West Point making do without athletic trainer


Adam Minichino



Chris Chambless already has a laundry list of things to do. 


Between fixing the nozzle for the machine the West Point High School football team uses to paint its field to organizing the squad's practices to overseeing the school's other athletic teams, Chambless has plenty of tasks to tackle on a daily basis. 


The veteran coach would prefer not to have to be a de facto athletic trainer. 


But that's the role Chambless and the rest of his assistant football coaches are in this season as West Point goes through practices and games without an athletic trainer. 


"We have reached out to several people and nobody had seemed interested in helping us out," Chambless said. "Magnolia (Outpatient) Rehab and Keith Holton have been looking for somebody for me. I talked to David Ruffin at OCH and they are actively looking and are very interested. In fact, I talked to David Ruffin this morning. They are testing the waters with us and hopefully within time we can work something out." 


West Point and Victory Christian Academy are the only schools in the Golden Triangle that don't have an athletic trainer at their practices and games. VCA coach Chris Hamm said his team's scorekeeper is an EMT, or Emergency Medical Technician, and that individual helps them address any medical issues that come up on game days. 


The absence of an athletic trainer at West Point High comes after Encore Rehabilitation, Inc., which has an office in West Point, lost its athletic trainer, Gil Cochran, to another job. Patrick Thompson, a doctor of physical therapy in the West Point office, said the company couldn't come to terms with West Point High and decided not to provide an athletic trainer to the school. 


Thompson, who graduated from West Point High in 2004, said the decision was "more of a financial thing" because Encore covers the costs of paying an athletic trainer and he said the company "wasn't getting anything in return." He said it is "pretty unusual" for West Point, which is in Class 5A -- the second-largest classification in the Mississippi High School Activities Association -- not to have an athletic trainer for its football games and the rest of its sports teams. 


David Ruffin, an athletic trainer at Oktibbeha County Hospital (OCH) Regional Medical Center, said most high schools depend on clinics and hospitals to provide athletic trainers as a service because there are only a few schools that employ athletic trainers. He said it isn't unusual for schools not to have athletic trainers at their games, even though he said most bigger schools do have somebody for their Friday night games. 


Ruffin said Oktibbeha County Hospital (OCH) Regional Medical Center services four schools -- Starkville High, Starkville Academy, Louisville, and Choctaw County -- full time. He said it uses a fifth athletic trainer as a floater to work between Noxubee County, Hebron Christian, and Ethel. 


Ruffin said Thursday he has talked with Chambless about the possibility of Oktibbeha County Hospital (OCH) Regional Medical Center, which has serviced West Point High with an athletic trainer in the past, working with the school again. 


The lack of athletic trainer also affects West Point's other fall sports and student-athletes preparing for their winter and spring seasons. Chambless said it is the first time in 24 years he has seen the football team he is associated with be without a trainer at its practices and its games. 


"It has been chaotic, especially in these days and times," Chambless said. "You have to change your routine and the way you do things. Sometimes that is not always what is best for your program, but you have to do the best for the situation you're thrown in." 


Since December 2017, Chambless and the school's coaches have been picking up the slack and providing as much athletic training assistance as possible. 


"Our coaches have done a really good job trying to pick up the slack of the medical trainers," Chambless said. "We know CPR. We know how to use an AED (an automated external defibrillator, which is used to help those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest). We have had a little training in first aid." 


But Chambless said people don't realize athletic trainers do much more than just tape ankles. He said those individuals diagnose, treat, and work with student-athletes through rehabilitation. He said they also serve as liaisons between the doctors and the families of the student-athletes. 


"It is like having another coach out there," Chambless said. "They become part of the family." 


Chambless said West Point High worked with trainers Oktibbeha County Hospital (OCH) Regional Medical Center up until 2006-2008 when it switched to Encore. He said the size of West Point High meant an athletic trainer was assigned to the school every day to be on hand in case there were injuries at practices or games. Now, though, Chambless said West Point is relying on athletic trainers from other schools at games and its coaches do their best to look after the health of the student-athletes. 


"It pulls on your heart strings a little bit," Chambless said. 


Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor


Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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