Rampart certified athletic trainer Scott Riley’s future career came into focus while he was in ninth grade. It was then that he saw a trainer come onto the field to help his friend, who had suffered an ACL tear.

“It was like a light bulb went on,” said Riley, a 1994 Widefield graduate. “This is a way a 5-8, 5-9 guy can be involved in sports.”

Many area students, almost 20 years later, are coming to that same realization thanks to working in their long-standing high school student athletic training programs.

All area schools use volunteers to fill ice bags and wrap ankles. But at some, students get a deeper look at what that job and other medical careers entail through classes and hands-on training.

“I wanted to go into medicine,” Cheyenne Mountain senior Jeremy Griffith said. “But I didn’t realize until I started this that sports could be part of it.”

“This hooked me,” Indians senior Will Hodson said.

While the demands of being a student trainer pales compared to the years of medical training required to be certified, it isn’t easy for those in developed programs.

Several area schools have trainers take a beginning class before they pick up a roll of tape. Most have the student go through an advanced course, one or two semesters, while working as a trainer.

The class work helps, but all the students interviewed agree, the appeal comes from working directly with the athletes: their classmates. It’s in the training room or on the sidelines when the students find out if being an athletic trainer or working in another medical field is right for them.

Schools that offer classes as part of a student training program include Air Academy, Cheyenne Mountain, Falcon, Fountain-Fort Carson, Lewis-Palmer, Liberty, Pine Creek and Widefield. Other schools, including Coronado and Rampart, hope to do the same someday.

Typically, with one head trainer available and multiple events going on at the same time, student trainers use radios to contact the adult when an injury occurs. Others man the training room for when players need ankle wraps, ice or heat before and after practice.

None of the students are diagnosing injuries or approving treatment without supervision.

“They learn how to evaluate but it’s not their responsibility,” Lewis-Palmer trainer Kevin Margarucci said.

“They’re very helpful,” Coronado trainer Ron Levan said. “But they’re not doing evaluations or rehabilitation.”

But watching the adult trainer determine injuries and handle the athlete during a vulnerable time is invaluable.

“You learn you need to project calm; that you know what you’re doing,” Cheyenne Mountain junior Chelsea McComas said.

Observing other medical professionals, as they do at Cheyenne Mountain, Lewis-Palmer and Widefield, proves valuable. The students have a good idea what their potential future career may entail, warts and all.

“We have people in operating rooms, in doctor’s offices watching them evaluate patients, even some in the delivery room,” Widefield trainer Bob Tim said. “They pretty much see it all.”

Tim said he has had dozens of students, like Riley, go on to work in medical fields in his 24 years at Widefield. The programs spark interest and attract those already leaning toward a medical field.

Cheyenne Mountain’s program convinced sophomore Jessica Deighton’s parents to enroll her there when they moved to Colorado Springs.

Perhaps most importantly, the programs give students a welcome sense of direction when they’re  deciding what they want to study in college.

The relief on Widefield senior Leticia Garcia’s face was apparent when she talked about her plans to study pre-medicine at Iowa and later be an orthopedic surgeon.

“It really cleared the path for my career,” she said. “I’m so glad I got to do this.”