Volunteering Opens Doors

February 8, 2024 by Lydia Hicks

In honor of Black History Month in February, NATA Now is highlighting some of our Black leaders at the state, district and national levels as they share insight into their volunteer journeys.

Tina Carrillo, MS, LAT, ATC, was first introduced to athletic training by Shawn Klenk, ATC, at Sterling High School in New Jersey.

With this exposure to the profession, Carrillo said her decision became clear. Having wrestled with the conundrum of choosing between becoming a pediatrician or an athletic trainer, she said interacting with Klenk gave her the confidence she needed to pursue athletic training.

“I have always been interested in health care and sports as a child,” she said. “When it became time for me to decide my career path, being an athletic trainer provided me with the best of both worlds. Seeing [Klenk’s] work ethic every day and the impact he made on his athletic training students and community really confirmed that this profession is what I wanted to pursue in college.”

With an affinity for athletic training came Carrillo’s passion for leadership, serving the profession within and outside NATA. After several years of service with NATA, Carrillo currently holds volunteer leadership positions at the state and district levels.

She shares her path to success and current impact as an athletic training leader.

What was your first volunteer position within the athletic training profession and why did you get involved?

My first volunteer position occurred around three years after I moved to Washington, D.C. The District of Columba Athletic Trainers’ Association was in the process of revitalizing itself and it put a call out for ATs to attend a meeting to assist in restarting the association. When I arrived, everyone in the room knew each other, so I sat all the way in the back. Long story short, during the meeting, they asked if anyone had experience with developing a website and/or experience with social media. I thought I could do it, but I was afraid to raise my hand because that would be a huge undertaking; however, I raised my hand and, surprisingly, they actually let me do it.

Shortly after that meeting, I became the DCATA public relations chair. I still maintain the district’s website and I also run all of DCATA’s social media platforms. Raising my hand during that meeting has allowed me to pick up a new hobby and grow as a leader.

Tell us about your current position as District of Columbia Athletic Trainers’ Association public relations chair and what you hope to accomplish in this role.

As I transition back into the role of public relations chair, my four main goals are to increase member engagement, continue to build community support from our external stakeholders, promote our members to the community and make our social media platforms and website a place where people want to come for information pertaining to athletic trainers.

Why is representation in leadership important and how does it impact the profession?

Representation in leadership is crucial for a lot of different reasons. I know people say it all the time, but representation really does matter. When you have diverse leaders at the table, different perspectives, backgrounds and experiences can be included in those important conversations. Having representation in leadership ensures the decisions made address all health disparities and issues we and our patients face. Diversity in leadership will also lead to a more robust and effective health care system for our patients. While eliminating unconscious biases and providing equity for everyone.

How has volunteering helped you grow personally and professionally?

Volunteering has helped me grow tremendously on a personal level. By volunteering at the state, district and national levels, I have been able to meet and connect with so many other athletic trainers and physicians from all over the country. I wouldn’t have been afforded the opportunity if I didn’t volunteer. These relationships have turned into true friendships, which I value to this day. The opportunities, collaborations, mentorships, encouragement and the ability to inspire others have made me a better woman, athletic trainer and leader.

What’s your fondest memory of serving so far?

I honestly feel that I have so much more to do and even being included in this year’s Black History Month article series is amazing to me. However, if I had to choose a memory I would say winning the 2021 NATA Young Professionals’ Committee National Distinction Award and being the first African American to receive the award was very humbling to me and is my fondest memory to date. My colleagues and head football coach didn’t even tell me they were nominating me for the award, so it was a complete surprise when I won.

What advice do you have for other athletic trainers who want to give back to the profession? 

Representation matters, seeing someone who looks like you in a leadership role can be incredibly inspiring and motivating. Don’t be afraid to volunteer because you can inspire the next person. Don’t let the possibility of not being chosen deter you from giving back to the profession. You can start as a member of a state committee that interests you. Network and move up from there. Trust me, giving back to the profession is so rewarding. Don’t let self-doubt stop you from being included in the conversation. Your voice really does matter. If you ever need someone to give you a pep talk about volunteering, I’ve got you. Reach out to me via X, formerly Twitter, (@teenatc) or Instagram (@tina_cee720).