On Working Very Long Days…

So this past week I haven’t written much because last week I worked 65 hours! It’s the most I’ve done since about late May, and even then was just 2 days of 11–12 hours or so. I worked a volleyball camp that was 16 hours for 3 days in a row, the other two weren’t as bad but WOW. It was a lot.

The great news was that I got fed each meal, I got to practice managing a lot of different people, and it was the perfect type of practice because I had to make decisions and I was able to practice my taping jobs! However, there were some downsides. I got 5 hours of sleep each night, and my groin/psoas acted up again because I was sitting a lot — I was tired, and I didn’t sit that well because bleacher seats are great for that. So I can only blame myself. I also walked, or mostly speed-walked around 5 miles everyday going between the different gyms. Again, not a lot, but…after a very long time of NOT walking, it’s definitely rough.

I also got to spend a lot of time thinking about…stuff, in general. It’s a bit strange, as an athletic trainer, when one person needs you, all of a sudden everyone needs you. And then you will have about 2–3 hours where NOTHING happens. So you get a lot of time to spend with yourself and that can be difficult.

What kinds of lessons did I learn?

I practiced my taping! My ankle tapes are not the best…and I’m not sure how they’re going to work for football players, as volleyball and soccer are very different! (My favorite tape job works well for these two sports) But I got some good arch tape practice, and some patellar tendinopathy/wrist taping. That was wonderful. I haven’t consistently taped in over a year, now that I think about it. Working at a middle school and having an internship with a pro team doesn’t allow much for that. I didn’t even have to do it that much with wrestling! I still tape ankles and wrists the way I learned it from one of my favorite preceptors (almost 2 years ago now) and it’s seriously worked so well for me. I got to be creative in some instances as well and that was fun!

I got some more practice in communication. I had to explain injuries and pain to athletes (and parents at times). I may have gone overboard a few times because most of these kids don’t care, but on the off chance that they struggled with pain and understanding it, I wanted to give them some confidence. I also had to deal with some coaches who were more difficult. Some of them were great and very appreciative, but some of them didn’t seem to simply listen to me.

I learned about managing others, or at least managing the ATR when there’s a big group of people all needing things. Things like — who has a game coming up in half an hour vs. 2 hours? I’m great with managing my time when things flow smoothly, but when I’m bombarded with 800 things, that’s when it gets messy. So I had some great experience with that and I really enjoyed it.

I got to practice injury evaluations. Now, see, ankle sprains are pretty simple for me and I saw that most often over the week, but it was nice to go through full evals, ever since I got taught some new things at my internship last year. Active ROM, resisted ROM, passive ROM, palpation, then special tests. And rather than asking yes or no questions, I kept things open-ended. Can you describe the pain, can you tell me where it hurts, can you tell me what happened? Of course that doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it’s a really great place to start so you don’t put words or ideas into their minds.

I learned just how important it is to know your athletes and the way they behave in response to difficult situations. For example, how do they usually react to pain and injuries? A lot of emotion, or do they tend to bounce back quickly? I was simply working a tournament so I have never been around these kids before — I had to ask coaches and parents at times how they normally react to things, and that gave me an inkling of what I could have them do, along with my physical findings. For example, they may report a ton of pain, but if they have equal strength as well as negative special tests…what’s really going on? So I had to work through a lot of that and it was great to practice.

I’ve worked a whole bunch of different sports at this point, and I’ve learned to like every one of them, but all for very different, specific reasons. There are definitely things I dislike about them as well. For example, tennis is cool, but the scoring confuses me more than anything. Volleyball definitely caught my eye this time, though. It takes a lot of athleticism and coordination, not just with your own body, but your teammates. Spatial awareness is very important (knowing where your team and opponents are), and I like that the aggressiveness doesn’t come out in physical fights or anything — it comes in the way you attack the ball and make things really hard for your opponents. Also, how do they dive on the ground without much fear?? Insane.

Of course I don’t need to enjoy the sports that I work. I just like to see all the special things about each sport that makes it different from all the others. The techniques, the way coaches are, and how the high school, club, college and recruitment systems work, etc. Also, who do the athletes see as role models and how does that impact their lives and how they choose to be human? What are the mental/emotional challenges these specific types of athletes face

Finally, this is fun for me — what are special things about each sports regarding sports medicine? For example, in soccer, most athletes, no matter what position, use their feet the same way. Volleyball players, however, have multiple positions that use their hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders different. Some don’t even serve! What abilities do they need to possess? VB players need good triple extension, power, agility/lateral movement (more specific for some players). Some need immense wrist extension (setters), some don’t and you can definitely tape to prevent wrist extension. I learned that last week, for sure! They also need to make sure they are getting the right type of movement — sure you may have loads of shoulder flexion, but how does your trunk move with it? Are there any compensations? (In most…yes).

The long days are rough, but it’s definitely easier when I’m busy, if that makes sense. Whether I’m cleaning the tables, stacking tape, or even doing “busy work”, they’re nice distractions so I don’t get all in my own head about if I did this or that correctly. I’m slowly gaining my confidence and I am really glad I had the chance to work this camp to do that.

August is going to be very long days. I probably won’t have much time to write. But I have faith that I’ll work out at least 3 times a week because I know that if I don’t, my groin will hurt and THAT will not be great for football camp. I learned that. I also trust that I’ll find a good morning routine because that is seriously life-changing. Also, I get to see some of my best friends halfway through pre-season when they come out here for a road trip. It’s always the little things.

I’m so excited to dive into this new journey.

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Jen Xu

Jen Xu

Athletic trainer, coffee lover, looking for a hobby I don’t have time for. I write about fitness, mental health, being Asian-American, and personal growth.