"Build your spiderweb of connections...you never know when you'll need it one day."
Head Athletic Trainer, Clinton Public Schools, Mississippi
Happy National Athletic Training Month! For this special edition of the Kinematic Blog, we’re honored to spotlight an athletic trainer who truly embodies the spirit of this incredible field. LaJoy Paige, Head Athletic Trainer for Clinton Public Schools in Clinton, Mississippi, is nothing short of passionate, enthusiastic, and to-her-core caring.
Born in Pearl, Mississippi to a family of nurses, Paige said she had always envisioned herself in the medical field. Her desire to become an OB-GYN was sparked by her passionate and medically-inclined family – combined with a love for the show A Baby Story on TLC.
“Man, I was like 9 years old taking blood pressure, taking a pulse,” she laughed.
In the tenth grade, after becoming the manager for the school basketball team, Paige was encouraged by her coach to start attending monthly athletic training student-workshops hosted by Mississippi Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center. Paige said she was amazed to see how many of her peers shared her interest in athletic training, and she began networking and creating connections immediately.
Along with the workshops’ training, her high school’s athletic trainer taught her proper exercises and taping techniques weekly, serving as field experience for Paige. By junior year, she had become the first student athletic trainer for her high school.
“Our athletic trainer would come weekly and ask me if the athletes had been doing their exercises properly,” Paige said. “He would give me their new exercises for the upcoming week, and I would help them.”
After high school, Paige split her undergraduate studies between Hinds Community College, the University of Southern Mississippi, and the University of West Alabama. Unsurprisingly, she had already connected with UWA’s athletic training program director at a camp in high school. He made sure her transfer was as comfortable as possible, and Paige said she was grateful to continue filling her network with kind and caring souls like his.
In 2012, Paige graduated from UWA and headed to Pennsylvania’s East Stroudsburg University for their athletic training graduate program. A short thirteen months later, she was a certified athletic trainer.
Paige began her career as an Assistant Athletic Trainer at historic Tuskegee University in Alabama, a position she was connected to via her clinical supervisor in Pennsylvania. From 2013 to 2017, she served on their sports medicine team, spending her last three years as Director of Sports Medicine.
In July 2017, Paige decided to move back to her hometown to be close to family, giving hands-on care to her mother whose health had been failing. Once again consulting the incredible network she had built, a friend at Mississippi Sports Medicine helped her secure a position covering two 4A high schools. By Fall of 2018, she became one of the first athletic trainers to be transferred to Elite Physical Therapy, who then contracted her to oversee Clinton Public School District in Mississippi, a position she assumed in Spring 2019.
While interviewing Paige, we noticed she had a seemingly-endless list of people throughout her career that had left an impact on her personal and professional development. She took every opportunity to talk about how grateful she was for her colleagues and comrades. Emphasizing the importance of making connections in the athletic training field, Paige says she can never know too many people.
“I consider my network to be like a spider web,” she explained. “It’s awesome to know so many people all over that I could call or email at any time with just sporadic questions.”
Those interactions range from new equipment recommendations to checking up on mentors. On her friends’ and colleagues’ birthdays, they might be lucky enough to get a video of her singing “Happy Birthday”.
Mentors, Paige said, have always been critical to her growth. Her UWA program director instilled in her the confidence to attend athletic training conferences and approach anyone to introduce herself. Seeing so much in Paige, he would even help finance her and her fellow students’ trips to the Southeastern Athletic Trainers’ Association’s Student Symposium. Paige said this is how she met her long-time friend and mentor, Rob Dicks, in 2011.
“I walked right up to him, introduced myself, and told him I was looking for professional friends and mentors,” Paige said. “He said he was blown away!”
Paige said her friendship with Dicks, along with Alabama State University’s Director of Sport Medicine, carried her through her adjustment to her first Director of Sports Medicine role when she was at Tuskegee.
“They would call me every week saying ‘Hey kid, how are you doing? Need anything?” Paige said. “They knew it was tough for me, but having people in my field who knew what I was going through helping me earn my stripes? It was awesome.”
The future of the athletic training field, Paige said, will arrive when every sports realm has a fully-funded and supported athletic training staff.
“I’ve had kids on the college level who didn’t have an athletic trainer at their high school and didn’t know what an athletic trainer was,” Paige said. “Parents were used to rushing them to the ER every time something happened. Now I'm trying to mold my athletes into understanding what an athletic trainer does.”
During our interview, Paige gave a contagious laugh about how things have always come full circle for her in life. She now finds herself serving as a mentor for her students, just as her directors and instructors did for her. High school students shadow Paige throughout the school year, and a few lucky students have been taken on a day of college touring, funded and organized by Paige herself. She now finds herself working alongside the same people who helped her from the beginning, and she is never slow to show her gratitude towards those who helped her get to where she is.
Using March’s National Athletic Training Month to spread awareness about the importance of athletic training, Paige plans on making t-shirts and doing “celebratory” blood pressure screenings for the athletic department.
Here at Kinematic, we value how important athletic trainers are to the health and safety of all athletes. It’s encouraging and enriching to see how interconnected and passionate the athletic training community is about unity and uplifting one-another. Paige is one of the many dedicated, passionate, authentic, and exceptional athletic trainers working hard to spread awareness of this growing field.
“Athletic training is a profession that is constantly evolving and advancing daily.” Paige said. “Companies like Kinematic are at the forefront of developing and supplying Athletic Trainers with resources to provide optimal care to each sector of our patient population.”
Written by Daniel Sisson