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The Final Countdown: The final class of Athletic Training students reflect on the legacy they leave behind

It is impossible to live in a world without change. From changes in curriculum to faculty changes, the wheel is always turning here at Eastern. For one passionate and hardworking group of students, they will be the last few to hold a bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training.

CAATE, the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education, changed its requirements for accreditation in January 2018. These new requirements state that effective 2020, all Athletic Trainers must have 2 years of clinical professional education before they can take their board exam. In other words, this is the last year that Eastern can offer a bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training.

The current program is extremely rigorous. On top of taking a full class load, Athletic Training students spend six semesters doing clinical rotations at high school and
university athletics programs in the area. Doug Horton, the director of the program, says that these programs are vital because 50% of the students’ Athletic Training
education comes from their rotations. Eastern students’ have done rotations all over the area, from Villanova’s Division 1 Football program to Radnor High School and of course, Eastern University.

In January 2018, the class of 2021 were in their second semester at Eastern. Courtney Kilian, one of the Athletic Training students who is very active on campus, recalled her reaction to the changes: “At first, I didn’t really think much about it… but then I thought more about it because if we were to ever fail a class for any reason or something catastrophic like a pandemic was to happen, we get put in a really odd situation… we would have to switch majors or switch schools or
something.” Courtney explained that there was a lot of pressure put on them due to this, and the pressure only increased when COVID closed Eastern and surrounding schools where students would do their clinical rotations. Due to the COVID restrictions, the seniors will be doing all of their rotations at Eastern, with many covering two
to three sports.

The students seem to be excited about the changes in accreditation because some of them feel that they may be more respected in the world of fitness and healthcare. “We are not personal trainers,” Kaylee Soboleski said with a sigh, “…we are healthcare professionals who provide first responsive care, rehabilitation treatments, we do evaluations, we diagnose injuries, and then we treat those injuries.” Soboleski, along with many of her classmates, feel that they are not taken as seriously as they should be and they might get more respect with the heightened requirements of the future.

With these new accreditation laws, Eastern is in the midst of creating an Athletic Training masters’ program, but Horton stated that it would be a few years before the program would start. In the meantime, Horton says that any students interested in becoming a certified athletic trainer should join Eastern’s exercise science program. He remarked that the course loads of the majors are very similar, and he will be teaching some exercise science courses once the current class of seniors graduates in the spring.

A majority of the Athletic Training students are athletes themselves, but all of them were athletes in the past. Many of them recalled being injured athletes interacting with their athletic trainers in high school or youth sports. Soboleski even took an Athletic Training course in high school. Kilian remembered the connections she made with her high school trainer that made her want to do the program.

Despite all the setbacks and challenges that these ten seniors have faced, they have found support and connections with each other. “That’s my family,” Deanna Young said with a chuckle, “We’ve been together in every single class since freshman year. We all know each other in and out… we’re literally like
brothers and sisters.” They share not only a passion for Athletic Training, but also health, human connection and advocating for athletes. These 10 students might be the last of their kind, but they are definitely leaving a legacy here at Eastern.

Sources: CAATE

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