GCU’s Athletic Trainers: The Team Behind the Teams
By Jennifer Willis
If there’s one thing GCU’s head athletic trainer, Geordie Hackett, would want people to know about his staff, it’s that they are a team — just like any of the Antelope sports teams that they work with.
“Just because I’m the head trainer doesn’t make me more important than any of the others on my team,” Hackett says. “This is my extended family.”
Considering the amount of time they spend together, they have to be. For that reason, Hackett has gone about hiring the three full-time trainers and three graduate assistants on his staff carefully, and in a slightly different manner from before.
“With past experiences, I’ve hired people for many different reasons,” Hackett says. “Maybe it was their skill level, maybe it was because they came from a Division I program. But that just wasn’t working. This year, I was able to hire four new people, and this time I looked for personality.”
Working so closely with a group of people, sometimes for 10 or 12 hours a day, showed Hackett the value of team chemistry.
“I needed to be able to get along with them,” he says. “I needed a staff that supported me and knew that I supported them.”
Hackett thinks he has found that with this group. Two of his full-time staffers, Aubrie Lussier and Travis Armstrong, come from Hackett’s alma mater, A.T. Still University, and that has been beneficial.
“To have three people at the master’s level who have all learned the same style of techniques is great,” Hackett says. “That sets a standard for how we treat injuries across the board. If we’re all doing it the same way, I’m limiting error with hires like that.”
The rest of the team is rounded out by people Hackett feels have great character and are trustworthy. With the 21 men’s and women’s sports teams at GCU, Hackett can’t handle it all on his own — nor would he want to.
The team of seven divides and conquers, with each person taking on sports based on familiarity or special training.
Hackett primarily handles men’s basketball, cheer and lacrosse. Lussier takes women’s volleyball and women’s basketball, and Armstrong does men’s soccer and baseball.
Brandon Warner looks after wrestling, men’s volleyball and golf, while Kelly Wescott does women’s soccer and softball. Rounding out the team, Devin Mooney does cross country and track and field and Stephanie Kulow handles swimming and tennis.
What the training team does can directly affect how the athletes do.
“If we prevent an injury, we contribute in a way to the team’s win,” Hackett says. “When they win, we win. When they lose, we lose. We absorb the highs and lows of it all.”
They absorb everything, even serving as counselors in a way.
“Athletes talk to us about the stresses they may be feeling from coaches, the sport or even at home,” Hackett says. “Our job includes being there for the athlete, staying positive and trying to help them through their problems.”
The trainers stay current on the latest findings and technology. Every month, they have an in-service day, going over new literature and reviewing techniques. They also participate in conferences and workshops throughout the year in order to maintain their certification.
The team received a huge boost when the NBA’s Phoenix Suns used GCU’s facilities for their training camp last month.
“The Suns’ training staff is known throughout the league as being one of the best,” Hackett says. “Having them here and having my team talk to them, see how they do things and establish some networking contacts was a great experience.”
The biggest question Hackett had for the Suns: What do the pros have that GCU’s training staff doesn’t?
“They basically told me that the biggest difference between us and them is unlimited funds, which is something not in our control,” Hackett says. “When one of their players is injured, they can fly in the best specialist in the world to check him out. We don’t have that luxury.
“They also are able to have a smaller player-to-trainer ratio. Right now, we’re about one and a half trainers off from having that kind of balance. We’re getting there. What we do have, though, are excellent facilities — even better than theirs now — and a high level of care, which we constantly fight to improve.”
The hard work is paying off. GCU’s training staff is trying to do what most other schools don’t want to do, because a high level of care requires an investment of time.
“Based on feedback from the Suns and talking with trainers from the (Cleveland) Cavs, we are getting close to the pro levels of care,” Hackett says. “We’re doing that by offering more individualized care. We’re trying to focus on what each athlete needs, because they are all different. We’re looking at not just what’s good for that athlete now, but how it might affect them 10 years from now.
“This can be a big selling point for GCU athletics.”
Reach Jennifer Willis at 639.7383 or Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org.