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Athletic training major offers students hands-on experience with sports teams

Miami's athletic training major gives students meaningful career experience with Miami athletics before graduation.

Students within the program work a with specific varsity or club sports team each semester. The students assist with medical treatment during sporting events, and also offer preventive and rehabilitative care.

"How do you really learn how to ride a bike? You ride a bike," Brooks said, referring to athletic training students' opportunities to learn skills by working directly with athletes.

Program director Eric Brooks said that this hands-on experience makes the major unique. He compared the students' training experience to riding a bike.

Students within the major have the opportunity to complete a Board Certification exam during the second semester of their senior year. When they pass the exam, students are eligible to work as athletic trainers at the high school or collegiate level.

"A lot of [graduated] students come back and join the staff here [at Miami]," Brooks said.

Athletic training programs across the country, including Miami, are currently transitioning to a combined master's and bachelor's program. By 2025, Miami expects to implement this change, which will require students to complete three years of undergrad general education classes and science credits before officially beginning the two year athletic training program.

"[The program] lets them get the basic sciences, then the athletic training degree," Brooks said.

Junior Kendra Willhoite started as a kinesiology major, but added an athletic training major at the end of her freshman year.

"I enjoyed the medical atmosphere and the medical opportunities [the athletic training program] offered," Willhoite said.

Each semester, the athletic training students are assigned their specific "rotation," meaning the athletic team they are assigned to assist. Willhoite is currently working with the men's baseball team. During past semesters she worked with the women's soccer team, as well as track and field. She attends all the practices her schedule allows, and travels with certain teams.

After graduation, Willhoite plans on attending optometry school to specialize in sports vision. Although this is an unique career aspiration compared to fellow athletic training majors, she said that her experience working with athletes "gives [her] an advantage going into professional school."

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This advantage extends beyond hands-on experience with athletes. The athletic training program currently consists of roughly 30 students, creating a close community.

"[We have become] a little family," Wilhoite said.

Despite the intense time commitment to class and attending practices, Willhoite said that being a part of the athletic training program is worthwhile.