Times Sports Editor
Athletes that have competed at any level, from the early stages of youth leagues all the way to the professional ranks, have inevitably suffered the strains, bruises and tears that go along with pushing the limits of the human body. Maintaining and treating those injuries often falls on the shoulders of the individual athletes unless they have the benefit of regular medical treatment and advice.
Northview High School has maintained a working relationship with St. Vincent Clay Hospital for several years and the school has had the services of a full-time athletic trainer, Nicole Gonzales.
Gonzales, who has been at Northview High School for seven years, is a 2003 graduate of the University of Evansville. After Evansville, Gonzales moved on to Indiana State University where she attended graduate school before working as a graduate assistant at Terre Haute South Vigo High School.
Gonzales is actually employed through St. Vincent Clay Hospital and enjoys the relationship she has with the healthcare facility and the work she gets to do for them.
"In 2005 I was hired by St. Vincent Clay Hospital and have been employed by them ever since. I enjoy being employed by St. Vincent's because I get to participate in various health fairs in the community," Gonzales said. "I've organized and instructed a student athletic trainer summer course, and I've gotten to go to various other St. Vincent-sponsored events throughout the years."
While Gonzales is employed through St. Vincent Clay, much of her time is spent at Northview High School working with the athletes to prevent and care for injuries. She also is responsible for providing care to opposing teams/athletes that might require it before and during games.
"As an athletic trainer I try to help athletes prevent injuries first, so we work on stretching, proper lifting techniques, and conditioning. However when this fails and they get injured I'm here to be someone they can come to and get their injury evaluated," Gonzales said. "I try to be someone that they trust, and give them well-educated advice as to what to do next. I also like being with the athletes through their recoveries and seeing when all of their hard work pays off and they can play again!"
On game day, if the Knights are playing host to a single event or on certain evenings, a whirlwind slate that might include, for example, home track and field, softball, baseball and tennis matches going on simultaneously, Gonzales keeps a vigilant eye on all of the events.
On a typical evening, she'll get ice and water for both the home and away teams an hour prior to the events and then tape and stretch athletes. Once the opposing teams arrive, Gonzales is on hand to see if the squad needs any extra maintenance.
Northview volleyball and baseball coach, Scott McDonald, has worked with Gonzales since her arrival and feels that her role is integral to the teams' success on the diamond and on the court.
"As an athlete, the role of the athletic trainer is critical to the success of the athlete, and more importantly the maintenance of health. Nicole is absolutely vital to the success of both of my programs," McDonald said. "In volleyball, we deal with a lot of sore knees, ankles and shoulders. In baseball, the primary issue is arms with the amount of stress that the arms of baseball players have to put up with. Nicole is so important to Northview athletics given the critical importance of our athletes' health. I have never, nor would I ever, question her diagnosis of injury and when she is satisfied that they can return. I do not know what we would do without her as our Athletic Trainer.
McDonald was also quick to point out the important role that St. Vincent Clay Hospital plays.
"Working with St. Vincent Clay Hospital is amazing given the connection Nicole has to the hospital. She has been able to get information from the doctor's that have dealt with the more serious injuries that Nicole has dealt with," McDonald said. "Jerry Laue and Andrea Baysinger have worked extremely hard to provide us with a trainer, who I consider the best athletic trainer that I have worked with in nearly 25 years of athletics."
Another benefit of the school's relationship with the hospital comes into play in the unfortunate cases of potentially more serious injuries that might require surgery. Twice a week, several different doctors that work with Ortho Indy, are on hand at St. Vincent Clay and available for consultation.
After seven years at the high school Gonzales has spent a great deal of time with most athletes from their arrival on campus as freshmen to the moment they walk across the stage for graduation. Just a few moments in her training office tells you that Gonzalez cares a great deal for the kids she works with as photos adorn the wall from graduates playing collegiately, professionally and those who have joined the military. Other athletes have signed the walls in the room that many spent quite a few hours getting ready to compete.
McDonald agreed that Gonzales develops a relationship with the athletes that aids her in providing the treatment that they need.
"Nicole is absolutely wonderful with the kids. She has a tremendous rapport with nearly every athlete, given that she doesn't get the opportunity to work with every one of them," McDonald said. "It is without question, essential that she has worked with so many of the athletes during their entire career. Nicole has the knowledge necessary to understand each athlete's history in every sport. In knowing this, she can design rehab programs that improve that weakened area and return the athlete back to competition.
"Nicole is truly concerned about the well-being of every one of her athletes and places their health above everything else," McDonald continued. "When you look at the number of athletes that she deals with and the manner in which she provides them services, the people of this community owe her a tremendous thank you."