Athletic trainer part of Cougar family

By Eric Erickson

When Lindsay Knight graduated from the University of North Dakota’s School of Medicine with a degree in athletic training, St. Paul Public Schools were finalizing contracts with TRIA Orthopedics to secure full-time trainers for each high school.

Lindsay accepted an offer in 2015 to become Como Park’s first certified athletic trainer. Eight years later, she’s immersed in the Como family.

The program has been a game changer for coaches, parents and student athletes by improving safety, communication and care. The partnership with SPPS and TRIA was also a game changer for Lindsay.

Beyond immersing herself in service, she also has been embraced. Like Beyoncé, LeBron or Neymar, only one name is needed — Lindsay. Every Como athlete knows Lindsay, loves Lindsay and wants to be around Lindsay.

Not to say students want to be injured! But her proactive lessons on stretching and nutrition, her presence at home events, her positivity and the treatment she provides if there is a problem have won her appreciation and adoration.

To provide evidence, a couple dozen football and soccer players attending a girls’ basketball game the other week greeted Lindsay with cheers and waves from across the gym. (That doesn’t happen for any other Como staff member!)

Grateful coaches

Coaches are thankful to have an on-site trainer who provides consistency and expertise.

“Before we had a trainer, we as coaches would spend a lot of time working with players and their injuries before, during and after practice,” football coach Kirby Scull said.

“Having a trainer allows us to have more time to coach our sport. Our athletes are benefiting because they have coaches who can focus on coaching and a professional trainer who can focus on dealing with their injuries.”

Scull explained that having a professional trainer has been crucial in emergency situations. And the fact that it’s Lindsay on the scene in those stressful moments has a calming effect.

Soccer coach Jonah Fields explained Lindsay’s influence. “She delivers unlimited social emotional care to all those in need. The difference she makes in the lives of the student athletes exceeds the role of athletic trainer and we’ve grown to depend on her limitless care.”

Lindsay’s work

Every Como athlete needing care can see Lindsay after school at 3 p.m. By that time, Lindsay has already organized home exercise programs for those with existing injuries, filled the ice bath, stocked her kit and taping drawers and logged on her computer in order to document all student athlete visits.

She’ll typically see 20 to 35 kids a day in the fall and about 15 to 25 kids per day in the winter and spring seasons. Of course, that’s the preventive and maintenance side and doesn’t count athletes she takes care of once she’s on the practice field with teams.

Game nights involve treating players from both teams, ensuring safety protocols and communicating with coaches and parents regarding follow-up on any new injuries.

She also works in the TRIA clinic two mornings a week. That can be a stressful job, but the reward of coordinating a student’s rehab, witnessing their recovery and seeing them return to the sport they love is special to Lindsay.

Relationships

Senior basketball star Shania Nichols-VanNett has persevered through multiple knee surgeries. The fact that she’s still playing is a testament to Lindsay’s care.

Lindsay was the first to diagnose an ACL tear, and she was there in the surgery room when Nichols-VanNett awoke.

Junior Will Stiles is a three-sport athlete who has had his “fair share” of injuries including a couple concussions. There have been several times when Lindsay had to tell Stiles that he couldn’t play.

“She has a very mom-like personality,” Stiles explained with a smile. “It’s frustrating when you want to play so bad, but when she says you can’t, it’s usually for the best. She makes the hard things easier to understand. At the end of the day, you gotta listen to your trainer.”

The concussions and potential long-term consequences are scary. Lindsay’s professionalism — from baseline tests to initial protocols, through monitoring and clearance — are essential for student safety.

“Lindsay is the consummate professional,” said Como athletic director Koua Yang. “The students know she really cares about them.”

Like a mom

Stiles isn’t alone in mentioning Lindsay’s “mom-like” qualities.

October Say concluded her senior season of soccer last fall. A fearless player, Say was frequently hurt while stopping opposing attackers. Fortunately, her injuries, like most, were not head injuries or season ending.

 “Lindsay helped me fix my ankle,” Say said. “She’s very nice. She’s like a second mother and makes sure we’re healthy. And she’s always happy.” With a little grin, Say added, “sometimes she’s funny.”

Sophomore soccer player Giselle Sanchez-Esparza wasn’t used to having a trainer available when she first joined Como’s high school team. “I’ve had bad shin splints forever,” Sanchez-Esparza said. “Lindsay knows her stuff and keeps you in check if you’re not doing what you need to keep yourself well. But she’ll also let you know that it’s out of love.”

Lindsay’s Como commitment

While in college a decade ago, an upcoming athletic trainer knew she loved sports and caring for others. But at a high school?

“I was unsure then. Now, I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Lindsay said.

“I’m so honored that I’m trusted to take care of the athletes at Como. My favorite conversations with them are about life and helping guide these amazing kids to their futures. I think it’s awesome that so many come to share their highs of the day and sometimes their lows because they know I will listen.

 “The kids and staff at Como are the reason I come back each day, week and year. I love that I can make some kind of difference in their lives because they definitely make a difference in mine.” 

Eric Erickson is a social studies teacher at Como Park High School and a longtime coach of school and youth sports in St. Paul.

Photo caption Lindsay Knight consults Zhane Singer about her injury in the Como training room before basketball practice. Photo by Eric Erickson.

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