One of the missions of the NATA Ethnic Diversity Advisory Committee is the promotion of athletic trainers as leaders in issues related to cultural competence and professional diversity within the health care professions. The committee has a long-running diversity enhancement grant program addressing this need, but in 2016 the group decided to allocate some of EDAC’s annual grant funding toward sponsoring diverse athletic training students to attend iLead, NATA’s biennial student leadership conference.
On Feb. 17, 2017, the six students who received iLead Diversity Grants from EDAC were in attendance as noted educators and leaders in the athletic training profession, including NATA President Scott Sailor, EdD, ATC, spoke to more than 100 AT students about becoming the future leaders of the athletic training profession. The grant winners came from across the country: Amani Jackson from Indiana State University, John Sunchild from the University of Montana, Jamisha Banks from Eastern Kentucky University, Brian Fisher from Texas State University, Hillary Avila from the University of Texas at Arlington, and Sanam Rezazadeh, who journeyed to Texas all the way from the University of Hawaii.
The students took time to share their thoughts on the experience:
What was the highlight of the iLead conference for you?
Avila: The biggest highlight for me was the networking opportunities, from meeting with district leaders to hearing the lectures of distinguished athletic trainers. I was able to interact with students from all over the country of all types of backgrounds, and it was very enlightening to learn about their programs and leadership roles.
Sunchild: Being able learn from athletic trainers who have been in the profession for many years. They have become leaders in the athletic training profession creating new pathways to success and are great models to emulate moving forward to the future of athletic training. The experiences they chose to share were amazing to hear and learn from–I felt as though I was a sponge to everything they were relaying to us.
Jackson: The highlight for me was meeting members of EDAC and hearing their presentation. It was a highlight for me because I was able to connect with people who genuinely care about the next generation of ethnically diverse athletic trainers. It was great to hear some of their experiences and successes. I also learned about the importance of representation as a minority.
Fisher: The highlight of the conference for me was being able to be in a room filled with so many knowledgeable and experienced professionals, allowing me to hear and soak up so much valuable substance. The topics were nothing short of eye-opening and useful information that I can reflect on and utilize. Being able to meet the other EDAC grant winners and the EDAC committee was huge for me. It gave me a huge sense of pride and accomplishment not only for myself but for the other winners.
Banks: The highlight of the iLead conference for me was meeting and being able to network with some of most respected leaders. I was able to hear people’s stories and get their different perspectives on what it takes to be a great leader and be successful in the athletic training field.
What did you learn that you can put into practice right away?
Rezazadeh: All the speakers were great. The discussions about cultural competency and holding yourself accountable are things we could immediately incorporate into our daily life and practice as athletic trainers.
Banks: One thing I learned from the speakers that I can put into practice right away is the importance of networking among my peers and getting to know people genuinely. NATA President Scott Sailor discussed an acronym called SPEAK, which stands for Story, Passionate, Encourage, Ask and Know. The S.P.E.A.K acronym is used to help people with talking points when meeting and networking with others. I also learned the importance of mentorship and building a connection with your mentor not only professionally but personally. Mentors play a huge role in helping to guide and aid you during your professional journey.
Jackson: I learned that I don’t have to wait until I’m older to pay it forward. I learned about the importance of mentorship, and that is something I believe I can put into practice right away. As a senior athletic training student, I have younger students looking up to me and watching how I conduct myself.
Fisher: Networking should always be important. Who you know will go a long way in terms of helping reach a person’s goals.
Avila: My favorite lecture was by Dr. Susan McGowan. She stated that we should no longer consider emerging settings “new and uncommon” because athletic trainers have been working in these settings for years (i.e. performing arts, military, extreme sports). Her lecture motivated me to continue aspiring for goals beyond the traditional settings of athletic trainers. Two of my professional goals are to work with a physician at a clinic and surgical setting as a physician extender and to someday work with the armed forces.
Sunchild: One of the main things I took home was being able to find new and progressive ways to reach athletes, coaches, school boards, parents, etc. At the end of the day athletic training’s main task is to ensure the safety of athletes, and it seems to be a reoccurring theme within the profession that external influences sometimes question or hinder that safety. It is critical to be able to reach those external influences in a positive manner to come together for the protection of the athletes. Another thing that stood out to me in regards to working with athletes was that they will only care about their own safety as much as you do as their athletic trainer, so establishing positive relationships with athletes will allow you to reach them on a personal level as well as a professional level, making your job easier.
Why was the experience valuable for you as an ethnically diverse AT student?
Sunchild: This was an invaluable experience for me. [The members of EDAC] are leaders within the profession and know what it is like to be a part of a diverse background. Sharing that same experience made it easy to identify with their personal stories. Having a committee like EDAC that advocates for ethnically diverse athletic trainers makes me feel honored to have been selected for the grant to attend this conference. EDAC is a respected committee and being able to represent not only them but my university, my tribe and my Sunchild family was a supreme experience that I will cherish moving forward. It feels amazing to know that there is a committee of dedicated members willing to sacrifice and work diligently toward the betterment and evolution of ethnically diverse athletic trainers.
Banks: A while ago I sat down with one of my mentors and came up with goals of where I wanted to be in five or 10 years and what characteristics I thought I needed to make these goals happen. One of my goals was to become a well-known, respected African-American athletic trainer and leader. I feel like these two things go hand in hand, and this conference gave me some very valuable tools that can help me accomplish these goals. It means a lot to me that there is an NATA committee dedicated to advancing diversity within athletic training because it shows there are individuals in our profession who are aware of the importance of diversity.
Avila: I am grateful for the Ethnic Diversity Advisory Committee allowing me the opportunity to attend iLead, it was an inspiring and illuminating experience. This conference allowed me to see that our profession lacks diversity but there are committees, like EDAC, helping to increase the diversity and awareness of being culturally competent in our profession. I was unaware of the small percentage of minorities within the profession. As one of those minorities, I want to be a voice for us by taking on leadership roles within my district, joining committees and continuously volunteering. I feel that the qualities instilled in me throughout my growth as a young Hispanic woman will allow me to be an influential leader in the athletic training profession and help me make a difference in my community.
Fisher: Being able to attend this conference and be a representative not only for me and my school, but for other ethnically diverse students, is why this conference was so important to me. I stood in place for all ethnically diverse AT students wanting to grow and advance from their current situations. Because I understand this opportunity wasn't available to everyone, I tried to present myself in a manner that would make anyone proud, from the way I dressed to the tone and diction I used to speak with the highly regarded clinicians, educators and administrators. I feel that without opportunities to advance and grow, individuals will remain a product of whatever environment they come from.
Jackson: The experience was valuable for me as an ethnically diverse athletic training student because it provided the opportunity to network with district representatives, athletic training educators and athletic training students from around the country. To me, the fact that there is an NATA committee dedicated to advancing diversity within the profession means that I am supported, welcomed and valued as an ethnically diverse AT student who will soon be joining the workforce as a young professional. It also means that it is my responsibility to advocate for the advancement of diversity within the profession.
Rezazadeh: I had a great experience. It allowed me to meet other ethnically diverse students and see that we all have similar goals and will be involved in each other’s lives moving forward. Having a committee dedicated to advancing diversity gives me great hope. Other ethnically diverse AT students will receive this same opportunity in the future, and that is how you grow the involvement of diverse ATs within the profession.