I used to wonder why I had to explain the profession to everyone who asked me “so what do you do?” since I had already done so many, many times, but reflecting it makes sense that the terminology of “Trainer” is still prevalent since many in the profession refer to us as “Trainers.”” Since there doesn’t seem to be a change in the Name of Athletic Training in the near future, we need to own up to our name! With television programs like the Biggest Loser, the term “Trainer” has become synonymous with personal trainers and other fitness professionals. We can no longer call ourselves “Trainer” if we want to be known as medical professionals. Athletes in professional sports refer to their “Trainers” as those who take care of their injuries. Who tells them what to say? I know of at least one professional sports organization which has signs in their Athletic Training Clinic that say “What happens in the Training room, stays in the Training room.” I have also seen many high schools utilize placards identifying “Training Rooms.” Both of these examples subtly undermine the advocacy efforts which every single Athletic Trainer participates in when they educate a stakeholder about the difference between an Athletic Trainer and a Trainer.
I want commend ESPN sports commentators like Erin Andrews for announcing individuals on live television as “Athletic Trainers” or “Athletic Training Staff” and not simply “Trainer” or “Training Staff.” I think many athletic trainers share the joy when someone gets it right, especially on national television. Social media can be a valuable tool to advocate for our name and demonstrate we are health professionals, if it is done RESPECTFULLY and POLITELY. Often times we want to jump to correct television personalities and don’t think about our approach. This can come off as disrespectful and undermined our efforts. A positive example of educating a television personality occurred a couple weeks ago when a colleague of mine in the Post-Professional Program here at ISU Tweeted to reporter Shelly Smith when we inadvertently used the term “Trainer” during a competition. My colleague’s tweet was: “For future reference, it’s Athletic Trainer. Trainers don’t get to make return to play calls. Athletic Trainers do. Thanks.” Three weeks later my colleague received a tweet back from Ms. Smith in which she stated “I said Athletic Trainers yesterday thanks to you!”
We need to continue to advocate for our profession, to our athletes, our coaches, to Athletic Training students, and to the general public: It’s Athletic Trainer, not Trainer.
-Nicolás Merritt, ATC, LAT