Walker’s program, headed by full-time athletic trainer Bob White, was the recipient of a Safe Sports School Award. The award was created to recognize secondary schools around the country that provide safe environments for student athletes, and it reinforces the importance of providing the best level of care, injury prevention and treatment.
“To me, in my profession as an athletic trainer, the number one goal is to get all the high schools in Alabama to realize the need for an athletic trainer on staff,” White said. “This is a step toward that. That’s part of the recognition, part of one of the things you have to have in place to be recognized for this award.”
To qualify as a recipient of the award, a school must meet specific actions. They include:
•creating a positive athletic healthcare administrative system
•promote safe and appropriate practice/competition facilities
•provide a permanent, appropriately equipped area to evaluate and treat injured athletes
•develop injury and illness prevention strategies, including protocols for environmental conditions
•provide or facilitate injury intervention
•create and rehearse a venue-specific emergency action plan
•provide or facilitate psychological consulation and nutritional counseling/education.
Walker met and exceeded each of those, White said.
“The criteria you have to meet to be considered a Safe Sports School is pretty specific,” White said.
That includes having the support of local physicians and physical therapy specialists.
“Dr. Casey Vague and Southern Orthopedics and Sports Medicine are our primary physicians who work with us, but we do have other physician groups around who work with us, a couple of physical therapy groups like Rehab South and others who work with us, too,” White said.
“We’re fortunate to have Bob in our program,” said Dr. Robert Sparkman, superintendent of Jasper City Schools. “He’s one of the premiere athletic trainers in the state. He’s well-respected all over. He’s the one who makes all the good things happen with our training program.”
Having a top-notch athletic training program is crucial at a school with as many athletic programs as Walker has.
“When you have a problem, it’s real important,” Sparkman said. “When there are kids who are hurt, he’s out there immediately to take care of them. And that’s ours or the other team’s kids.”
White gets help from longtime volunteer trainer Jack Lamon, who’s become a signature member of the Vikings’ football program.
“You’ve got Jack who’s with us also, and it’s not common for a program to have two people like we have in Bob and Jack. They take care of all our kids,” Sparkman said. “We’re very fortunate to have them.”
The knowledge that White has, when it comes to sports injuries, is so important when it comes to making sure the student athletes are safe while competing.
“Our local doctors will tell you that when there’s a student athlete who’s injured, Bob will assess them and make the call as to what the injury is,” Sparkman said, “and when that student athlete gets to the doctors, they’ll tell you that Bob is right almost every time. He’s that good at what he does, and that’s the real assurance that we’ve got for our parents and athletes and school staff. Our coaches are all very confident in what he does.”
One area where White excels, Sparkman said, is in preparing Walker’s athletes before they ever take the field for competition.
“Bob is very good with preparation, with strength conditioning and flexibility,” Sparkman said. “He really works hard with the coaches to do the training that prevents injuries.
“That’s where the safety and training really comes in, not after it happens, but the work before the games to prevent the injuries.
“When you have fewer pulled muscles or fewer shoulder or knee injuries, nobody really knows how many were prevented because Bob was working with our coaches and athletes to prevents those type things.”
“A lot of folks only see what happens on a Friday night,” White said. “During a football game we may not have to work real hard, and if that’s the case, we’re OK with that. If the fans see us working hard during a game, then we’re probably in trouble. Most of my job as an athletic trainer happens before Friday night. Eighty to 90- percent of our job is taking care of these athletes through the week to make sure they’re healthy and ready to play on Friday night.”
“I just congratulate Bob for having the vision to do this. The parents send us their student athletes and want us to provide as safe an environment as we can for them, and Bob, I think, goes the extra mile for them to make sure that happens,” said Walker Principal Gary Boling. “This is an example of that.”
Boling said the parents really appreciate the work that White puts in to assure their kids stay safe while competing.
“They love it,” he said. “They love Bob, and not only him but the student athletic trainers we have who work their behinds off to do their best. Bob has high standards, and if they don’t work and do what they need to do professionally, they leave the program real quick. After all, this is a kid’s health we’re talking about.”
“This is showing that we are committed to having a safe atmosphere and safe conditions for our kids to be in,” said Walker athletics director Jimmie Alexander. “The fact that we want someone like Bob with his abilities and knowledge, our coaches are totally dependent on him to make the calls when needed when it comes to a kid’s health.”
White said much of the credit for the success of the athletic training program goes to the school’s administration.
“Dr. Sparkman, Mr. Boling and Mr. Alexander have always been behind us and our program, and anything we ever needed to be successful, they’ve always been there for that.” White said. “You have to have that administrative support, and we’re lucky to have that in the Jasper City Schools.”