May 17, 2022 | Education, Uncategorized | 0 comments

GISD Athletic Trainers

words by rick mauch

photography by eric killingsworth

 

“From broken bones to broken emotions, Andy Rankin and Connie Rhodes have seen their share as athletic trainers in the Granbury School District. “I was graduating high school and I was the basketball manager, when coach said I should look into athletic training. I said, ‘What’s that?'” Andy recalled. “So I did look into it, and realized it was something I did indeed want to go after.”Being in sports in a helping career, it was attractive to me, and it’s been very rewarding.”

And here they are, both having spent more than two decades doing that same thing – helping athletes return to good health and get back to the sports they love. Andy has spent 28 years in the business, the past 12 in Granbury, while Connie has spent 20 of her 22 years at Granbury. Andy has also worked at Big Spring (14 years) and Troup (2 years), while Connie spent her first two years at Robert E. Lee in Tyler.

Their day typically starts around 6 a.m. On days without a game, they’re usually headed home around 6 p.m. But on game days, they can be working until around midnight.

They cover all high school home events, Andy the boys sports and Connie the girls. They travel with the football team and with any team in any sport that is in the playoffs. They also cover a variety of junior high home sporting events.

“We’re very fortunate in Granbury to have two trainers of the caliber they are,” GISD Athletic Director Dwight Butler said. “I’ve been in this business a long time, and they’re two of the best I’ve ever seen. What sets them apart is their work ethic, their tireless, countless hours. I don’t have to worry about the medical end of our program at all.

In fact, when Butler was the A.D. in Big Spring, he hired Andy. He still considers it one of his greatest decisions.

Andy and Connie have won a plethora of awards at both the state and national level. Their reputation is so good that even Tarleton State University sends their athletic trainer interns to work with the duo.

“That says a lot when you have a university send their interns to work with high school trainers,” Butler said.“But they aren’t just any high school trainers. They have a great rapport with doctors, with parents, with the community.

Asked about the most common injuries, and they will say it largely depends on the sport. Volleyball and basketball, for example, might have more ankle injuries with all the jumping. Of course, football is filled with bumps and bruises, along with some of the nastier aches and pains – including concussions.

“People are becoming a lot more educated about concussions,” Andy said, adding that more is being done to ensure an athlete does not return to the game or practice too early.

To which Connie added, “I think the research that’s being done has made a big difference, and we haveNatasha’s Law as a guideline.”

In 2011, Texas House Bill 2038 was signed into legislation to focus on dealing with concussions, including a state log. It was named after Natasha Helmick, a very strong advocate for the legislation, who was a young soccer star who suffered repeated concussions and gave up her dream of playing in the Olympics.

Sometimes their jobs require them to deal with emotional injuries. They’re not psychologists, but they always listen with an open mind andheart.

“Sometimes they have to work on the psyche of the kid,” Butler said.”That’s huge when you have trainers who are interested in the whole kid.

“They also take the parents into consideration. It’s hard to hear your kid is going to be out for a while, or perhaps the rest of the season, with an injury.

“Injuries never happen at the right time,” Andy said. “But anybody that helps your child out, a parent appreciates that. “And there are times when they have to help an athlete emotionally after he/she has been told by a doctor they won’t play again. Though not welcome news, Butler said parents know they are getting it straight from the two.

“That comes from keeping parents, grandparents informed from the very start,” he said. “Good news or bad, parents appreciate the honesty, and they both have a good bedside manner.

“They have seen some interesting injuries over the years. They’ve also heard a lot of interesting excuses,” Connie said.

“There’s been a lot of ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time,'” Connie said with a laugh.

Along with all of their work at school, Andy and Connie manage strong family lives. Andy and his wife, Amanda, the GISD athletic secretary have two sons, Kaleb and Jakob. Connie is married to to Jeremy Rhodes, the asst. superintendent at Squaw Valley Golf Course and they have a daughter, Rachel

“You utilize what free time you get as best you can, enjoy the family time you do get as much as possible,” Connie said.

“It’s nice here, too, that there are two of us, so sometimes one of us can cover for the other one,” Andy said.

Like the athletes they help, Andy and Connie must also stay on top of their game. This requires maintaining at least 50 hours of continuing education each two years for their national license and at least 30 hours every two years for their state license. They accomplish this in a variety of ways, some online, some by traveling for courses, and they can even teach a college course for credit, Andy said.

Though their lives are busy, they do find time for hobbies. Andy likes anything airplanes, including airshows, and car shows. Connie likes fishing, and basically anything outside.

Both have been asked about working at the college level. That, however, is something neither is considering as they like things just fine where they are. “We never work on Sundays and rarely on Wednesday evenings,” Andy said.

Connie chimed in immediately with, “Sundays and Wednesday evenings are nice for family time.”

But they also realize their job will never be considered ordinary – and they are quite happy with that. They’re making a difference in the lives of young athletes.

Besides, Andy said, “If we worked a 9-5 job, I don’t know what I’d do with myself.”

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