Football Trainers Must Work Long Hours

The responsibilities of head athletic trainers at major colleges are immense and time-consuming. It is certainly not a 9 to 5 job. If an athlete needs your attention, you provide it regardless of the time. With the advent of early morning practices, Illinois athletic trainer Nick Richey's days begin early.

Nick Richey loves his job as head football athletic trainer at Illinois. But he must begin his days before sunrise, especially with the early morning practices now instituted.

"Most of the time, we're here by about 5:00 am. I like the morning practices, I really do. I don't know how many people would tell you that honestly. But I think it's great for us. It gets us in and gets everybody taken care of.

"We can see guys before the practice, we can see guys after the practice, we can see guys in the middle of the afternoon or before they go to dinner. It provides us an opportunity to get everything done that we really need to get done in the morning, and then we can spend the rest of the day focusing on the little things that we need to pay attention to, to make sure everything is running smoothly."

Doesn't that interfere with one's personal life?

"I've got two little boys and a wife that likes to get up early anyway, so it doesn't affect me a whole lot. I would rather get up and get things done."

Of course, the end of the day is limited for the Richey family as well, especially in the fall.

"Realistically, during the season it's probably 14-15 hours a day."

Richey finds time for himself and encourages his assistants to do the same. Care-givers can forget to take care of themselves, to the detriment to those in their charge.

"I try to take an hour out in the middle of the day and make that my time. I need to do it, and I encourage my staff to do that as well. We spend so much time taking care of everybody else that we forget to take care of ourselves.

"It's good for us, and it's good for the athletes that we do that. It kind of takes our edge off. Plus, when I go through a workout, I can go through the workout they're going do tomorrow or just did. I know what they go through, and it helps from a planning standpoint."

Richey and his assistants benefit from understanding what is required of the athletes in their physical training.

"We work real closely with the strength staff on altering strength and conditioning for different guys through the course of the year. We know what it takes to do a certain exercise or know what it takes to alter a specific exercise so we can have a guy participating where otherwise maybe he couldn't."

Winter conditioning and spring practices fill Richey's time once the regular season ends. There may be a little less time required, but the responsibilities are the same.

"During the spring, it was a little bit lighter. But it was still probably 11-12 hours a day. 6:00 am workouts this year were moved back. This year, they started at 7:00 am or 7:30 am. But it used to be, for 6:00 am workouts we'd get here at 5:00 am. We'd want to get everything set up and have everything ready to roll."

In part 3 of this 9-part interview, Richey talks about low ankle sprains.

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