Five Historic Milestones at Convention

March 27, 2024 by Beth Sitzler
75 things to know about convention! Five historic milestones at convention

The 75th NATA Clinical Symposia & AT Expo, June 25-28 in New Orleans, is approaching – and registration is now open. As athletic trainers look forward to this iconic annual event in AT history, NATA Now is highlighting “75 Things To Know About Convention.”

NATA will celebrate the history of the convention throughout NATA 2024. The following is a look at five historical occurrences and milestones that have taken place over the years during the NATA convention.


1. The Creation of the NATA Hall of Fame

As the pinnacle of recognition for members, the NATA Hall of Fame was created as a way to honor those whose work and dedication have shaped and advanced the profession.

When originally established in 1962, the hall of fame was named the Helms Hall Athletic Trainers Hall of Fame after the Helms Athletic Foundation of California, which was sponsoring it at the time. That first class featured 26 of “America's foremost athletic trainers of yesteryear, those who have been identified with both collegiate institutions, as well as with amateur clubs and professional organizations,” according to the October 1962 NATA Journal.

The Helms Athletic Foundation of California continued to sponsor the hall of fame until 1973. NATA Historical Commission Chair Roger Kalisiak, MSEd, AT Ret., said various groups supported the hall of fame from 1973 through 1987, at which point it officially became the NATA Hall of Fame.

While this first class was announced in September 1962, after that year’s convention, the second class was honored during the 1964 annual meeting. Since then, the NATA Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony has become a prominent convention event with ATs and friends of the profession joining together to celebrate these legends.


2. Corporate Sponsors Are Added to the Mix

In the 1980s, in order to continue to grow the association and advance the athletic training profession, NATA began to establish relationships with outside entities. Kalisiak said these corporate sponsorships were important, if not controversial.

“The membership, as a group, was opposed to [corporate sponsorship] to begin with and were very skeptical about how it was going to go and felt that we needed to remain independent,” he said. “The yang part of that was that we needed money to [continue to advance].”

Gatorade came on as the first corporate sponsor in 1985, with Johnson & Johnson and Cramer Products following in 1986.

Through the support of corporate sponsors, NATA has been able to enact programs and initiatives that impacted the longevity of the association and profession. One such example is the NATA Research & Education Foundation, the philanthropic arm of NATA, which was incorporated in 1991 thanks to grants from NATA and Johnson & Johnson. Each year, the NATA Foundation provides scholarships and research grants to support the advancement of athletic training. These efforts are highlighted each year throughout the NATA convention. Learn more about the NATA Foundation events that will take place during NATA 2024.

Fun fact: The NATA Hall of Fame members began receiving their iconic green jackets in 2008 thanks to sponsorship from Johnson & Johnson. While at NATA 2024, stop and say “hello” to our hall of fame members – their green jackets make them easy to identify.


3. NATA Inducts Its First Female President

During the 51st NATA Clinical Symposia & AT Expo in 2000, Julie Max, Med, ATC, was inaugurated as NATA’s ninth president, the first woman in the association’s history to hold the position. She served as president through 2004 and was inducted into the NATA Hall of Fame for her service in 2007.

Max joined NATA’s other female presidents – NATA Past President Marje Albohm, MS, AT Ret., and current NATA President Kathy Dieringer, EdD, LAT, ATC – for the 73rd NATA Clinical Symposia & AT Expo keynote presentation. During the presentation, they discussed the challenges they’ve faced as women in the athletic training profession, reflected on their experiences and provided vision and encouragement for the future.

“My biggest challenge was myself,” Max said during the keynote. “The most important thing that I have learned and continue to learn to this day is, ‘know what you don’t know.’ It seems so simple. … I didn’t know how to be the first female president. I didn’t know how to do that because nobody had been in that situation before me, and so, when you know what you didn’t know, you have a tendency to work harder to know what you need to know. … What I did know is that I knew how I wanted to lead. I wanted to lead with imagination, I wanted to lead with interest and I wanted to lead with integrity.”


4. Updated NATA Logo Unveiled

Since its debut in 1952, the NATA logo has been updated four times. In 2012, a membership survey indicated the need for a new logo that would better represent where athletic trainers are positioned within the health care marketplace. From the stylized Rod of Asclepius to the reverse “AT” drawing in the eye, the sleek, modern logo created a new brand for NATA and athletic trainers, one with a greater emphasis on medicine. In addition to the new logo, NATA also released the AT symbol to further the visual branding of the overall athletic training profession.

Just as insightful as the logo’s design was how NATA introduced it to the membership. As NATA 2013 attendees gathered for General Session, during which they received association updates that included a video about the new logo, staff rushed around the Las Vegas Convention Center updating all convention signage with the new logo. As attendees left the hall, they were handed shirts featuring the new logo, officially bringing it to the masses.  


5. Having Fun at Convention

As the premier live event for athletic trainers, the NATA convention offers attendees educational programming that highlights the latest in sports medicine. Just as important as the professional development offerings are the opportunities for connection and some fun.

From welcome receptions to fundraising events and college alumni parties, over the years, attendees have made memories unique to each convention location.

Kalisiak said memorable convention experiences have included visiting Disneyland while in Anaheim in 1975, attending the rodeo when convention was in Fort Worth in 1981, taking a trip to Disney World while in Orlando in 1996, going to the Georgia Aquarium during the 2006 convention in Atlanta and seeing Mardi Gras floats up close at Mardi Gras World in 2018, the last time convention was in New Orleans.

“The last time we were in Saint Louis, in 2015, there was a rainstorm that forced the [NATA Foundation 5K Fueled by Gatorade] in inside the Edward Jones Dome,” he said. “That was something different and fun.”

Visit the Special Events section of the convention website to see what will take place throughout NATA 2024.