The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, November 5, 1996

Public schools all need
an athletic trainer

YOU didn't hear any legislative candidate talk about it.

But it's an urgent health and safety concern for Hawaii's public high school student-athletes that should no longer be ignored.

It's the need for at least one full-time nationally certified athletic trainer in each of the state's high schools.

If the next Legislature decides to allot one to each school, that will be decent and humane.

Anything less will perpetuate a flagrantly irresponsible attitude toward the welfare of our young athletes.

Budget constraints, you say?

Sorry, but I can't see beyond the compelling image of a sobbing, panic-stricken teen-age athlete lying motionless on a practice field or court, uttering these words, "Coach, I can't move."

Somehow the image overwhelms any argument about budget constraints.

Did you know that most athletic injuries occur at practice? Our young athletes practice five times as often as they play in regulation games.

That would seem to quintuple the state's liability. Budget constraints, huh?

Nationally certified trainers have more medical know-how than the most qualified coaches. They can make unemotional decisions about an athlete's physical ability to continue in a game - decisions that coaches sometimes find difficult to make under game pressures.

In short, the trainer lifts a major yoke from a coach's shoulders and ensures an athlete's security.

During his term as Oahu Interscholastic Association executive secretary, Hugh Yoshida said he couldn't convince the Legislature to give his schools trainers. In a 1987 story in this newspaper, he said, "I assume it's because ... the Department (of Education) doesn't have enough funds."

That excuse could cover any issue from here to eternity.

Like, when will the legislature have funds?

Four years ago, after an unprecedented lobbying effort by former University of Hawaii Athletic Training Education program director Bart Buxton and high school athletic officials such as then-Kaimuki athletic director Dwight Toyama, the Legislature finally broke down.

God bless 'em.

THE solons threw out a bone to the schools with a few shreds of meat still attached.

They called it a "pilot program" and allotted just enough bucks to cover 10 full-time trainers to be scattered throughout the state.

The plan was to add five more trainers each year if the program was successful.

Surprise! The program was a raving success.

Those trainers were spread pretty thin and they found they had more work than they could handle.

The program got five more trainers the next year but that was it. The Legislature hasn't budged on expanded funding for two years.

"Our fear is that it will take a death to open things up," a respected local trainer said.

There are 22 high schools still without any full-time nationally certified trainers.

There are at least 12 people with those qualifications still working jobs around the UH campus. More will graduate next year. Why can't they be looking after our athletes?

Toyama, recently installed as Hawaii High School Athletic Association executive director, said he won't give up on expanding the trainer program. He ought to have legions of support.

Budget constraints will always be there. A student-athlete's right to compete safely is a much more compelling concern.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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