“It doesn’t matter where I work or who I work for – I just want to help people be better.”
Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Training & Compliance, LaGrange College
Aristotle once said, “knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Being a person who knows himself and his goals better than most, Rob Dicks decided at fourteen years old that he would spend his life as an athletic trainer. Almost thirty years later, he has yet to doubt his choice.
Born and raised in Augusta, Georgia, Dicks recalls two career aspirations from his childhood: athlete and doctor. After an injury exposed him to athletic trainers and physical therapists for the first time, Dicks found his calling.
“I started out by researching ‘sports doctor’ because I didn’t know any better,” Dicks joked, “I was in ninth grade, but I’ve always been one to set my stones in place. I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
After completing his studies at Valdosta State University’s athletic training program, Dicks went on to intern with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons. When the time came to accept a full-time offer at the professional level, Dicks was confronted with a dilemma: profession or family.
“My time with the Falcons was amazing, but I had barely seen my daughter in the months I’d been at work,” Dicks said, “I decided to do what felt right for me, and I chose my family over my ultimate goal. This led me to my internship with LaGrange starting in 2001.”
After accepting his position with LaGrange, Dicks said the “rest was history.” He advised that it’s important to know yourself and what you want out of your own career – and be prepared for that to adapt over time.
“If I didn’t have a family at the time, I might have wanted to stay with the Falcons,” Dicks said, “but I don’t know if I would have been happy building a family while I was still there. In my eyes, I made the absolute best decision for my life.”
As he began his career with LaGrange, Dicks found himself slowly collecting a cohort of students. His charisma, ambition, and experience drew potential athletic trainers to him to learn more about the career path.
“I would give them books, quiz them, teach them taping skills and about modalities,” Dicks said, “it was like another class for them!”
While he had most of his students throughout the school year, one special student was only with his program for a four-week elective course. Regardless, Dicks made his impact.
“He loved everything we talked about, and he ended up changing his major from business to biology,” Dicks said. “I helped him attend an athletic training program here in Georgia, and now he’s a certified athletic trainer and in love with his work.”
That student’s success turned out to be one of the defining moments of Dicks’ career.
“It was at that moment that I realized I can help people in this profession,” Dicks said, “and as I got older, I started to realize I can help people in any profession.”
From that moment on, Dicks began collecting mentees. He said he “gained six or seven mentees at once” after giving a speech on motivation to a group of young professionals at a National Athletic Trainers’ Association symposium.
“I gave another talk two years later at that same event,” Dicks said, “and when I looked out over the crowd, I counted six or eight mentees looking back at me. Afterward, I was up to about 22.”
Through his advice and recommendations, Dicks’ mentees have become athletic trainers at every level – but Dicks claims success is fleeting and he’s proudest when his mentees become as happy and fulfilled by their career as he is.
You might be wondering how you can become a Rob Dicks mentee, and his answer is simple: “Just ask.”
“When people go out of their way to formally ask me to mentor them, I know they’re serious about it,” Dicks said. “I’ll give advice to anyone who wants it, but when you have the guts to truly ask for help, that’s when you’ll find what you need.”
Dicks says his wisdom comes from his experience and constant learning from those around him. When a student came to him and said, “I want to be just like you,” Dicks response was, “Nope. Be better than me.”
“These days we say we ‘take an L’ for ‘loss’. I tell my students that L is for ‘lessons’. If we’re being complacent and not trying to improve, then we’re done. It’s over.”
When asked about the future of his career, Dicks gets questions on when he will move to the Division I collegiate level or return to professional sports. “Clout,” Dicks said, doesn’t move him. It’s all about the relationships.
Here at Kinematic, we have been working with and building a relationship with Dicks and LaGrange College for years. It’s been a privilege to learn from his endless wisdom and truly kind heart, all while continuing to develop products that leverage the careers of Athletic Trainers like him.
“It’s been such a pleasure working with the folks from Kinematic,” Dicks said. “I plan on getting everything they put out. They listen to the consumer, they grow with you, and treat you like family. I’m so thankful for my relationship with the special people that make up the company.”
Dicks opened his interview the same way he’s opened every one of his motivation speeches over the years: “My name is Rob Dicks, I am a certified athletic trainer. I’ve been employed at LaGrange College for over fifteen years and I’ve never been to work.” An avid believer in recklessly loving what you do, Dicks offers the following advice to anyone seeking fulfillment in their career:
“Be focused on your goals – if you think the goal is worth it, you’ll do whatever it takes to get there. Have the courage to talk to anyone. Never stop striving to be your best self. And live every day like it’s your last.”
Written by Morgan DeWitt