Steering Toward the Future

October 4, 2022 by Lydia Hicks

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 15-Oct. 15, the NATA Now blog is highlighting some of our Hispanic/Latinx athletic training leaders at the state, district and national levels.

As a volunteer applying leadership skills to advance the athletic training profession, Arizona Athletic Trainers’ Association (AzATA) Meetings and Events Committee Co-Chair Steve Baca, ATC, said that for him, serving is more than just giving back to the profession; it’s also about having “a hand on the steering wheel” of its future.

“I believe that volunteering to serve on a committee, or for any event, for that matter, allows you to strengthen your network and expose yourself to so many people who are capable of inspiring you on your way to the next big thing you do in athletic training,” he said.

Propelled by the athletic training staff and a sports medicine class during his high school career at Coconino High School in Arizona, Baca developed his enthusiasm for the profession. His high school influences, coupled with his grandfather stoking a love for medicine in him, led him to a position as an athletic training student aide.

Now, Baca’s district leadership and volunteer involvements have helped to develop more advocates for the profession.

Read on to learn more about his story.

What was your first volunteer role within the athletic training profession and why did you get involved?
As ATs, we all volunteer our time throughout the year and throughout our careers just because it is our profession’s nature to be there when we are needed. As far as volunteering outside of patient care, I had my first experience in 2015. I had just presented to the college student group on K-Taping and, as usual, was feeling quite inspired after being around a large group of fellow ATs. After hearing about shortages on state committees, I voiced my interest in joining the AzATA Governmental Affairs Committee or Communications Committee to a close group of ATs I knew in Arizona. Unbeknownst to me, one of those friends was set to take over the AzATA Meetings & Events Committee and informed me that my talents could be used there – in true AT fashion of course. Sure, part of wanting to be involved was to serve or give back to my profession, which I will gladly do at every chance I get, but part of me also wanted to have a hand on the steering wheel of where the profession was going. People are needed to do so, why not me? I served on the AzATA Meetings & Events Committee until I was promoted to co-chair where I sit currently.

Tell us about your current role as co-chair of the AzATA Meetings and Events Committee and what you hope to accomplish in this role.
Being the co-chair of the AzATA Meetings & Events Committee is complicated and can be stressful, to say the least. Our committee is responsible for all of the logistics, food, technology, etc., that go into hosting an event such as a symposium. As with a lot of people, I was shocked at what goes into hosting one of these events in the background! When I took the role as co-chair, it was the first time – that I know of – that the AzATA M&E had co-chairs instead of just one chair. My co-chair, wife, and fellow AT, Crystal, also steers the “M&E” ship with me. In this role, my goals are three-fold:

  1. Give the best meeting/event experience for our members, speaker and vendors.
  2. Meet as many fellow athletic trainers as I can and stay in touch so we know each other by name.
  3. Offer my advice/opinions from my experiences to the state leadership as we participate in events at the leadership level.

What is your favorite part about giving back to the profession?
Honestly, seeing fellow ATs get together in a good venue that is conducive to learning and networking is a great feeling. Giving back also is a fantastic way to meet so many other ATs.

Why is representation important to leadership and how does it impact the profession?
Leadership is nothing without its members, and representation is how members get their voices and opinions heard. ATs are often a very opinionated group of people, so it is important that they have a channel to direct their thoughts to AT leadership so our profession can be guided in a direction that athletic trainers want. This applies in general and also specifically to all the smaller groups that are included within our profession, such as LGBTQIA+ and Hispanic groups. Each group is made up of people with unique experiences, and it is those unique experiences and thoughts that can bring new life and new ideas to our profession that would otherwise be lost. My experiences, as a Hispanic man growing up and going through my career, offer different perspectives than someone from another group. Having representation in leadership allows some of these experiences/opinions to come to light via another person who has a similar background. Just like the foundation of this country, every group needs fair representation to voice their unique positions and, in turn, the organization as a whole is strengthened.

Why is it important for ATs to get involved in leadership and service?
We can always come back to serving fellow ATs. It is truly a great feeling to know that you are helping your fellow ATs’ voices to be heard. Also, organizational leadership at all levels needs to have that representation available and hear the unique opinions/experiences from as many people with different backgrounds as possible. This means anyone who is willing! Your experiences and thoughts could help shape the future of our profession. Get your hand on the steering wheel.

What would you say to the next generation of athletic trainers about the importance of giving back?
People tend to think of their profession or professional organization as a vessel that they are just on for the ride. In reality, everyone can have the opportunity to help steer where the vessel is going. I believe that volunteering to serve on a committee, or for any event, for that matter, allows you to strengthen your network and expose yourself to so many people who are capable of inspiring you on your way to the next big thing you do in athletic training. It also gives you the chance to pay it forward and serve as the inspiration for the next group of ATs. Those who we connect with, and possibly spark the flame of passion in, are the next NATA president, the next district rep., the next hall of famer or the next AT who innovates a new technique or possibly saves a life. By simply giving a little of your time and sharing the unique experiences that made you who you are, the number of lives you can touch down the line is tremendous. “Cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”