March is National Athletic Training Month and Women’s History Month. In honor of these observances, DHEC would like to take the time to spotlight one of our state’s skilled athletic trainers, Sheila Gordon.
Athletic trainers, also called ATs, are not only a crucial part of coaching staff, but they are also medical professionals who have a skill set that is unmatched in prevention, management, and rehabilitation of athletic injuries.
“You’re a teacher during the day, and you’re an athletic trainer in the afternoon,” said Sheila Gordon, head athletic trainer and assistant athletic director at White Knoll High School in Lexington, SC. “It’s basically like you’re working two jobs.”
DHEC administers South Carolina’s athletic trainer certification program and develops standards, with the advice of the Athletic Trainers’ Advisory Committee, for the improvement of athletic training services for the over 1,000 certified athletic trainers in the state.
Athletic Trainers are passionate about protecting, treating, and advocating for their patients. They are determined to provide the best healthcare possible.
“At the end of the day, you can’t be the best athlete you can be if you’re not well,” Sheila said.
Gordon and three other ATs are responsible for the overall health and wellness of nearly 800 student-athletes and 28 sports teams.
A typical day for Sheila begins promptly at 8 a.m. with injury evaluations before classes start. She and her team spend the rest of their day providing rehabilitation and treatment for injured students, teaching classes, and promoting health and wellness to student athletes.
After school, athletic trainers begin their afternoon routine, preparing athletes for practice and competition. On game nights, Sheila’s day may not end until almost midnight. She and her team attend all sporting events in case an injury occurs during competition.
Sheila Gordon’s career as an athletic trainer began because of her love for sports.
“I was a high school athlete,” Sheila said. “Unfortunately, during that period of time, females did not have many opportunities in collegiate or professional careers in sports. This was a profession where I could stay close to sports and pursue a love for medicine.”
She has spent the past 17 years supporting high school athletes at White Knoll. Before that, she was an outreach athletic trainer with Spartanburg Regional Hospital where she was assigned to Byrnes High School in Duncan, SC.
Throughout her career, Sheila has had the opportunity to serve as the president of the South Carolina Athletic Trainer’s Association, a member of the DHEC Athletic Trainer’s Advisory Board, and the District Three Representative to the Secondary School Committee for the National Athletic Trainer’s Association.
According to the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI) at the University of Connecticut’s 2019-2020 Athletic Training Locations and Services (ATLAS) Project report, 80 percent of public and private secondary schools in our state provide athletic training services. That’s well above the 62 percent national average.
Our state has a unique program that not all athletic trainers around the country can access. South Carolina’s state DIRECT program allows athletic trainers to earn their teaching certificate in two years.
“Not every state does that, but that gives ATs an opportunity to practice in the secondary school setting serving a dual role as certified teachers and athletic trainers,” Sheila previously told Henry Schein Medical. “That makes a difference because a school that doesn’t have the money for a dedicated, standalone athletic trainer could potentially have the capacity to hire a teacher who is also an AT.”