RIPLEY – The Ripley High School Athletic Training program provides its students with invaluable experience, both in the classroom and on the playing field.  But it also provides its students with a path to a career, both in high school and beyond. 

Former Ripley AT student and current University of Charleston Athletic Training major Erica Gibson is one such example of that career path. 

Gibson, a 2014 Ripley High graduate, is spending the 2016 football season assisting Ripley Athletic Trainer Steve Lough and his staff of student-trainers as a part of her continuing education.  For Gibson, the Ripley AT program not only started her on the athletic training path, but continues to enrich her with hands-on experience in the field.

“I’m an athletic training major,” Gibson said earlier this season, “We do a lot with the sports teams, so we have a certain amount of clinical hours we have to get.  I’ve participated in sports my whole life, but when I was [at Ripley] I thought it was definitely something that I could do and made it seem more fun.”

Gibson is among the latest Ripley AT program alumni that has moved on to the “next level” of athletic training.  Like any endeavor, one of the marks of success of a program is the number of those that take the lessons learned and apply them going forward.  When Lough began utilizing student-trainers six years ago, which allowed the program to flourish and reach the level it has today. 

Gibson, along with this year’s crop of student-trainers–seniors Allie Hamilton, Brooklyn Hively, Olivia Ludtman, Laurel Miller and Allison Phillips–have spent countless hours on the various athletic fields tending to the needs of the numerous Ripley High athletes.  

It’s a demanding task, to be sure, but one that goes a long way in providing its students with the necessary tools and real-world experience that can put them on a track toward the athletic training profession.

“The biggest thing is when we have students that come through our program here and their excitement with athletic training and they want to go on into the profession, it makes us feel a lot better,” Lough said, “It is a very long and tiring profession. You have to be accepted into programs.  They only accept 12 to 15 into the program at UC and myself being a preceptor for them as a clinician, it is a real benefit for [the students].”

While the Ripley AT program provided students like Gibson with the opportunity to further their interest in athletic training, it’s the actual hands-on experience it provides that really drives home the reality of being an athletic trainer.

“I definitely got to be a pro at making Gatordade,” Gibson said with a laugh, “Soccer games were really fun.  I couldn’t work football games in high school because I was a band member, so I worked soccer games with Mr. Lough.  The whole, overall aspect of it was nice. They were my classmates, but then I also got to help them and see how they did with their sport.”

With a solid track in place, the hope now is that examples like Gibson will continue to provide an illustration of life after the Ripley AT program.  As far as Lough is concerned, getting them to the next level is a welcome byproduct of the time spent in the program.

“Who wants to continue on is the biggest thing,” Lough said, “I get to see these kids progress and enjoy the program as much as I do.  I think with the Athletic Training 1 class, which is a junior level class, it gives them the basic information about the medical field.  As they go on, it gets more in-depth as to what it’s like to be a trainer.  Then by the time they’re seniors, they go through what it’s like at the college level: they go through an interview process, an application process and so on.  With some students, they want to become chiropractors or phsyical therapists.  This is a great way to start it and they have the hours to do that.”