When the final bell rings at George Mason High School at 3 p.m., dozens of athletes pour down a small corridor into an isolated room and wait. In that room, four enthusiastic students and a full-time trainer tape ankles, stretch out tight muscles and ice down inflammations. While George Mason athletic teams have enjoyed substantial success on the field as of late, keeping athletes healthy is integral to any on-field achievements. That task falls upon those that labor in the training room.
Under the tutelage of coach Vicki Galliher, seniors Tracy Geren, Rebecca Jackson and Rachel Kazman, as well as junior Rich Strong, are learning the art of sports medicine. With top-of-the-line facilities — thanks to generous grants from the George Mason Athletic Boosters and the administration — Galliher has not only assembled one of the most impressive facilities around, but also provides a premier opportunity for students to learn in a true athletic environment.
“Very few high schools in the country have the facilities we have at Mason,” said Galliher, whose list of teams she has worked for include the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Lakers. “The student trainers here gain valuable knowledge in designing programs of training designed to minimize the risk of sport-specific injuries.”
Although some of the student trainers also compete as athletes throughout the year, they continue to serve in the training room. For instance, when the influx of athletes grows larger in the spring season — estimated at 45-65 per day — Kazman and Jackson are routinely seen treating the injured, then hustling off to soccer practice.
During the fall season, however, is when all four students, as well as Galliher, come together as one potent force, dealing with the frequent injuries that occur on the football field.
A typical football game day for the five begins right after Friday classes, when they treat non-football athletes and gather the medicine bag for the game. After joining the team for their traditional pre-game meal, the real competition for the training staff begins.
The entire football team reports to the quaint training room for taping or injury treatments, cramming in either to get state-of-the-art assistance — such as electrical nerve and muscle stimulation — or just to hang out with the rest of the squad before game time.
Following the game and after the fans have emptied out of Moore Cadillac Stadium, the jobs of the training staff are just starting. Kazman estimated that, on a normal game night, she and her peers are working until about 10:30 p.m., cleaning up and treating any necessary post-game injuries.
“The thing most people fail to appreciate about our student athletic trainers is the enormous time commitment they voluntarily assume,” Galliher said. “They arrive well before athletes are required to report for practice, and stay after practices to prepare the Athletic Training Office for the next day.”
Recently, though, the Staph/MRSA epidemic in local schools tested their resilience and fortitude for the job. Every single open wound on the football team had to be properly bandaged and taken care of, a clear testament to the dedication with which these five work.
Currently at Mason, the work of the training staff is more formerly recognized, as it is now considered a true varsity sport, a distinction Galliher says she is “extremely proud of.”
All four student trainers were quick to highlight the companionship established from working with Galliher. Kazman referred to the entire staff as her “second family.”
“She is my teacher, role model, and friend,” said Jackson of Galliher. “She has given me the opportunity to learn a subject matter I love, and work in a setting under a very established professional.”
Galliher hails from UNC-Chapel Hill, where she graduated with a master’s degree in addition to working on their athletic training staff.
Kazman, a senior, was recognized as the winner of the “Technical Achievement” award presented by the Arlington Career Center’s Physical Therapy/Sports Medicine Program. This award recognized the highest-achieving student who completed that course. She plans to pursue a degree in athletic training in college, as well.
Geren aspires to major in Kinesiology at a major Division I university, as she hopes to follow in Galliher’s footsteps. Jackson, while she has not decided to specifically major in sports medicine, mentioned that she will no doubt carry the extensive skills learned from her work into whatever she decides to do.
Strong, the only junior in the staff, is currently taking the Physical Therapy/Sports Medicine course at the Arlington Career Center, and hopes to not only bring the Technical Achievement award back to Mason for a second year in a row, but plans to major in athletic training as well.
For now, though, the toil both Galliher and her staff pours into each day can best be summed up by Jackson, who said that training is “the perfect combination of work and play.”