Understaffed, but not outdone

Bakersfield College’s athletic trainers currently service student athletes fielding 20 teams, in a training room built for only nine teams

Within the confines of the Gil Bishop Center, the Bakersfield College training facilities have managed to withstand 60 years with only minor renovations. The facilities were among the first buildings completed on campus in 1956, and supported a mere nine sports programs, all men’s.

As years passed, the inclusion of women’s sports meant the facilities needed to be renovated for gender segregation, and the addition of more sports meant increased pressure on the training staff. One thing that did not increase, however, was the size of the training room facilities.

“The athletic training room is definitely outdated and too small for the number of student athletes that we are currently servicing,” said athletic trainer Mike Medeiros. “We do a pretty good job with what we have, but we have about half the space that we need.”

The addition of beach volleyball and men’s soccer posed another type of challenge for the training room staff, adding to the student-athlete population by roughly 20 percent. The endeavor facing the certified athletic training staff consisting of Fred Smith, Medeiros, and Tricia Gay are not just space, but time.

While both Smith and Medeiros are full-time, Gay is only available part-time, making adequate coverage of the athletic department’s 20 intercollegiate sports programs difficult. Treating and preventing injuries for over 500 student athletes means the staff is pressed for time with each athlete. “The earlier in the day they come in usually ensures that we will be less busy and the athlete will get more of our time and attention which usually means better care,” said Medeiros.

According to data from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, based on the number of sports programs and volume of student athletes, it is appropriate for Bakersfield College to have 11 certified athletic trainers on staff full-time. Alleviation of this imbalance might prove difficult for Bakersfield College.

Sandi Taylor, Bakersfield College director of athletics, said, “Through the program review process here institutionally, we have requested additional support staff, which is dependent on budget and other needs of the campus, and that’s all looked at by committee,” adding that she felt “comfortable in a sense that our students are well cared for; our athletic training staff does a great job, and we are blessed to have team doctors in the community that give a lot of time to our student-athletes.”

A great deal of aid for the training staff comes from a small group of student volunteers who have dedicated much of their time in the training room or on-site with teams. For Brandon Hernandez Segura, it’s nearly an obsession. On Tuesday’s alone, Segura spends upward of 11-and-a-half hours between classes and time in the training room conducting evaluations and assisting in rehab exercises.

Since August, Segura has already logged over 100 hours, roughly half of the minimum most university programs require. Segura plans on continuing past his minimum requirement, and staying on the entire semester. He said, “It’s not work to me, it’s because I enjoy it.”

As a student athlete, Segura would like to have more staff and upgraded facilities, “We only travel with football to away games because of the numbers. There aren’t enough trainers to travel with other teams; I would like to see someone travel with every sport,” he said.

Carissa Castro and Cienna Figueroa, fellow student volunteers, seem to find some positives in the current staffing situation. “It allows us to put our knowledge to the test and it creates better experiences for us, because it’s so hands-on. You don’t get a lot of programs that allow students to do evals [evaluations], and have the responsibility that we have,” said Figueroa.

“I can’t even imagine 11 trainers in our facilities, there isn’t room for 11 trainers plus students,” said Castro. “If there were 11 athletic trainers, then the athletes would strictly either want to go to an athletic trainer, or we would be sitting there twiddling our thumbs, and we wouldn’t get the experience we’re getting.”

Similarly, Mary Erickson, also a student volunteer, enjoys the close-knit aspect of the program’s current size. “I personally love a small program because you’re learning more. When I transfer, I don’t want to transfer to a large program because you aren’t going to learn as much as a small program,” she said. It would seem that despite different opinions of the workload facing them, both student volunteers and training staff would consider it beneficial to expand the training room facilities.

“Our needs are that we have about half of everything that we need, including locker room space, athletic training space, and teaching space. At the time this facility was built, it wasn’t designed to house 20 intercollegiate sports; there’s no air-conditioning in there, so concussion protocol is difficult in that space, so we definitely need to modernize, and that’s been on program review every year since I’ve been in this role,” said Sandi Taylor.

Taylor estimates these projects to be tagged at “approximately $40 million” as part of a bond in need of committee approval. This major renovation project would “improve and modernize the facilities, helping our staff and students be more comfortable.”

In the meantime, the Bakersfield College training staff and student volunteers continue, and as the fall semester continues, they are faced with growing challenges. “We’re crammed in there; when we have soccer, football, volleyball, a little bit of basketball trickling in and we have the prevention and care students, who observe what we’re doing, at times it gets really busy,” said Erickson.

Student volunteers and trainers aren’t the only ones helping. “Athletes help out too, they’ll say, ‘oh, we’ll grab our own ice bags while you hook this person up,’ or ‘we’ll go roll out first and wait’ like they don’t just sit and take up room, they actually make themselves busy, so it doesn’t seem like it’s so clustered,” said Figueroa.

Despite their working conditions, consensus among student volunteers and administration seems to indicate confidence within the abilities and future of the training staff, “Mike, Fred, and Trish are who I aspire to be. Going into the training room is one of my favorite parts about Tuesdays and Thursdays,” said Erickson. “In a perfect world, I would like to get some more help to relieve some of the pressure, but I don’t feel like we are not doing a service to our student athletes,” said Taylor. “We would, of course, like to have more and do better.”