By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Denise Marshall calls athletic trainers the “unknown heroes”.
These professionals are an integral part of health care, but are rarely in the spotlight.
“It’s important to highlight our profession whenever we get the chance,” said Marshall, who serves as president of the Nebraska State Athletic Trainers’ Association (NSATA), an organization with more than 450 members.
A collaborative project between the University of Nebraska at Kearney and NSATA ensures that this profession receives the recognition it deserves.
Dozens of people gathered Saturday at the UNK Health and Sports Center for the ribbon cutting ceremony and dedication of the new NSATA Hall of Fame exhibit located along the building’s main corridor. Hall of fame members and their families were also introduced during the home volleyball match against Missouri Western State.
“Having a home for the Hall of Fame has been a vision for NSATA for many years. Seeing it come to life is absolutely amazing, ”said Marshall, who works at Columbus Community Hospital and provides athletic training services for Central Community College-Columbus and several high schools in the area.
The NSATA Hall of Fame inducted its first members in 1997, but there has never been a physical performance in honor of these individuals. Last year, UNK was chosen as the home of the Hall of Fame.
“UNK has been very supportive of NSATA and the athletic trainer profession for many years,” said Marshall. “It just felt like the right place to be.”
The new exhibition features plaques recognizing 22 Hall of Fame nominees to date, including UNK graduates Danielle Kleber, Aaron Madsen, Charles Limbach, Douglas Long, Craig Holz and Kathy English, who have also served as faculty member and preparer athletic in college.
“We are proud of the long tradition of athletic training at UNK. Many people across the state working in the profession are UNK graduates, “said Scott Unruh, professor of athletic training, assistant principal at UNK College of Education and a member of NSATA.” It is exciting for us to be able to host the Hall of Fame and further promote this profession “.
Launched in the 1960s, UNK has one of the longest running athletic training programs in the state. The program was accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education in 2002 and was first offered as a major in 2007.
UNK currently offers a professional graduate program in Master of Athletic Training, as well as an athletic training course for undergraduates. Students can complete both undergraduate and graduate degrees in just five years through a 3 + 2 structure or enroll in a traditional two-year postgraduate degree program.
The program prepares students for employment in athletic training positions with high schools, colleges and universities, professional sports teams, hospitals and clinics, and more.
“The athletic training profession has grown over the years, expanding from universities and high schools to clinics, military and industrial workplaces,” Marshall said. “Members of the NSATA Hall of Fame guided us through the ever-evolving licensing and healthcare acquisition, and ultimately laid the foundation for athletic trainers in the state of Nebraska to better serve their patients.”
The next NSATA Hall of Fame class will be introduced in June 2024.