnership with the WNBA Phoenix Mercury – is to act as a “warm up” before the big game (of life) for students, and a chance to learn from more than just each other, but from mentors as well.
“With the Rattlers, you are working with athletes who’ve often come from the NFL or elite college football programs – being able to work with them rather than just on other students in the classroom still amazes me,” says Zahradnik, who notes that the students are huge fans and attend most Rattler games together, often finding themselves watching players for signs of what they may need help with come Monday.
Zahradnik also adds that in their world, the athletic trainers are as much the rock stars as the athletes.
“Right now, getting to watch the Rattlers’ Head Athletic Trainer Sean McMannes, who has also served on the training staffs with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders, and work with him at the facility each week is the chance of a lifetime,” says Zahradnik.
North Valley Magazine joined out students this past spring to learn more about how they assist the athletes between games. The story is on newsstands now and available online by clicking here.
Go Rattlers – and go Carrington students!