ACC’s head athletic trainer works to heal

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Sports

March 20, 2015 - 12:00 AM

Standing in the background at every Allen Community College athletic event is an unsung defender of the athletes. He’s not a coach or a booster or even a referee. He is head athletic trainer Ed Wilkerson.
“As an athletic trainer, you’re similar to an official. If a game goes by and [as a spectator] you don’t notice the officials that much, its a well-officiated game,” Wilkerson, 53, said. “Although things do happen and you have to take care of them, you just hope they’re things where you’re able to get them going and [spectators] don’t notice you’re there.”
During and after almost every home sporting event for Allen — that includes games and practices — it’s Wilkerson’s job to make sure the athletes are able to get back at it the next day.
“We provide the immediate care for the injury and also the rehabilitation,” Wilkerson said. “If its something like a broken bone or torn knee ligament — something we aren’t making progress on — we refer that to a specialist.”
A good day for Wilkerson is if: 1) no one in the stands has to see him help carry any athlete off the court, diamond, etc. and 2) the home team wins.
“A bad day is when you have kids not progressing and can’t compete, or when they have injuries in a contest and can’t return,” he said.
Wilkerson has been the head athletic trainer at Allen for the past four years. His favorite part of the job is helping athletes reach their goals and perform the best that they can.
“Just like in athletics, you’re always pushing to do better, better, better,” Wilkerson said. “In athletic training for an athletic program, you’re trying to get them better faster, faster and faster. It just doesn’t work that way.”
When Wilkerson started his career, he initially had a degree in physical education, with the dream of being a basketball coach.
He had an offer to be a freshmen basketball team’s coach, but declined the officer because there wasn’t an accompanying teaching assignment. Likewise, he declined teaching offers because there weren’t attached coaching assignments.
“So, I ended up joining the Air Force and they made me be a medic,” Wilkerson said. “I worked for an Air Force hospital on the surgical floor for one year and then in the E.R. — I got my EMT training — for three years. When my four years were up and I put my money away from the educational fund, I was like, ‘well, what do I want to do?”
Wilkerson said he decided to combine his medical experience and his physical education degree, and go into athletic training.
He earned a graduate assistantship at Central Missouri State — now the University of Central Missouri — and graduated with a masters degree in physical education with an emphasis in athletic training.
After graduation, he was hired as the head athletic trainer at Pratt Community College where he worked for 10 years.
He finally was able to become a coach at Fort Hays State, but for softball, not basketball. After that, he landed at Allen.
“Primarily, for my first few years, I did work in athletic training in support of the previous athletic trainer,” Wilkerson said. “And I taught the classes. It’s just been in the last four years that I’ve been the head athletic trainer.”
He coached Allen’s softball team for six years and now concentrates only on his duties as the head athletic trainer. He also teaches one to two classes a semester. Once the school year starts, the athletics at ACC pick up substantially.
“Most times, the practices are going to go to at least 6 p.m. I’m also here during the day doing treatments and teaching class,” Wilkerson said. “But, with our athletic programs, there are  teams all year long that start practices at 6 a.m., teams that start practice most of the year at 8 p.m. So, you try to be available as much as possible. The teams work seven days a week and almost the entire day.”
Wilkerson’s wife, Sandy, is a librarian for the Southeast Kansas library system as a youth consultant. They have a daughter, Emilia, who is still in elementary school and who Ed enjoys coaching in softball during the summer months when the college is on hiatus.
“I enjoy working with her on softball and she also loves dance,” Wilkerson said. “I’m in more of the role of taking her to [dance]. I enjoy working with the young kids and helping their skills.”
But, once college is back in session and the athletes are back at practice Wilkerson is right back at it.
Hopefully, just in the background.

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