By TODD GOTTULA
KEARNEY – Scott Unruh is proud of the athletic training program at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
“Athletic health care, especially in rural public schools, is so important. We have UNK graduates who are movers and shakers in developing programs at schools all over Nebraska,” said Unruh, director of the university’s athletic training program.
He runs through the list of central Nebraska high schools with direct ties to UNK athletic training: Lexington, Kearney, Grand Island. “Those three are crown jewels of high school athletic training in the state,” he said.
Anselmo-Merna, Boone Central and McCook. Unruh’s list goes on and on.
“Look at the job market, and you see a vast amount of UNK athletic training students in collegiate, high school, clinic and hospital outreach programs,” said Unruh. “There is great need for athletic health care professionals, and UNK has helped fill that need for many years.”
In fall 2018, UNK will take a big step toward increasing its footprint in the field when it adds a Master of Athletic Training degree. It is the first graduate program added at UNK since it became part of the University of Nebraska system in 1991.
“This is going to increase opportunities and career options for our students” said Kazuma Akehi, assistant professor of kinesiology and sport sciences. “Once students finish our master’s program they will be ready to perform, provide health care and serve our communities.
“We are advancing academics at UNK to the next level,” added Akehi. “This will open doors to more scholarly activities, clinical experiences and academic opportunities for students and faculty.”
UNK’s undergraduate athletic training program has been in place since the 1960s, became accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education in 2002, and was first offered as a major in 2007. More than 60 students declare athletic training as major at UNK each year, and the program places about 80 percent of its students in jobs within one year of graduation, Unruh said. Last year every student who graduated and became credentialed gained employment.
The new Master of Athletic Training major will prepare students for employment in professional athletic training positions at universities, high schools, hospitals and clinics, with professional sports teams and others.
Affiliate agreements with regional high schools allow UNK students to put their classroom knowledge to practical use, Unruh said. At the same time, the high schools see a positive impact.
“Lexington High School has benefited greatly from our partnership with UNK,” said Lexington Head Athletic Trainer Amber Burson. “It pushes us as professionals to continue to keep our knowledge sharp to provide a quality environment for UNK students to practice their skills, and it helps our school provide a better quality of health care with their help.”
In addition to partnering high schools, UNK’s master’s program will offer students opportunities to work alongside various medical and allied medical professionals across the region, including many affiliated sports medicine, medical center and clinical sites.
“We are very blessed and have great relationships with all of those places. The key thing is we have professional people in those settings who do a really good job training our students within their structure,” Unruh says.
Students who enroll in the Master of Athletic Training program will have two separate avenues to complete the degree. They can complete a five-year undergraduate/graduate professional program, or a traditional post-baccalaureate two-year graduate program.
Upon completion of the academic curriculum and clinical experience, students are eligible to sit for the Board of Certification Examination.
“The hope is that more and more school districts in central Nebraska, and nationally, will see the need for athletic trainers in all high schools,” said Greg Limbach, head athletic trainer at Kearney High School. “UNK could be a leader in providing many of these prospective athletic trainers for those positions. I hope that the development of the Master’s in athletic training program helps make aware and educate the public on the importance of this profession.”
“I believe that the UNK Athletic Training Program is a step above every other program in the state at this time. I have had the pleasure of being associated with the program for the past 11 years and have always felt that the students that I get as interns are so well prepared to achieve success in the athletic training field. They are professional, well educated and highly motivated students who are excited to further their education in an internship setting. I highly recommend this athletic training program to any of my high school students.”
– Todd Goshorn, Head Athletic Trainer, Grand Island Senior High School
“Lexington High School has benefited greatly from our partnership with UNK. It pushes us as professionals to continue to keep our knowledge sharp to provide a quality environment for UNK students to practice their skills, and it helps our school provide a better quality of health care with their help.”
-Amber Burson, Head Athletic Trainer, Lexington High School
“The hope is that more and more school districts in central Nebraska, and nationally, will see the need for athletic trainers in all high schools. UNK could be a leader in providing many of these prospective athletic trainers for those positions. I hope that the development of the Master’s in athletic training program helps make aware and educate the public on the importance of this profession.”
– Greg Limbach, Head Athletic Trainer, Kearney High School