Sunday, October 30, 2011

Opportunities Close

           As my internship came to a close I was amazed at how much I had grown, learn, and networked during my all too short 6 months there. Six months may seem like a long time but I loved every minute of it and felt it slip by extremely fast. I met so many wonderful people, athletes, medical personnel, cooking staff, and fellow interns and expanded my network of contacts. Some friendships I made for life, others were done when the internship finished. I still keep in contact with the Certified Athletic Trainers, Chiropractors, and Physical Therapists that I worked with and learned from. They have impacted my life from a career standpoint and I value their opinions.
          I left Colorado Springs only twice during my 6 month stay. One weekend I took a trip to Los Angeles, CA with two fellow interns for fun, the other weekend I traveled back to St. Paul Minnesota to graduate with the class of 2010. My internship had impacted my life, and my academic career, in addition to my professional career. When I returned to Northwestern College, while I was happy to see my close friends, and the professor’s who pushed me to pursue beyond Northwestern, all I could think about was what I had left behind at the Olympic Training Center. I knew schedules for sports and personnel, doctor’s appointments that needed to be made, and even though I enjoyed graduation and felt the accomplishment of my hard work during college I knew where I wanted to be.  
          My supervisor at the Olympic Training Center was so impressed with my work that he asked me to stay on a few more weeks to train the two new interns who would be there for the summer semester. Due to the nature of the internship program, interns are housed on the Olympic Training Center grounds for the duration of their internship; since I would stay extra weeks I was left to find housing off complex. Fortunately I had immediately contacted a local church and had been meeting with them on Sundays and was offered a place to stay when it was announced that I was “homeless”. Once that was taken care of I had to find a car to get to work every day, again the Lord provided with transportation. Because interns eat, and live on complex I was able to form close bonds with athletes, not only because of the living situation during the internship but because I worked in sports medicine and athletes were constantly in and out of the clinic. One of the athletes offered their car to me as she did not use it often enough to need it. Moving was easy as I had plenty of athletes offering to help transport and load my stuff to my new living area.
          Two weeks went by extremely fast and again I was preparing to move, this time back home to the great state of Wisconsin. My supervisors and the interns I had trained took me out to dinner with a couple athletes the night before my last day of work. I couldn’t believe it was ending, I had found where I wanted to be and did not want to ever leave. My last day was typical; although at the end of the day many hugs were given to the staff I had relied on so heavily for the last 6 months. In my last conversation with my head supervisor, the Director of Sports Medicine for the United States Olympic Committee, I asked him what I needed to do to get back to Colorado Springs as an employee and he told me. Before I left his office he said to me, “Shayla, you really belong here, and I will keep my ears open for any opportunities that might get you back here.” That was the most exciting interaction I had for the duration of my internship. I met many famous athletes, I learned from over 20 different medical professionals, I observed Olympic sport practices, but that meeting with my supervisor will remain with me.
          Over the summer I kept in contact with my supervisor, knowing that he was keeping me as options for jobs at the Olympic Training Center. While none of the opportunities worked out, due to other job commitments, he continued to encourage me through our conversations on the phone and through email.
         Back in Wisconsin after my summer obligations, I gave myself an ultimatum of finding a job, or going back to school to start the journey for certification as an Athletic Trainer. This was one of the things I had discussed with my supervisor in Colorado and it was something I new I would have to do. But with the “Olympic itch” started I routinely checked the London 2012 Summer Olympics website for opportunities that might be open to me for involvement.
           In October of 2010 I applied to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. At the same time I began the application process for a London Summer Olympics Volunteer. In December of 2010 I submitted my volunteer application and read the guidelines and information about the process, which is very long.
           I entered in the Spring 2011 semester as a second-degree undergraduate student to UWM. Not exactly where I wanted to be, but another step in my journey to the Olympic Training Center.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How it All Began

