“Be there for them in any way you can – even if sometimes it’s just emotionally.”
Head Athletic Trainer, Bishop Lynch High School
In these unprecedented times, it is critical for us to turn our attention and love towards each other. In some ways, COVID-19 has caused us to search within ourselves, work hard, and show how much we care about each other. Our final blog spotlight of this first season of the Kinematic Blog, Mike Hopper embodies the grit and passion it takes to make your program successful and put your athletes first. It’s a privilege to spotlight another incredibly deserving member of our Kinematic Family.
Born in Waterloo, IL, Hopper spent his adolescence expecting to be a United States Army Ranger. Always a jokester, he shared the day that he realized he might need to seek a less-mathematical profession.
“All through high school, I thought [being an Army Ranger] was what I wanted to do,” Hopper explains, “then I took a calculus class, and I realize maybe the military wasn’t for me!”
Like many other young athletes, he got his first exposure to the field of athletic training via a personal injury. After becoming close with his athletic trainer, Hopper realize he had figured out his career aspirations.
“My high school’s athletic trainer convinced me to go down the AT route during my senior year of high school,” Hopper said. “I told him, ‘One day I’m going to take your job!’”
Hopper attended Southeast Missouri State University where he received his Bachelors in Health Management with a concentration in Athletic Training. He then completed his Masters of Medical Sciences at the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine. Upon graduating, he fulfilled his promise to his high school’s athletic trainer.
“After one job stop, I took his job,” Hopper said with a laugh.
With two years of athletic training experience under his belt at his alma mater, he decided it was time to get out of the “great state of Illinois,” so he headed to “the Republic”, landing himself in Dallas.
Currently, Hopper is in his sixth year at Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas, serving as their Head Athletic Trainer. He has spent his career plugging into the nationwide network of athletic trainers and doing everything he can to further exposure to the profession. This dedication connected him with University of Alabama Head Athletic Trainer Jeff Allen via Twitter. Despite never having met in person, Hopper and Allen communicate often, sharing the common ground of providing the best possible resources to athletic trainers.
“When the idea of SidelinER® came out in 2015, I thought it was a great concept,” Hopper said. “Over time, I realized the tent makes sense at every level. Jeff is showing people that he should not be conducting an evaluation in front of thousands of people – an athlete shouldn’t have to face the stands while learning that his season or his career has just ended.”
His belief in the product fueled his fight to get SidelinER® for his own program at Bishop Lynch.
“When I fought for the tent, I had specific cases in mind from a few years ago where I’m thinking, ‘SidelinER® would have been beneficial to us then’,” Hopper said.
He was able to use his program’s budget to finance SidelinER® and further their school’s dedication to serving as a nationally recognized “Safe Sports School”.
“Our school’s President challenged our faculty to be the school that other schools want to be,” Hopper said, “and we’ve taken that from a sports medicine perspective. We’ve gotten great support from him, from our whole administration, and from parents.”
Hopper is passionate about leveling the playing field (pun intended) and “not differentiating between high school athletic training and collegiate athletic training,” as it should simply be “sports medicine at the highest level.”
“Regardless of whether the kid is a Division I athlete or a high school athlete, they deserve the same level of care,” Hopper said. “We should be working to increase the acknowledgement of resource needs below the collegiate level.”
Remembering the time before SidelinER®, Hopper shared that he and his team would typically spend an entire game sprinting between the athletic training room and the field to provide the proper care to their athletes. SidelinER® ultimately brings a temporary athletic training room to their field and buys them a bit of time and privacy when it counts.
“We had a case a couple of years ago where we ended up calling an ambulance. We had the kid on a treatment table on our sideline,” Hopper explained, “and the game is still going on. We’ve got practically every person this kid knows standing right behind us, and you bet they’re not watching that game!”
As we’ve seen with every Kinematic Blog “Emerging Star” thus far, Hopper possesses a deep and insatiable desire to provide the best care for his athletes and his program. A large part of his success comes from his ability to connect with his athletes on a personal level.
“Our athletic training room is very laid back. My kids call me by my last name, we joke around, I have one kid who calls me ‘Dad’!” Hopper said. “We see them almost every day, so we connect with them on a deep level. With that in mind, when one of them has a season-ending injury, it not only hurts them, but us, too.”
Hopper said his school’s entire administration is united under the premise that their primary duty is to “simply love on their kids.”
“There are times when there’s nothing I can do for an athlete physically in that moment, so I just hold them. That’s when I have an opportunity to address the emotional side of an injury. It’s important for them to know that in that moment, they’re not just another person, another patient, another number. We’re there for them.”
Always a realist, Hopper knows that trying to be the perfect athletic trainer or the perfect person is “a waste of time.” Refined skills are a product of experience, and there’s only one thing you must possess to be the right fit for the field of athletic training:
“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Written by Morgan DeWitt
The Kinematic Blog will be back for Season 2 in the fall.
Please send submissions and nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.