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DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION

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April 2024

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March 2024

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Celebrating Women's History Month with Regis University Athletic Training Staff

March is Women’s History Month - and as we draw this month to a close, the CATA DEI Committee would like to feature a few exceptional athletic trainers that we know and love. Regis University is a Division II college in Denver, Colorado that boasts an all-female athletic training staff. Please read about Taylor, Ana, and Kaylee who spoke to us about the month of March, role models in their lives, and the benefits of only having women on staff. 

Taylor Schlekeway, LAT, ATC – Graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training. She started her Master’s degree in Sports Administration at the University of New Mexico and worked as a Graduate Assistant for the cross country, track & field teams. Taylor came to Regis in 2021 and worked her way up from a part timer ATC to the Head Athletic Trainer. She is also going on my 15th year as a gymnastics coach!

Ana Smith, MS, LAT, ATC - Attended CU Denver, and received her Bachelor's of Science in Athletic Training at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She received her master's degree in Health Services Administration at Regis University while attending as a graduate assistant athletic trainer. Ana has been with Regis University since 2018, and has worked in the orthopedic setting with Dr. Caballes at Cornerstone Orthopedics during the Covid shut-downs.

Kaylee Copeland, LAT, ATC:  Graduated from George Fox University in 2018 with her Bachelor’s of Science in Athletic Training. After her time at George Fox, she worked with a physical therapy clinic that specialized in sports. In January 2021 when college sports started back up after COVID, she worked at Denver University. In August 2022, she started as a graduate assistant at Regis University. Kaylee was promoted from graduate assistant to an assistant athletic trainer in July 2023. She is currently finishing the last classes for a Master’s degree in healthcare administration.

1. What does Women's History Month mean to you?

Taylor: Women’s History Month is an opportunity to examine how far we have come in such a short period of time. Specifically, women in the field of athletics have made significant strides in their achievements which 50 years ago were close to impossible. Title IX was created in 1972, equal opportunity in sports is only 52 years old. Now we have amazing female athletes who are literally making history, cough, cough Caitlin Clark passing up Steph Curry’s single season 3-pointers made! In the field of Athletic Training we have started to push through the glass ceilings of leadership roles, but we have a long way to go with only 1.3% of head athletic trainers being female at the professional level (this is according to a study called Gender Diversity in Sports Medicine: Current Trends). Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate our accomplishments, but also realize we have so much more opportunity to continue to improve.

Ana: I see it as a time to reflect and honor the great achievements and barriers broken by women in history. It is also a time to acknowledge the obstacles we still face, and start up conversations and promote action in how to continue to strive for gender equity.

Kaylee: Women’s history month is a time to reflect on the accomplishments and the progress that has happened throughout time. Also, a time to reflect on how to grow and continue improving. There is always room for improvement, and women are excellent at capitalizing on improvement.  

2. Who has served as the biggest female inspiration in your life?

Taylor: It is far too hard to pick one female in my life that inspires me the most, as I have tried to surround myself with strong female relationships. My mom always taught me to speak my mind, instilled confidence, and made me who I am today. My co-workers Ana and Kaylee inspire me everyday to continuously improve as an athletic trainer, and my friends outside of work are the most uplifting and empowering group of women out there.

Ana: Although there are many well-known, powerful, female role models out there for me to be inspired from, I would say my greatest inspiration has come from my mom. Not to sound cliché, but my mom has done some incredible things in her life, and she has always been a silent achiever. I honestly do not think she even realizes the hurdles she has conquered, and the glass ceilings she has broken. She has raised 5 daughters, teachings all of us how to be strong women that stand up for ourselves and others, she has owned a successful business for 19 years, and people literally refer to her as "Saint Christie" due to her heart of gold and always being concerned of others.

Kaylee: The person that has the biggest female inspiration in my life is my dad. He had only girls and was also the only male in his immediate family. He showed me how women should be treated and valued. He also showed me that I can do anything that I want to do in life, no matter what.

3. What are the benefits of having an all-female athletic training staff at a D2 university?

Taylor: I have never worked with a more supportive, hard-working, and positive group of women in my life. I am so proud to be associated with Ana and Kaylee. The benefits of working with my all female staff is that we all have empathy and understanding of each other’s work life balance. We all know that female athletic trainers burn out of the profession faster than men because of the lack of work life balance. Specifically, the needs of new mothers, creating a family, and being able to stay afloat as an ATC. We work really hard to support each other at work and help each other out when its needed to avoid burn out. 

Ana: I've been blessed to have a great experience with most ATs I have worked with, both male and female. However, working on a team of an all-female staff, we can understand the hardships of being a female in this setting. These hardships have ranged from being questioned if I am a cheerleader when traveling with my all-male team, asked multiple times in a row by men at summer camps if I would give them a massage, being told I favor my male team because "I like the attention I am given by them", questioned if I am old enough to be doing my job, and even have had a strength coach with a professional sports team raise his concern to have female athletic trainers to be working with their male athletes - thinking that the group of female athletic trainers would be more interested in being around male athletes than actually doing our jobs as healthcare providers (insert HUGE eyeroll, and the clinical education coordinator of our athletic training program putting him in his place by pointing out his misogyny for that comment in front of all of his male colleagues). Having women to lean on who understand this experience/hardship can be very comforting and supportive. 

