By Tatyjana Scalisi
March is a month dedicated to recognizing many women embodying values that best represent ideal role models for young females and how these individuals make an impact within their communities.
Additionally recognized during March, according to National Today, “National Athletic Training Month is celebrated every year in March. It is celebrated in recognition of the expertise and efforts of athletic trainers across the globe and is dedicated to all those who play a vital role in the development and health care of athletes at various levels.”
At Daemen University, Karen Roehling is an assistant athletic trainer who has held an influential position at the school since 2010 and has assisted countless athletes on the multiple sports teams she manages.
“My main two sports that I work with are women’s soccer and women’s basketball. I’m also the point person for women’s bowling and men’s tennis. Right now, I am helping out with track and field and am doing a bit more than I usually do. Generally, on most days though, I usually see three to five kids a day,” Roehling said.
Roehling’s credentials as an athletic trainer include a bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College in Athletic Training and Exercise Science in 1995 and a master’s degree from Canisius College in 2000.
“In all honesty, when I went into this education at Ithaca, I didn’t really know what an athletic trainer was. I just wanted to do sports medicine and since athletic training is a piece of that, it just worked out,” Roehling said.
In addition to her degrees, her qualifications extend further as a performance enhancement and corrective exercise specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine while also certified in Sportsmetric ACL prevention by the Cincinnati Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center.
According to Daemen’s staff directory, “In addition to her duties as assistant athletic trainer, Roehling is an adjunct faculty member within the healthcare studies and athletic training programs here at Daemen University. She also serves the Athletic Department as its senior woman administrator.”
Although never a collegiate athlete herself due to the competitive industry and small percentage of athletes playing at this level, Roehling was quite familiar with the sports industry and grew up participating in sports like volleyball, basketball, track, and dance during her high school years.
“I think what I love most about being an athletic trainer is working with the athletes. I’ve always enjoyed getting to meet the unique personalities and getting to know the person, but the hours can be tough where it is difficult to find a work-life balance for myself,” Roehling said.
Roehling’s impact within the Daemen community whether on the competitive grounds of a sports match or through her guidance and teachings as an educator in the classroom and her responsibilities as well as her leadership qualities never go unnoticed by those she affects.
“I would describe Karen as a phenomenal person and health care provider. She is comforting and listens to the people she is treating while maintaining a professional demeanor when making clinical decisions. Anyone that meets Karen leaves a better person. Daemen is lucky to have her,” said senior Katelyn Sidoti.
Sidoti or “Kate” as referred to by her teammates, is a member of the women’s soccer team at Daemen University who has suffered back-to-back injuries throughout her career.
“Karen helped take an initial screening of my leg and head when I was first injured and referred me to the team doctor when I needed to be looked at further,” Sidoti said.
“She helped me with treatments in the acute phase of healing and then once feeling better, she took the time to do rehab interventions and exercises to increase my strength at the place of injury along with getting my endurance back up to progress me to return to play,” Sidoti said.
An athletic injury is often a devastating and mentally straining experience that can often create frustration, a lack of motivation, sadness, trauma, or other such alterations that can affect one’s lifestyle entirely dependent on the amount of damage suffered.
“Depending on the injury, I take them through different phases to meet a specific goal and work towards getting them to that certain point. Sometimes it’s a physical readiness and other times as research has shown, it’s more of a mental readiness than we initially thought,” Roehling said.
With Roehling’s expertise and efforts, she was able to help Sidoti rehabilitate both injuries of a hamstring tear and a cerebral concussion with whiplash, demonstrating her flexibility to work on athletic stressors requiring different treatment procedures.
“Some people will say once they have an injury and they do rehab, that they actually feel better than before they got injured, which is a nice piece of the puzzle to know that maybe you worked not only on the injury itself, but things into them going back onto the field,” Roehling said.
Nutrition, mental health screenings, and building relationships are also additional responsibilities of Roehling’s duties as an athletic trainer for the student-athletes and sports teams she oversees at Daemen University.
“Karen fits into our team so well. All of the girls trust her, not even just with athletic and mental health needs but also telling her about what is going on in their lives. She is always there to give us advice or just to listen to our ranting,” said freshman Julia Payne.
“I do not think my freshman season would have been the same without Karen being a part of our team. I really appreciate that she makes herself as available as possible for us, and she is only a text away. Also, we know her support is always there even if she cannot attend practice,” Payne said.
Although Payne just met Roehling last summer, the influence and assistance Karen has provided towards her has made a tremendous difference going into her freshman season.
“I would describe Karen as caring, funny, supportive, and dedicated. She cares about every single one of her athletes and tries her best to make time to help them. Her humor always brings up the mood and makes everyone laugh. There have been many times that I was appreciative of her jokes in the athletic training room, the vans, and at practice,” Payne said.
“Another thing about Karen is her undeniable support and dedication, she is there for all of her athletes and makes sure we all know she is only a text away if something happens. Even though she works with multiple teams at the same time, she finds time for each of us,” Payne said.
Whether an individual that has just started to know Roehling or one that has had years of experience under her aid, the impression she makes on these student-athletes is highly respected and recognized by her efforts in engaging with them.
“For me, being a part of an athletic trainer is about building those relationships, trust, and other things to that nature that play a big role in our role in athletics working with the athletes,” Roehling said.
Whether it’s providing treatment or knowing how to lighten the mood of a bad day with humor, Roehling’s relationship with the athletes she works with can be regarded as something truly special where she has no shame in expressing her personality and creating lasting memories for those to remember.
“Some of my favorite memories with Karen are when she is driving the van to practice. If a song came on that she knew, she would sing her heart out and dance along, even when no one else in the van knew the song. It would make all of us girls laugh,” Payne said.
The duties of an athletic trainer often require a handful of overwhelming responsibilities, yet Roehling always takes time for herself by going on walks, bike rides, or engaging in outdoor activities to relieve stress from these daily commitments.
“This year I actually teach a few classes in addition to my full-time job with the athletic training. Unfortunately, I do not have a regular schedule which is one of the reasons why I like athletic training because I have different things each day,” Roehling said.
“I could start at 5:30 in the morning and be here until 3-4 o’clock or sometimes I come in later and work until 9-10 o’clock. It really depends on what is going on in athletics for me. Outside of athletics, it gets tricky preparing lessons, doing grading, and I try to do that primarily while I’m here,” Roehling said.
When people think of an athletic trainer, many picture this perfect, easy-going occupation where one gets to watch sports all day working with the athletes, whereas in reality, there is more to the career behind the scenes that sometimes goes unnoticed.
Although there are a handful of duties involved with being an athletic trainer, Roehling continues to play an important role at Daemen University constantly demonstrating her hard work ethic in everything she does, making her an ideal role model for both women’s history and national athletic training month.
“Karen is such an important asset to our team because she completes our program. She welcomes a female sense of power and understanding. She takes care of not only our bodies but our mental health as well. On top of her role as a professional, she offers a friendly face and a safe place to decompress from the stresses of life, school, and soccer. Personally, she has made my time at Daemen so special,” Sidoti said.