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Schuyler Community Schools and Columbus Community Hospital recently announced a partnership that will enhance the district's ability to provide complete athletic training services to its students.

Columbus Community Hospital for more than 15 years has given athletic training outreach services to the district, but now, the new partnership will enable a CCH athletic trainer to service the district on a full-time basis.

The new athletic trainer will primarily work with Schuyler Central High School and athletes participating in its 14 varsity sports programs, along with Schuyler Middle School and the district’s rural junior high school students.

With continual growth happening within the district throughout the course of the last decade, the ability to provide complete athletic training services hasn’t kept up, Schuyler Central High School Athletic Director Jim Kasik said during an exclusive sit-down interview with the Schuyler Sun announcing the partnership on March 1.

Simply put, tightening the budgetary belt has prevented the district from pulling the trigger on an athletic training hire.

The partnership with CCH is free for the district and should ultimately prove to be a real benefit, he said.

“We are one of the larger Class B schools, and I’m not aware of any other school that’s our size, or larger, that doesn’t have a full-time trainer,” Kasik said. “So, we felt that we were a little behind with the services because there are several schools smaller than us that either share a trainer or have those facilities and services available."

Under the current system, coaches and other staff members help with the necessary treatments of taping ankles, icing injuries and completing other various training-related tasks. Mike Sloap, the athletic trainer for Lakeview Community Schools, has also played a key role in providing care for Schuyler athletes.

“We have been very happy with Mike Sloap coming in and seeing our athletes, he has done just a great job,” Kasik said. “But as we grew as a district and continue to see growth, we wanted to explore the opportunities of extending that service. And (Rob Marshall with CCH) has been a great advocate for our school.”

The conversation regarding an extended partnership began long ago, Kasik said, noting that “the stars were never really aligned” to where it could happen. But in fall 2018, he said conversation really picked up and that led to the trigger ultimately being pulled.

In addition to the new partnership with Schuyler Community Schools, CCH representatives said that the organization has an athletic training presence at all three Columbus High Schools, Central Community College-Columbus and several other schools in areas surrounding Colfax County.

Marshall, who serves as program director for CCH’s athletic training department, said these services are vital in terms of student-athletes receiving the best treatment possible.

“The resources just weren’t there yet – certainly not on our side,” Marshall said of why it took so long to form the partnership. “We went to the hospital and said that there was an absolute need for Schuyler, and (they) have always been very supportive of our athletic medicine program.

“Jim (Kasik) and I talked and there was obviously a need from the school side of it and we were able to come together and make a great partnership for both organizations.”

The goal, Marshall said, is to have an athletic trainer placed and ready to roll by June 1. This will give that person the time to get acclimated with fall sports athletes heading into the school year, along with building ever-important bridges with several coaching staff members.

“Once we get (that person in), they will be there for all practices, for all game coverage – you are looking at a lot of evenings and most weekends throughout the school year,” Marshall said.

CHS President/CEO Mike Hansen said that the partnership is classified as a community benefit, enabling the hospital to provide the service at no expense to the district.

“That’s something we do as a community benefit, so we don’t get any money from the community,” he said. “So we provide the athletic trainers, sports medicine and then also a concussion clinic that we are developing and growing. We just feel like our mission is to improve the health of the communities, and we want to make sure the athletes in our region are safe and that they have good services available to them.”

The full-time trainer, Kasik added, is also expected to benefit from the help of some students who are looking to learn about athletic training and other medical-related fields. They inevitably will benefit from being around the new face in their building.

“I’m most excited – not only about the services we’ve talked about but the ability of our students who are looking into the medical field to do some shadowing, to see a person who works in that business,” he said. “And we have had students before who have gone off into the medical field, and I think that this will bring that awareness to even more students.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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