DAY 13 (Aug. 13): A Glance Behind The Scenes
It all begins in early August. The new athletics season starts again, and with it comes a tidal wave of new and returning student-athletes and an exhaustive amount of work to welcome them. They show up, ready to go through the process of re-acclimating to life as a student-athlete. The amount of man-hours it takes to help the athletes transition back to campus is almost immeasurable, although for the most part invisible.
April Reed heads the athletic training department. When the 200+ fall athletes return to campus, her office is one of the first stops, as each student-athlete must be cleared by the athletic training department before they can even participate in practice. She, along with the rest of the athletic training staff, have to take in roughly 130 players per day, running various tests ranging from sickle-cell, to ortho/joint testing.
The process for student-athletes to go through their entire physical ranges from one-to-two hours, a daunting task for Reed and her staff to effectively and efficiently shuffle everyone through in such a short period of time.
“Controlled chaos is a good way to put it. There is a lot of prep and every year we tweak it to make it as easy as possible,” said Reed. “It’s a tense time for the student athletes, so we want to make sure we’re doing a good job at not wasting anyone’s time.”
And while the first few days of physicals can be repetitive and exhausting, it’s far from a dreaded experience for the athletic trainers.
“I like interacting with the teams. I think we all do. It’s fun to see everyone again and meet the new players,” said Reed.
At the end of the day, after all of the testing and paperwork is completed, Reed said there’s a special treat that comes with each day.
“The balance testing is always fun to watch. We get to see how good, or bad, some of the athletes’ balance is,” she said.
On the other side of campus a pair of equipment managers, John Pearce and Brett Charleston, quietly slave away in the football locker room to make sure there are enough pads, helmets, and uniforms for the 100+ players reporting to the first day of fall camp. They have to prepare enough lockers and bags so that each player can step right in and begin to compete for the upcoming season. Once they’re done with the players’ equipment the two have to make sure that all the cones, lines, and gear for the first practice of the 2012 football season is in its proper place before heading off to prepare for other teams’ arrivals.
Their typical day at Azusa Pacific begins at 7 a.m. and ends around 8 p.m. All the while in between Pearce and Charleston (sort of sounds like a law firm), are driving back and forth between the East and West campus to make sure all of the fall sports (men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, volleyball, and football) have everything they need for the first day of preseason training. Cleats, shorts, jerseys, socks…you name it, they prep it. It’s a thankless job, and one that’s typically noticed only when there’s a problem or something’s missing.
In the athletics office, compliance officer Susan Geiss rummages through loads of paperwork, checking and double-checking each of the student-athletes’ transcripts with the registrar and NCAA status. Her job, which was tough to begin with, gained greater emphasis when the athletic department made its move to apply for NCAA Div. II (currently in candidacy year two). In just two years she had to transition from working at a full-fledged NAIA-compliant program, to helping ensure that Azusa Pacific is operating as an NCAA Div. II institution.
“We are operating as an NCAA school. There are a lot more details, reporting, and covering the bases to make sure everything is right,” she said in between a phone call to the NCAA office and a meeting with a student athlete. “The athletes’ return is multi-faceted. They have to be cleared by the financial aid office, and all the while we’re looking up transcripts and making sure all of the students meet the criteria, along with reviewing the amount of paperwork that the students have already filled out.”
It’s not a glamorous job, but it’s as crucial as they come. Without her approval of a student-athlete’s eligibility status there is no practice or game. She has to make sure that everyone on the field or in the gym is NCAA eligible.
There are many more people, working tirelessly to make sure that the new sports season comes without a hitch. Too many to list, and all of them have helped the Azusa Pacific athletic department become what it is today: An eight time NAIA Director’s Cup recipient, and a place where champions are built in the pursuit of championships.
Reed, Pearce, Charleston, and Geiss are four individuals who represent the great number of people working hard behind the scenes to provide Azusa Pacific’s student-athletes with a successful acclimation to the campus and their team.