Kaylee: A benefit of having an all-female staff is that it feels like we are usually all on the same wavelength or think/do things very similar.

4. What are the disadvantages of having an all-female athletic training staff at a D2 university?

Taylor: I don’t feel like there are a lot of disadvantages of an all-female staff, I want to be clear we work with A LOT of amazing athletes and coaches. However, I have encountered a few people in my career who can treat women differently than men –I’ve been talked down to at times, questioned about our healthcare management decisions, and even spoken to in unprofessional ways. I cannot say whether or not this treatment is because we are women, or if its blamed on the culture of athletics in general (the idea that coaches are passionate, so they are allowed to yell at people). Either way, I know when we had Rory Grady as our Head ATC, I felt confident that his presence would deter that type of treatment. Since becoming the head myself I have had to become that person for Kaylee and Ana the best that I can.

Ana: Honestly, I feel like we gain the respect, report, and trust from our male athletes pretty quickly. I would say the hardest thing about us having an all-female staff is that we have to utilize our male sports performance coaches to help drug test male athletes when required. It's really not that hard of a challenge. One other challenge is when a male athlete is injured in a very private area. However, in most cases, a few questions can help determine if this issue is something that needs a visit to the emergency department, a referral to a physician, or self-care/a moment away from activity.

Kaylee: I can’t ask a male to help do an evaluation involving male parts.

5. What can athletic trainers do to celebrate women's history month?

Taylor: I can’t speak for other people, but we are going to be celebrating women’s history month with a few posts on our Instagram highlighting women’s history in sports and how far we’ve come, so stay tuned!

Ana: Our team is trying to highlight on our Instagram the impact women have had in athletics, obstacles they have had to overcome, and how women are athletics and have a huge presence in it! In our athletic training room, I have had conversations with my athletes to help promote women's healthcare. Specifically, I have been talking with my female athletes about how common urinary incontinence during athletics is, but women have a hard time talking about it and bringing awareness. And just because it is common, it should not be considered normal. That is why pelvic floor therapists are so important, and women understanding that it is more than just "Kegel exercises". This discussion then usually leads into conversations about other topics of women's healthcare, such as lack of pain management for certain procedures, to the first female test dummy being created for crash testing in cars, to healthcare disparities to women of color. I am in no way an expert in any of these topics. But I believe it is important to bring up and further discuss and educate ourselves on.

6. Do you do anything day to day to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in your athletic training room, or personal life?

Taylor: We try very hard to make sure everyone feels welcome and comfortable in the ATR no matter what their background is. We do not tolerate inappropriate behavior or language directed towards people due to their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, etc. On our Instagram we try to be conscious of representing the diversity of our athletes – (this is IF they want to be on it at all).

Ana: With my athletes, I always try to find something in common to bond over or discuss during our treatments/rehabs. If there is lack of commonality, then I try to learn something new about them, whether it is something to do with their hometown, favorite home cooked meal they miss being away from home or ask about their family to get the conversation started. If they are from another country, we can talk about things they find odd here in America, or talk about why they chose a school here, etc.. For the most part, it gives us something interesting to talk about, build report, or discover something new about my athlete to help me understand who they are.

7. What is your advice to young women pursuing athletic training as a career?

Taylor: Remember that you are a healthcare provider first and foremost, and you are the expert in the room when it comes to athletic injury. Be confident in your decisions, and do not let people who do not have a degree in the medical field sway your decision making. You will have to fight to earn people’s trust just starting out, but bring a caring and loving energy to every new interaction and it will go a long way.

Ana: Remember, you have been trained in the medical field. You know your stuff. If you need help, ask for it. Continue to educate yourself and expand your knowledge. But never let a person underestimate your medical opinion due to your gender/gender expression/age/race/religion/sexual orientation/etc.. And always set boundaries for yourself. This is a profession where it is easy to get sucked into it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Remember, you are a person too, and you need to have time away from work. Hours in your day when you're not attached to your phone because of athletes constantly texting you. And when in doubt, refer them out! It's okay to be unsure about an injury. You can't know everything, and you don't have x-ray/MRI vision.

Kaylee: Have passion for your career and continue to grow as an athletic trainer. Don’t let people push you around; know you’re worth.  

8. Do you have any female AT role models or mentors?

Ana: I had so many! I would say majority of my clinical instructors and preceptors were female. Jaimie Lemieux (Golden High School), Lindsay Anderson (Ralston Valley High School), Steph Begley (Metropolitan State University of Denver), Jenn Huseman (Metropolitan State University of Denver), Dr. Christine Odell (Metropolitan State University of Denver) and so much more! Always advocating for women in this profession, and pushing me to be the best clinician I can be. I also would say my coworkers Taylor and Kaylee, as well as many friends in this profession, have helped shaped and supported the AT that I am today.

Kaylee: Dana Bates, was the program director for the athletic training program that I went through at George Fox University. She was the teacher for most of my classes. She made a huge impact on how I retained information, as well as setting me up with the best clinical rotations for me personally. It led me to want to have a career in college athletics. Another is Julie Campbell who was the first women head athletic trainer that I had worked for in my career. During my time at Denver University, she proved that women can fit into any role in athletics.  

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