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History of Athletic Training at EKU (Part 1) - The Early Years

First mention of a "trainer" at EKU in a 1933 Eastern Progress

*Disclaimer: the use of the term “trainer” in this article is not endorsed by the author, EKU, the NATA, BOC, or the CAATE. Use within this article is only in deference to the historical context.

The term “athletic trainer” was not used in written publication at EKU until 2001. Prior to that, the designation of “trainer” was commonly used and it described professionals with varied backgrounds, roles and responsibilities within the University.  The earliest record of a trainer at EKU dates back to a 1933 Eastern Progress caption of a “varsity grid squad” picture.1

The term “trainer” was first used to describe a student, who did some of the hands-on work of athletic training: taping, injury evaluation and management. As medical science and the profession has grown, the professional expectations of trainers did as well, however, there were no professional guidelines during the early years. It is unlikely that the responsibilities included physical conditioning of the teams as this was often the coaches’ responsibility2, however, all other medical, sometimes administrative, and “as assigned” tasks were fair game.  Students often started "on-the-job" training in the early freshman to sophomore years. They learned under "trainers" with more experience and then worked up the ranks to cover individual sports as an upperclassman.3 As the profession started gaining exposure as an essential aspect to a team's success, more formal educational opportunities began to form. These included chances to go to summer camps that taught skills and foundational knowledge and seminars.

When a student wasn't available to fill the role of "trainer", coaches would often step into this role. This would be in addition to their other duties, which generally included teaching classes as well as training and conditioning.


1(November, 1933). Maroons are to Battle Pioneers. Eastern Progress, 12(3)
2Murray, K. (2018). Personal Interview, Oral Communication.
3(October, 1942). Eastern Progress, 21(2), 3.

Contact Information

Matthew J Sabin

Published on June 04, 2018

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