Athletics at St.FX is a point of pride for many Xaverian’s and those in our community. It is obvious every homecoming, when numerous Alumni return for football games, and more recently, as we championed the X-Women’s rugby team as the feature of homecoming following their AUS victory. On game day however, as we watch the athletes on the field, many of us take for granted the work that goes into ensuring these athletes remain safe in their sport. Some of you may recall hearing the familiar cry of “trainer, trainer, trainer!” being echoed across the field when a player remains down for an extended period of time. The people who rush onto the field to aid these players also deserve a round of applause, as they are constantly behind the scenes, ensuring that players remain physically safe and game ready. These people are athletic therapists.
“The Team behind The Teams” is lead by long-time Head Therapist, and Instructor Tara Sutherland. Sutherland first came to St.FX in the summer of 1996 where she then spent just over 22 years, in a small 400 square foot therapy room, until the new facility was recently built. The new facility has 2 fully equipped private exam rooms, 5 treatment tables, 8 taping tables, 3 tubs, an ice-machine, a fridge, and two pairs of washer and dryers whereas the previous Therapy Room only had 2 tubs and three tables for treatment and taping. Sutherland says “the new room is a luxury to me and even though it is very nice to be in our new facility, the small room brought many wonderful athletes and people through the doors and many memories for me, my staff, and my students”. These fond memories are not just for Tara, as I’ve spoken with many former Student Therapists who were trained and began their new roles in that very tiny room. With the new facilities, and the room for a greater capacity of players and therapist in these rooms, there will be no doubt a new generation of Therapists and Athletes who will have fond memories of their time in Athletics and the Therapy program.
The program itself is also supported by athletic staff, notably Krista McKenna, and AD Leo MacPherson. A few Doctors within the community, like Dr. Cudmore and Dr. McGlashan have also been kind enough to help out, which without whom Sutherland says it would be much more difficult to care for athletes. As it stands, the team consists of three Certified Athletic Therapists including Tara Sutherland, along with Diane Ouimet, and Babila Mohan. Under their supervision and guidance are numerous student therapists. Sutherland says, “I try to stress how important these students are to me and my staff and especially the Athletes. They are a crucial part of our program and their respective teams”.
Student Therapists are chosen both through grades, which Sutherland says is the most important aspect of the evaluation, as well as practical skills. The minimum course requirement to apply to be a Student Therapist is Human Kinetics 222. Once chosen to participate in the program, it is understood that you will be dedicating an additional 20-30 hours a week on top of your schoolwork. Teams are assigned to Student Therapist based on need, preference, and best fit. Current Student Therapist, Allie Scott, was assigned to both Women’s and Men’s Hockey this year. Scott, who has played hockey since she was 7, says that her understanding of the sport definitely helps make her job as a therapist feel more enjoyable. She says that Athletic Therapy has shown her “how you can still be a huge part of the team while not playing the sport”. Scott will be continuing on with BSc in Human Kinetics next year, and she hopes that the Therapy Program will remain part of her journey here at St.FX.
The program itself has gone through it’s own challenges this year due to COVID. Of course, masks must be worn, and the team is following all other Nova Scotia Health guidelines as they are available. The therapy team has also suffered due to the loss of games, but teams have been practicing regularly so the therapist still have lots to do. Sutherland also notes that many of the students have “taken on major roles in screening and contact tracing for athletes”. As always, the safety of students and the athletes is of the utmost importance, and the team has been following protocols and pitching in where they can to help with the transition. “The Team behind the Teams” is a warm reminder that there is a ton of work being done behind the scenes to make what we love, see and do here at X possible. During the pandemic, I think it is important appreciate all the extra work that is done, and to remember that everyday there is more going on than what we can see ourselves.
For anyone who is thinking of applying to the therapy program, just know that it comes highly recommended, and there are plenty of people on campus who would love to chat with you about the possibility.