Along with laundry loops and team gear, athletic trainers are one of the perks of being a Bowdoin athlete. 

According to the athletics website, they are only intended to treat varsity athletes. With only five full-time employees, the trainers have their hands full working with the approximately one-third of Bowdoin students on varsity teams.

On game days, the trainers are usually on campus four hours before game time, according to Director of Athletic Training Dan Davies.

 “Depending on the sport, visiting schools may not send a trainer with the team so we have to get that team ready on top of ourselves—we call it organized chaos,” he said. 

Rehabbing injured athletes makes up a significant part of what the trainers do. Most of their mornings and early afternoons are spent helping injured students who are navigating around work and class schedules. During practice hours the trainers on the various practice fields rehab the athletes who are sidelined due to injuries.

Their remaining training duties revolve around preventative measures. Most athletes will come to the training room to get taped up or stretched out before practice or a game, then have their muscles iced or heated after practice.

Each of the five trainers is assigned a specific team, and for the trainers paired with more physical sports, the season can be extremely strenuous.

“When football starts,” said Davies, “it’s 13 weeks and I don’t get a day off. We have early morning practices so I’m here at four in the morning and I don’t leave until five or six at night.”
Some student interns aid the trainers—Davies said he  has one from both the University of New England and the University of Southern Maine—but delivering care can still be a daunting task.

“We’re trying [to get another trainer]; I put in for it,” said Davies. “The school’s been good to me though. I started here and we only had three [full-time trainers], now we have five, so they have given me resources.

“There are other schools in our conference that have more than us...but we’re in the middle as to staffing,” he added.

The Divide

While club athletes who have daily team practices are entitled to some services offered by the trainers, non-varsity athletes by and large do not receive equal access to trainers.

“We have 600-plus varsity athletes in 31 sports with five trainers. You do the math. It’s just not possible [to give equal attention to club athletes],” he said.

While the training staff does not purposefully neglect club athletes, it is beyond their power to do as much for them, according to Davies.

For club sports like Frisbee and crew, the trainers “do the initial evaluation to see if immediate attention is needed—first responder type of thing—then we’ll refer them to the Health Center or doctor,” said Davies. “They’ll get that first evaluation so they know what to do or not to do so they won’t hurt themselves more.”

“On the field, if an ultimate Frisbee player goes down screaming, we’re not going to turn our back on them,” added Davies. “They’re still a student of the College, and we’re going to take care of that person and that immediate need.”

Although it is a club sport, men’s rugby—because of its physical nature—is treated as a varsity sport and receives full access to the trainers.

“Overall, I’m pleased. I’d give the training staff an A,” said Cole Duncan ’14, an ex-football player who is now on the rugby team.

According to Duncan, the football and rugby teams receive equal access to trainers. Assistant Athletic Trainer Gretchen Appleby traveled with the rugby team to most of their away matches, including the team’s trip to the New England Regional and National tournaments.

“Whenever you need [Appleby], you go in, you call her. There’s no real difference,” said Duncan.
While Duncan is extremely satisfied with the care his club team receives, some varsity athletes say their sports are unfairly placed lower on the trainer totem pole.

“Some people on the team will get frustrated when the trainer we have for indoor [meets] then goes and joins lacrosse,” said track captain Sam Copeland ’14. “I understand maybe in a sport like track you are less likely to injure yourself in the middle of a race, but our team is so much bigger than most teams on campus so it makes sense that we would have a trainer too.”

The track team does not have a trainer at all of its practices and a Bowdoin trainer does not go to the team’s meets, although host teams do provide one for each meet.

“We definitely get adequate attention,” added Copeland. “I just think there [are] definitely differences between teams and unfortunately track is normally at the bottom.

“I don’t want to say we don’t have anything good going for us because if we go to the trainers they’ll help us if we ask,” she added. “They’re not bad or anything at all, it’s just they do their job and their job is to help certain teams more than others.”