Jordan Dobson, left, and Molly Talbot, right, make blister pads to use when they tape ankles.
Jordan Dobson, left, and Molly Talbot, right, make blister pads to use when they tape ankles. (Tori Cummings)
As football practice ended Thursday morning, players flooded the training room to complete their post-workout regimens.

In the back corner, one player hopped into a giant metal tub filled with cool water to help his body relax after spending three hours in the heat. Over by the door, another football player sat on a training table as Cheyenne Ligon tethered a bag of ice to his knee with saran wrap using a giant lint roller.

Just two tables down, girls took turns making blister pads to use when taping player's ankles.

Madisyn Meacham found herself with one of the smellier jobs that particular day. Blake Bahl needed ice wrapped on his shoulder, so Meacham stepped up to the plate.

A newbie to athletic training, she tried to secure the ice bag while keeping an arm's-length away from Bahl's armpit, but at that distance she just couldn't get the leverage required to create a tight seal on the ice bag.

So head athletic trainer Tom Lewis, also known as Doc, got up close and personal with Bahl, showing Meacham how to wrap the ice bag and keep it from falling off.

“(Doc) has every trick and tip you would ever need,” Meacham said. “He is just always there when we need help.”

Meacham and 15 other girls will rely on Doc for guidance this year as they help take care of Graham athletes. However, these athletic trainers don't just work in the training room.

During two-a-day football practices, the trainers arrive around 6 a.m. for a 7 a.m. start to set up the fields with water stations, fill the water bottles, prepare Gatorade and tape ankles. During practice, the girls watch for injuries and vigilantly fill up the green Gatorade water bottles from a skinny white tube constantly spewing water out the top, propped up on a black Stanley sawhorse.

Then, they move to the training room for the post-practice rush.

Doc calls the athletic trainers his “eyes and ears” since he can't be at all the varsity, junior varsity and freshman football and volleyball practices. Each trainer rotates between football, volleyball, tennis and cross country during the fall, and basketball, softball, baseball and track during the spring to earn a varsity letter.

“There's a lot of times the football players or volleyball players will tell my girls something before they tell me,” Doc said. “Then they'll tattle on them basically. This is when tattling is good.”

But Doc doesn't just let anyone tape ankles, wrap shoulders, hand out water and tattle on their classmates.
Madisyn Meacham fills a water bottle during football practice.
Madisyn Meacham fills a water bottle during football practice. (Tori Cummings)
Each girl must take his sports medicine class, meet certain academic standards and have good standing with the school. Doc also interviews each candidate to determine whether or not they really want the job. 
Usually he has about 12 trainers, but this year he felt he had 16 that “fit the bill.”

After taking the class and making it through the selection process, the athletic trainers get hands-on training. Meacham is considered a level two trainer because she completed the class last year as a freshman. Olivia Ranft has worked her way up to level four as a senior.

Level two trainers like Meacham start out with basic tasks such as taping ankles and wrapping ice bags on shoulders and legs. The older girls, like Ranft, can work with injuries that involve open wounds. They also set an example for the younger girls.

“I love how the younger trainers look up to me and look up to the other girls as well,” Ranft said. “If they don't know how to do something, help will always be there for them.”

Read the entire story in Wednesday's Graham Leader.