Schools partner with Valley Health for athletics trainer

Behind the innocuous item “athletics” on Wednesday’s (Sept. 8) school board meeting agenda lay a surprise that Superintendent Donna Matthews could hardly wait to share. Her excitement was visible as she asked Athletic Director Brandon Burley and Mike Tupper, principal of Rappahannock County High School, to describe the agreement they had forged with Valley Health/Warren Memorial Hospital to provide the county schools with an athletic trainer.

Ashley Leann Day, left, and Mary Presley of Valley Health Warren Memorial Hospital address the school board meeting.Robin Bolt
Ashley Leann Day, left, and Mary Presley of Valley Health Warren Memorial Hospital address the school board meeting.
The news surprised and delighted school board members, particularly Jackson district member Amy Hitt, who has been the most vocal proponent on the board for a trainer. (Minutes after the meeting, Hitt posted on her Facebook page: “FYI Rapp County Public Schools now has an athletic trainer . . . Beyond Happy!!!!”)

An athletic trainer position has been on the board’s wish list for at least four years, but past budget requests have placed the price tag for a full time trainer at more than $65,000, making it an easy-to-cut line item. With this new agreement, VH will provide a certified athletic trainer with a degree in the field for $7,000 a year, for a part-time position.  

“We are just thrilled.” said Matthews later by phone. “After our request for a trainer was cut from the budget last year, I told the board I would try to find a trainer part time but no one wanted a part time position. With this arrangement we will be contributing $7,000 to the cost of this trainer, who will be paid fully by Valley Health — including her health insurance and benefits. The only thing it will cost the county is $7,000. It’s a win-win.” Matthews signed the contract immediately following the school board meeting.

Joining Burley and Tupper in their presentation were Mary Presley, director of rehabilitation and wellness at Warren Memorial Hospital, and Ashley Leann Day, the new trainer. Presley told the board that in four days she had been able to rearrange staffing to make Day available.

In a later phone call, Presley said, “I was very happy when Brandon and Mike approached me with the opportunity to collaborate. I think we [at Valley Health] were just as excited about the idea as the board was.”   

Day reported to duty yesterday (Sept. 9) for the first middle school football game of the season. She will be on school property 3:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday for the school year’s three sports seasons to provide pre- and post-practice services and game consultations. She will also attend varsity, junior varsity, and Junior Panther (middle school) practices and home games and selected “high risk” athletic contests.

Certified by the National Athletic Trainers Association, and with a bachelor’s in athletic training and a master’s in education, Day’s main job will be to help prevent sports injuries. This includes recognizing, evaluating, and providing immediate care for injuries; assisting and advising on rehabilitation and conditioning after an injury; and providing health care administration and professional development.

Schools Facilities Director Jimmy Swindler, formerly the division’s athletic director, said that having an athletic trainer is “a very positive thing, a preventative, proactive measure.”

Burley agreed. “These days, concussions sustained during sports are a big concern,” he said. “Ashley can diagnose concussions and apply the five-day protocol for recovery and readiness to return to competition. She will have a say in whether a child can play or not.”

Besides praising Brandon and Tupper for their creative solution to finding a trainer, Swindler also praised VH, which he said has donated first aid and medical supplies to the Rappahannock County schools for the past four years. “Valley Health has been very generous to the schools. They have been a very good partner.”

John Lesinski, chairman of the school board, said later, “I’m ecstatic about this arrangement. The need for an athletic trainer is a health and safety issue for the kids. That’s why the topic keeps coming up. Having a trainer on staff is a quantum leap for us. Until now, Rappahannock schools were the only ones in the Bull Run District without a trainer.”

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