                  As a Kinesiology student at Northwestern College (in St. Paul, MN) I had every intention of pursuing Physical Therapy. Due to injuries from ballet I encountered in high school I was a firm supporter of physical therapy and it intrigued me that you could help improve a persons body through simple instruction. I quickly found out that Athletic Training was the profession for me.
                 During my years at Northwestern College I was exposed to the Athletic Training Room. It began as class requirement, "spend x amount of hours in the Athletic Training Room to get an A"; but quickly this transformed into, "spend as much time in the Athletic Training Room as possible because its amazing and I can learn so much from the wonderful Certified Athletic Trainers." That was my own thought of course, as a second semester freshman experiencing an Athletic Training Room for the first time. The relationship's that I was able to observe between Athletic Trainers and athletes seemed to be unique in that Athletic Trainers are with an athlete from the beginning of their pursuits. Whether the beginning of their college athletic career, the initial incident that caused an injury, to the end of injury rehab, or when that student graduates and no longer competes in athletics. Obviously this is at the college level, but this is true of Athletic Trainers at any level, high school, college, professional, medical centers, olympic level, etc. 
                  As my years blended together I found myself adding observation hours in different settings, mainly physical therapy clinics. These observations could become long and boring, I missed the constant flow of athletes in an Athletic Training room, I longed for the pre-practice set-up of water bottles, towels, and Athletic Training Kits. I grew bored of waiting for patients with scheduled appointments, downtime that was filled with paperwork and errands, and it was during these hours that I realized that my focus from physical therapy had quickly and dramatically changed to athletic training.
                Fast forward to the end of my fall semester in my senior year; I need an internship in order to graduate with my class in May. Due to some connections my dad had made I was networking, hoping, and planning to fulfill my internship in Florida at a Sports Therapy Clinic specializing in treatment for Golf Athletes. As I presented this to my superiors and the Professor who ultimately approves internships, my hopes were crushed. While I was given encouragement to look for opportunities outside of Minnesota my internship had to take place in-state. This was so my supervisors and professors could easily communicate with each other and if necessary meet to discuss my work and progress. Ever ready for a challenge I asked under what circumstances I might be approved to have an out of state internship; at this time I was extremely ready to leave the cold state of Minnesota after 4 years, the response: "Somewhere reputable or famous, if you gave me the name I wouldn't have to look it up." Leaving the offices I felt defeated, but quickly began to brainstorm on reputable and famous companies in the field of kinesiology. I had always been interested in Olympics as a spectator and recently had been amusing myself with the idea of working with Olympic athletes and athletes hoping to become Olympians. So back in my room I began researching internship opportunities with the United States Olympic Committee.
                After browsing through the USOC website I finally found a list of available internships for the Spring 2010 and proceeded to apply for the Sports Medicine Clinic Internship. In September of 2009 I submitted the application, resume, and reference letters without a second thought, until of course after I pushed enter. Then I began to worry about whether or not I had made the right decision and how stupid it was for me to even think I had a chance of being offered the internship. Finally after beating myself up I laid it all down before the Lord, and put it in His hands. Knowing that He has a plan for my life and if I wasn't going to be an intern at the USOC He had the right place for me. 
                After submitting the application I kept checking the website and seeing the updates for the application process. Interns for the Spring 2010 semester were going to be chosen and alerted but the second week of December. As the first week of December came and went I began to feel nervous as I had not made any preparation for a back-up internship and was not thrilled about staying in MN. I had put all thought of an internship with the USOC behind me when I received a call on December 29th from an unavailable number. Typically, I would ignore a call from an unavailable number but I jumped right away and got excited and answered the phone. While in a mall with my sister and good friend I proceeded to have an interview with staff at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. Not the ideal setting for a serious, possibly life-changing, interview. I felt completely unprepared, I didn't have my questions that I had written out, in early December just in case, and was very nervous. At the conclusion of the interview I was told I would be hearing from them in a few days if they were going to offer me a position. Three days later, on January 1st 2010, I received a call from Colorado Springs offering me the position of Sports Medicine Intern for the Spring 2010 semester. Immediately I accepted the position and was asked if I could arrive on January 3rd. Preparations flew into place as I went back to Minnesota, from my home state of Wisconsin, packed up my dorm room, quickly went back to Wisconsin and flew out to Colorado Springs with my dad on January 3rd to begin my crazy internship life in Sports Medicine on January 4th 2010.
                 Thats where my pursuit of being an Athletic Trainer for Olympic athletes began.