From about the age of six, I have watched hockey. Once I went into high school, I began to watch hockey more religiously, quickly falling in love with the sport. When the time came for me to go off to college, I decided to go into business since it was a pretty stable field; however, in the back of my mind, I hoped that I could somehow use my degree to work in the NHL or at least some other hockey league. Almost immediately, I realized that the school I was attending and the major I was in were not for me. After two semesters in business school, I transferred to another local school, enrolling in their Kinesiology school. Now a semester later, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been and I’m looking towards going to graduate school for physical therapy/athletic training. Of course when I made this decision, I thoroughly researched athletic training and how I as a women would be able to work in that field. I was amazed that despite being apart of the majority of trainers, females were still poorly represented in professional sports. Over the last decade or so, the percentage of female athletic trainers has increased. About 52% of athletic trainers who make up the National Athletic Trainer’s Association are female. While this is an amazing feat, the representation of female athletic trainers in the professional sports realm is lacking. For the NHL, this is no different.
To better understand the impact of female athletic trainers, let’s first look at the role of athletic trainers. The primary role of an athletic trainer is to prevent, diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate injuries. AT’s work alongside physicians and other healthcare professionals in a number of settings ranging from schools to the military to professional leagues.
While the number of female trainers has steadily increased, the number of female trainers in professional sports is disproportionately underrepresented. However, over the last decade, female trainers have made their mark. In 2002, the NFL hired their first assistant female trainer. The Washington Wizards and the Washington Mystics have both employed female assistant trainers as well. In 2011, the LA Dodgers named Sue Falsone the first female head trainer for a professional men’s sport team. While women haven’t had huge success in men’s professional sports, about 70% of ATCs in women’s professional sports are female.
It’s no secret that women struggle in terms of discrimination, low wages, harassment, unequal representation, etc. in the workplace. These issues are especially prevalent in very male dominated areas such as professional sports. I think it’s important for women to get representation in such areas (i.e. professional sports) to not only improve discrimination, low wages, etc.in their own field as well as other fields. A women can be a CEO, so why can’t a women be a head athletic trainer?
So what does all of this mean for female athletic trainers in the NHL? Well, while there haven’t been any female athletic trainers hired in the NHL, females are still making great strides. Barbara Underhill and Barb Aidelbaum are both skating coaches, working for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks respectively. While they aren’t athletic trainers, they are proving that females can work in a male dominated field.
Of course, there is plenty of hurdles to overcome for female athletic trainers and men’s professional sports. But, with the progress made in the last 20 years, I think female athletic trainers will make their debut in the National Hockey League. And I hope to join those women one day.