Former Student Athletes Become Current Athletic Trainers
MaineGeneral Sports Medicine's Nick Thompson, Samantha Farago, Pat Norwood and Emily Staples come full circle
AUGUSTA, Maine – As a three-sport athlete at Waterville Senior High School in the 1990s, Nick Thompson split his time on the playing field and in the training room, receiving treatment from athletic trainer Bill Cox for a host of injuries.
Over time, regular interactions with Cox fueled his decision to become an athletic trainer. Cox’s role then transformed into one of a valued mentor that continued until his untimely death in 2002. His early influence inspired Thompson to return to central Maine to treat local athletes, which he's been doing since 2003, first on a per diem basis and then full time at Messalonksee High and Middle Schools since 2005.
And he's not alone. He is one of four MaineGeneral Sports Medicine certified athletic trainers who received services as former local high school athletes and joined the program after college. Peers Samantha Farago and Pat Norwood graduated from Maranacook Community High School in 2008 and 2009, respectively, and Emily Staples graduated from Gardiner Area High School in 2011.
Thompson participated in football, track and cheering at Waterville. Knee injuries, fractures and ankle sprains provided him with ample opportunity to learn what athletic training was all about. Before then, he hadn’t even considered it as a profession.
“But there comes a point during your junior year when you ask yourself what you want to be. I looked at the role models in my life and the interactions I had with people in the community and I decided to become an athletic trainer,” he recalled. “I knew my dream job was to come back here and do what I’m doing.”
During college, Thompson said several Sports Medicine job shadow and internship experiences were invaluable to him. He and his peers have routinely provided the same support to others – including Farago, Norwood and Staples.
Farago, who played soccer and softball at Maranacook, was treated by a former Sports Medicine athletic trainer for broken bones in her foot and a few other minor injuries. Unlike her peers, she didn’t decide to be an athletic trainer until after she started college as a business major and found it wasn’t for her. In considering her options, she discovered athletic training.
She knew she wanted to stay in central Maine after college and shared this information with Sports Medicine Program Manager Chris Sementelli during one of her student symposiums. After she completed her program and passing her board exam, they reconnected and she started with the team on a per diem basis in 2014 before transitioning to full time in 2016.
She said while her work with students at Winslow High and Junior High Schools often is a “juggling act,” the rewards are great.
“The toughest part is when you have someone who really wants to get back to playing and you can’t get them back fast enough because it just takes that long for the healing process,” she said. “At the same time, it’s also very rewarding to see them play again after they’ve been cleared to play. That’s what really makes it worth it.”
Norwood, who joined the team in 2014, played football, basketball and baseball at Maranacook. He avoided a significant injury until his senior year, when a bad ankle sprain put him in contact with now coworker Rich Garini. The interactions opened his eyes to a possible career path.
“That’s when I decided I could do something in athletics as well as in the health care system,” he said. “And after college, I knew I wanted to work for MaineGeneral Sports Medicine.”
Norwood covers Gardiner High School and Richmond High and Middle Schools. Because he’s only 10 years removed from high school, he finds he can relate well to students.
“I still remember being injured in high school and wanting to get back on the field, he said. “Working with the kids and helping them get back on the field, court or rink is the most satisfying part of my job.”
Staples is the newest team member, having joined the group on a full-time basis in 2018 after working per diem since 2016. A soccer and track athlete at Gardiner, she was treated for ankle sprains, shin splints and other overuse injuries.
She pursued an athletic training education after conversations with the trainer assigned to Gardiner and some job shadowing. That led her to the University of Southern Maine and then back to the area. She covers Waterville Senior and Junior High Schools and finds that her age helps her relate well to her student athletes.
“Sometimes it helps to be closer in age and remembering what it was like to be a student athlete dealing with or recovering from an injury,” she said.
And that brings us back to Thompson, the veteran of the foursome. Now among the more experienced members of the team, he’s proud of the role he now plays in continuing the legacy of excellence MaineGeneral Sports Medicine is known for.
In the early years of the program, which is now celebrating its thirtieth year, people like Bill Cox and current members Chris Sementelli and Steve Tosi led the way. The latter are still doing the same, and Thompson has long been with them – working with area athletes who may someday return to the program as peers.
“I think the only way we can make the profession better is to help the young student athletes coming through, doing whatever we can do for them,” he said. “Just like Bill did for me, I do the same for my students.
I’m not a trend setter but I’m glad I’ve been able to help pave the way for others.”
To learn more about MaineGeneral Sports Medicine, visit the sports medicine page or call (207) 621-7525 or (207) 873-8140.