Written by Corbett Smith
DISD uses $3 million proposal to put athletic trainers, facilities on individual campuses
Skyline’s do-everything star Derrick Dixon suffered a high-ankle sprain in Zero Week against The Woodlands. In years past, he probably would have been lost for several weeks as he was nursed to recovery.
But, just two weeks after the injury, Dixon had recovered enough that coach Reginald Samples felt comfortable using him in a game if the situation demanded it, thanks in large part to the efforts of Skyline’s new athletic trainer, Cody Legg.
“Cody aggressively worked him out and got him to about 80 percent,” Samples said. “If it was a playoff game, I would have been able to play him.”
Legg was hired under a new Dallas ISD program aimed at placing an athletic trainer and a reasonably equipped training room at each of the district’s 23 high schools.
The additions are thanks to a $3 million proposal that DISD trustees approved in June for the 2013-14 budget. DISD head athletic trainer Phil Francis said he hopes to have 18 trainers in place by the end of October.
“We came back to work in the third week of July, getting ready for preseason football, and now, all of a sudden, we are hiring athletic trainers,” Francis said. “It’s been crazy, but it’s been really exciting, too.”
Samples called the move a huge step forward for DISD athletic programs.
Until this year, DISD headquartered its athletic training staff in satellite offices at five athletic complexes: Jesse Owens, Loos, P.C. Cobb, Forester and Sprague. It was an outdated system, Francis said, with Houston ISD the only large district in the state still using satellite training rooms.
Nearly all other districts in the area, in Classes 3A and larger, have at least one trainer on or near their high school campuses. Allen, for example, has two athletic trainers at its high school and one at its freshman campus. Class 3A Princeton has a full-time athletic trainer.
Under the old regime, those needing treatment would have to drive themselves or hitch a ride with parents, teammates or coaches to the satellite clinic — a hurdle to prompt and comprehensive treatment.
Availability was also an issue, Samples said. Until this year, Skyline — which uses the Forester clinic — shared its athletic trainers with Bryan Adams, Samuell, Seagoville, Spruce and Woodrow Wilson, as well as 10 middle schools.
“When it comes to playoff time, we can’t move guys through injuries,” Samples said. “The availability of getting one-on-one attention with our guys, it’s difficult. This helps us move our injuries along. We’ve been so far behind on that, it just kills us.”
The proposal came through grassroots efforts. The district’s Citizens Budget Review Commission — a committee largely composed of community members who make budget recommendations to the board — originally pitched the idea. Francis and DISD athletic director Jeff Johnson then put together a feasible plan as to its potential cost.
“We expected some kind of modification to it, some kind of amendment that would change the dynamics of it,” Francis said. “But to actually have them sign off on the whole document, it never occurred to us at all that it might happen.”
Overhauling an entire athletic training system has been a challenge for Francis and his staff. Facilities are one of the biggest concerns at this point, with several high schools struggling to fit gear such as tubs and ellipticals into retrofitted portable buildings and class rooms — some without water or drain access.
The district will maintain its satellite clinics, using them for diagnosis and long-term rehab, Francis said.
“We know that [the high schools] won’t be able to cover everything,” Francis said. “That’s why we didn’t want to dismantle what we already have in place, because it’s a huge asset to the school district.”
New Adamson trainer Amy Perez, hired from a co-head trainer role at North Garland, said while orders were placed, she didn’t expect a vast majority of her materials to come in until after the football season. Perez didn’t get on campus until Sept. 5, the week of Adamson’s second game.
“I have enough to do the basics,” Perez said. “I’ve got enough of a structure to build off of, but I still need to get supplies and equipment.”
Still, the excitement around the district — from administration to the new athletic trainers to coaching staffs — is obvious.
“When kids are going every other day to Cobb, it’s tough to do,” Adamson coach Josh Ragsdale said. “Now, when we look out there in the mornings, she [Perez] has got them rehabbing. It’s huge. The peace of mind as a head coach, that the kids are getting taken care of, that’s big.
“We get into this for the kids, and we know now they are on a little bit more level playing field like everyone around us.”
Follow Corbett Smith on Twitter at @corbettsmithDMN.