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Wayne Barger has decided he is hanging up his kit after 22 years as the Head Athletic Trainer at Fort Lewis College (FLC) in Durango, Colorado.  In addition to his position as the Head Athletic Trainer, Wayne has served as an instructor in the department of exercise science and the athletic training education program.  In 2012, Wayne added the title of Assistant Athletic Director for Development, spearheading the department’s fundraising and corporate sponsorship efforts, all the while maintaining his position and duties as Head Athletic Trainer.  Additionally, Wayne was instrumental in the establishment of an accredited athletic training education program at FLC, the second in Colorado at the time of initial accreditation.  Prior to assuming his role in Durango, Wayne worked at his alma mater, the University of New Mexico, for ten years as an athletic trainer and instructor.

Throughout his career, Wayne has served thousands of athletes, taught and mentored hundreds of students, and continually given back to athletic training through service to professional organizations.  He has held the positions of secretary and treasurer for the New Mexico Athletic Trainers’ Association.  Wayne served as the exhibit coordinator, a convention committee member, university and college athletic training committee chairperson, president, and is currently the hall of fame subcommittee chairperson for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Trainers’ Association (RMATA).  Wayne was an exam administrator for the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Board of Certification, as well as a member of the Impaired Practitioner Taskforce.  Wayne helped found, and has served on the board of directors for the Rocky Mountain Sports Medicine Foundation, an organization that has helped significantly enhance athletic training and sports medicine care in the Durango area and four corners region.

Barger has also served as an athletic trainer at the international level, working the US Olympic Festival in San Antonio, Texas as an athletic trainer for basketball and track in 1993.  Wayne has twice traveled with the US Junior National Basketball Team, in 1994 to Argentina, and in 1999 to Portugal.  Finally, Wayne served as the athletic trainer for the US Field Hockey team in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia.

While Wayne Barger preferred to fly under the radar, his service and commitment to his profession did not go unrecognized, as Wayne has received numerous honors and awards throughout his career.  Wayne was awarded the Outstanding Service Award from the New Mexico Athletic Trainers’ Association in 1996.  In 1999, Wayne was the recipient of the Fort Lewis College Director of Athletics Appreciation Award.  The Rocky Mountain Athletic Trainers’ Association honored Wayne with the Distinguished Athletic Trainer Award in 2003, and inducted him into their hall of fame in 2011.  Another major award came in 2015, when Wayne was inducted into the Colorado Athletic Trainers’ Association (CATA) hall of fame.

When asked now previous students, co-workers, friends, and colleagues would describe Wayne, everyone seemed to echo nothing but positivity. Responses ranged from hard worker, honest, professional, compassionate, loyal, encouraging, supportive, caring, charismatic, dedicated, impactful, tireless worker, life-long-learner, trend-setter, awesome, extraordinary, and simply, the best! 

When asked about how Wayne has affected lives and career of his peers in the field of athletic training, again, nothing but positive responses given.  Megan Powell, one of Wayne’s current co-workers, notes Wayne always pushing her to grow.  Don Watt, a longtime colleague of Wayne’s will remember Wayne’s sense of humor.   Shannon Courtney will remember his welcoming smile and laugh.  Longtime FLC team physician, Dr. Rich Lawton remembers Wayne always trying to do the right thing for the athletes under his care.  Adam Halpern, treasurer of the RMATA, acknowledged Wayne’s leadership and direction as the president of the RMATA. Steve Antonopoulos, long-time athletic trainer for the Denver Broncos, remembers Wayne having fun and enjoying communicating with people.   Bruce Kola, long time retired athletic trainer for Colorado College, will remember his ability to professionally problem solve in any situation the most.   John Jewell, a former student, and a current co-worker remembers Wayne is there- for me, for you, for everyone- that’s just who he is.  Finally, Jim Keller, owner of Next Level Sports Performance, and current CATA president, will remember Wayne’s honesty and humility.

Wayne’s impact on the field of athletic training has been immense.  His work ethic and dedication to his career were immeasurable.  According to Watt, Wayne was a great leader of students and peers.  Andy Vanous stated, “Wayne’s impact for me is immeasurable.  He is the reason I, and many others, chose the profession we did.  He was, and continues to be, an incredible mentor, teacher, and friend.”  Dr. Lawton said Wayne gave very honest exposure and education to the students and staff with regard to the profession.  Yvette Gallegos, a former student and current colleague stated “his biggest impact on athletic training was teaching so many of us to love what we do as much as he did!”  Janine Pleau, a former student and current colleague said she would not be in this profession if it weren’t for Wayne, and expressed thanks for molding her into the professional she is.  Shannon Courtney commented on Wayne’s amazing ability to connect with people, whether colleagues, athletes, or students.  Lotito stated, referencing his work with educating students, “Wayne has touched our future in ways that we cannot put into words.”  Mathewson echoed a similar sentiment, “he has taught students about how to SERVE the athletes.  That our job is to TAKE CARE OF PEOPLE.”  Antonopulos describes Wayne’s impact through his leadership. “Wayne has been a leader in our field at every level.  It is refreshing to pick his brain.”  Bruce Kola noted Wayne is an exceptional educator who has an ability to impart professional work ethic into his students and staff.  David Bruzzese, a longtime hospital administrator who has worked closely with Wayne commented about his advocacy for the profession and educating many athletic trainers who are in the field, caring for athletes.  Jewell notes Wayne being a resource and always taking time to talk to people, even when he didn’t really have time to do so.  Finally, Don Mundell, a long-time colleague of Wayne’s recognized his always going the extra mile to support and advance the field of athletic training.

Another theme prevalent when asking people about Wayne was that he always made time to have fun and enjoy life too- he played as hard as he worked when time allowed him to do so.  One of his favorite sayings was “May is just around the corner,” which implied the school-year was ending and Wayne would get to enjoy time away from work.  Wayne enjoys rafting, fly-fishing, and spending time with friends and family.  As he transitions out of his day-to-day life as an athletic trainer at Fort Lewis College, hopefully Wayne will have more time to enjoy all of these things and more.  One thing is for sure- after countless hours spent dedicated to a profession, students, and athletes he loved, Wayne Barger deserves time to enjoy life.  Although Wayne is retiring, his legacy and impact on athletic training will continue to live on through everyone he has touched throughout his illustrious career.  Mr. Barger is also a member of the RMATA Hall of Fame, please click on the link below to see his profile.

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