Jackson Herald reporter Ben Munro talks with Jefferson athletic trainer Caroline Hicks about the rewards of helping athletes return to the playing field, diagnosing injuries she sees during games on TV and playing games of H.O.R.S.E. against Jefferson basketball players.
Munro: It seems like a lot of people who enter sports medicine and athletic training do so because they experienced some type of injury while playing sports. Is that what inspired you to pursue the line or work or do you have a different story?
Hicks: Mine was because I knew I wanted to do something in the medical field, but my love for sports kind of meshed with that, so athletic training was perfect because it had the medicine world into the sports world at the same time, and it allowed me to be in that environment.
Munro: How long have you worked in sports medicine?
Hicks: This will be my fourth year at Jefferson.
Munro: Can it be tough sometimes to go out and tend to the athletes when they’ve had injuries because you know them so well and you know it might not be good news?
Hicks: It’s definitely tough. It’s one of the downsides to the job. But you just have to have their back and assure them that we’re going to do everything we can to get them back to where they go. But you have that relationship with them, and it’s always tough to deliver the bad news.
Munro: Are there ever times, unfortunately, when you can hardly keep up with what’s going on in a game because you’re so busy tending to injuries and ailments?
Hicks: Sometimes it gets a little overwhelming, but luckily this year our injury rate has gone down a little bit. It’s been a little bit calmer this year, but the coaching staff, they do a great job of helping me work through that, and they help me with delegating where everybody needs to go.
Munro: How rewarding is it to see an athlete work his or her way back to the field and kind of helping in that process all along?
Hicks: It’s definitely one of the top parts of the job. They have this bad, traumatic injury, but then they work so hard through it. I learn from them as much as they learn from me about perseverance and just coming back from that tough situation they were put in. It shows a lot of their character. It’s one of the best things to see them go out there and make a big play after a big injury and get back to what they love.
Munro: Do family members or friends ever seek free advice, like ‘Oh, I’ve got Achilles tendonitis. What can I do about it?’”
Hicks: (laughs) All of the time. A lot of the community, family members for sure, anybody who really has anything, they come in at any time.
Munro: You played multiple sports during high school at East Jackson, correct?
Munro: What was the highlight of your athletic career?
Hicks: There’s a lot, but one for sure was senior year beating Jackson County for the first time in basketball. That was pretty big. We were the first group to do that, so that was really big. That’s probably one of the biggest things that stands out. Just that rivalry and it being such a fun atmosphere.
Munro: Do you ever get to show off the basketball skills to coach (Greg) Brown and the Lady Dragons these days?
Hicks: Sometimes in the open gym, like (Jefferson guard) Livi Blackstock will definitely challenge me to a game of H.O.R.S.E. The girls and boys like to do that a little bit. It’s pretty fun, but as far as practice, I let them handle that. I try to stay out of it.
Munro: Who wins the games of H.O.R.S.E.?
Hicks: Livi most of the time, but I’ll say 50-50 right now.
Munro: Do you ever get any good-natured ribbing from the East Jackson folks for working at a rival school in the county?
Hicks: Yeah, it’s pretty funny. When we start to play East Jackson in stuff, I’ll get it from both sides. Jefferson will give me a little bit of a hard time for being from there, and then East, if I go back for those events, they tend to give me a little bit of a hard time … But it’s always in good fun, and it’s always in a joking manner. I love both sides of it, from East and from Jefferson.
Munro: OK, random question. I’m always interested in people’s musical tastes, so I’ll ask, when you’re on your way to Jefferson Memorial Stadium, what’s playing in the car?
Hicks: Early 2000s, 90’s soft rock, pop and stuff like that.
Munro: Any bands you want to throw out there?
Hicks: Any type of 90s band is really it — 90s, 2000s.
Munro: What’s the best show you ever went to?
Hicks: American Aquarium is probably one of my favorite bands. They’re a small band from Raleigh, N.C.
Munro: What are your favorite sports to follow when you’re away from the world of high school sports?
Hicks: Definitely anything with the ‘Dawgs. Georgia sports in general. I try to go to as many of their events as I can. Definitely football and basketball. Those are my two top favorites.
Munro: Do you often find yourself diagnosing injuries that you see on TV before you even hear what the sideline reporter reveals it to be?
Hicks: Definitely, especially if they zoom in and we’re able to see it … I try to figure it out before they even say anything.
Munro: Do people watching with you often ask you, ‘Oh, my gosh, what’s that?’
Hicks: ‘What do you think it is?’ Yeah, it’s typically the biggest question I get.
Munro: Last thing, how much does this work mean to you? You’re the first one out there to care for these athletes in their time of need, and you’re the one kind of seeing them through the entire process. This strikes me as a job where you don’t just punch the time clock.
Hicks: Anybody in the athletic training sports world will tell you the biggest reward is just the kids. They’re our biggest priority, and just being able to work with them is probably the highlight of it. Being here at Jefferson, the community and everyone from the central office all the way to the administration to all the coaches and the parents, it’s been a great rewarding thing. And that’s kind of what I love is just having those relationships and building them and being so close to the kids and the community is probably my favorite part.