AZ Rattlers bring in local students to help with team wellness
Shake, Rattle––and Don’t Roll Your Ankle!
By Alison Bailin Batz
Turns out, the five-time Arena Football League (AFL) Champion Arizona Rattlers have a secret weapon off the field––local students!
“Since 2006, the AZ Rattlers have partnered with Carrington College and its physical-therapy-technology program to offer students hands-on work with the team’s athletes both before and after games each season,” says Rattlers coach Kevin Guy. “I can say––without a doubt––their hard work has helped our team physically and mentally both on and off the field.”
Through the partnership, each Monday during the Rattlers regular March-to-August season, players visit the campus to obtain post-game athletic massages and stretching, usually focused on reducing inflammation and edema caused by the weekend’s games. Then, on each Thursday of the season, as many as 10 students at a time travel to the Rattlers’ training facility to focus on pregame therapies.
“We have students who also end up doing their full externship rotations with the club, meaning they perform 180 or more hours serving as sports-medicine interns assisting the head athletic trainer,” says Phil Schauer, director of the physical-therapy-technology program. “These students actively learn skills that will prepare them for a transition into a health care field including everything from ultrasound to electrical stimulation therapy to even therapeutic and preventative taping and cryotherapy.”
Students are prepared for this unique testing ground by first successfully entering the basic areas of study in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, human movement, and movement disorders.
“We are focused on providing a broad base of knowledge covering issues related to the muscles, bones, nerves, ligaments, and tendons,” Schauer says. He adds that there is nothing that compares to real-world experience like this.
“It’s funny—most celebrities and professional athletes look so much smaller when you see them in person,” says current student Matthew Zahradnik. “This is absolutely not the case with the Rattlers. Watching them on television just does not do them justice––they are bigger and stronger than you can imagine, not to mention absolutely fantastic to work with.”
Schauer credits the program for doing more than preparing students for the physical demands of the job—it teaches them soft skills including bedside manner, projecting maturity, and professionalism as well.
“What I hear most from employers is the need for health care professionals to have exceptional soft skills, which are not easy to teach and even tougher to demonstrate in a job application,” Schauer says. “Integrating on-the-job career coaching throughout the duration of the student life cycle makes all the difference. Not only does it provide a much-needed support system, it allows students time to build their confidence.”
Just as the Rattlers’ practices prepare the team for each Saturday’s match-up, the purpose of externship opportunities, aside from the opportunity to work in a similar type of partnership with the WNBA Phoenix Mercury, is to act as a “warm-up” before the big game of life for the students. It’s also a chance to learn from both one another and from mentors.
“With the Rattlers, you are working with athletes who’ve often come from the NFL or elite college football programs—being able to work with them rather than just on other students in the classroom still amazes me,” says Zahradnik, who notes that the students are huge fans and attend most Rattler games together, often finding themselves watching players for signs of what they may need help with come Monday.
Zahradnik says that in their world, the athletic trainers are as much the rock stars as the athletes.
“Right now, getting to watch the Rattlers’ head athletic trainer Sean McMannes and work with him at the facility each week is the chance of a lifetime,” Zahradnik says.
Among the notable returning Rattlers players causing a stir include:
- Reigning AFL MVP Nick Davila, the team’s quarterback, who set a single-season franchise record with 127 touchdown passes in 2014, the second-highest single-season total in AFL history
- Wide receiver Rod Windsor, who led the AFL with 44 receiving touchdowns in 2014
- Cornerback Marquis Floyd, who was selected to the First Team All-Arena Team in 2014
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