Last Updated on June 22, 2022
Interview with Dr. Tina Davlin-Pater
Bryan Haggerty of Sports Degrees Online interviewed Dr. Tina Davlin-Pater of Xavier University. They discussed her academic path and career, opportunities for Athletic Training majors, as well as some not-so-often discussed perks related to working in Athletic Training.
About Dr. Tina Davlin-Pater
Dr. Tina Davlin-Pater is director of the athletic training program and an associate professor at Xavier University in Ohio. She earned a master’s degree in kinesiology (UNLV) and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Utah. Her current research interests include perception of orientation and the influence of visual cues on balance performance, metacognition, and teaching soft-skills.
Tell me a bit about your academic journey and why you’ve chosen the path you’ve chosen.
As a freshman, I had no idea what I wanted to major in. I [first] learned about athletic training as a gymnast while competing for the University of Alaska in Anchorage – I took an introduction to athletic training class my first semester and I loved it. At the end of the year I quit gymnastics, I transferred to Whitworth College and I started learning how to be an athletic trainer.
So what was it about the athletic training class that was so different than your other classes?
I loved figuring how injuries happen and then how to heal them. I liked the rehab part but I also liked the emergency aspect of it. I liked [everything about it].
I loved figuring how injuries happen and then how to heal them.
Since graduating with your degree in athletic training, you’ve had some really interesting and diverse experiences. Could you tell us about some of the experiences you’ve had?
Yes. I’ve had some really interesting experiences. One of my favorites was a trip to Japan led by Russ Richardson. We were able to learn about the culture, meet fascinating people and use our skills to help athletes participating in the Yokohama Bowl. In the Yokohama Bowl, they play American football. We learned how they treat athletes and we taught them how we treat athletes. It was really enjoyable. One of my first jobs was with the Anchorage Bucks Baseball Club where I thought I would learn about upper extremities injuries, so shoulders and elbows. But I spent most of my time dealing with athletes’ backs because most of the athletes were from out of state and they were living with local families, sleeping on not so great beds or pull-out couches. I also learned a ton about the sport of baseball and working with a team doctor so it was a very unique experience. The sun in Alaska doesn’t really go down in the summer so the games could go very late and there is lots of time to learn.
When I was at the University of Utah, they hosted the National Figure Skating Championships in Utah. I was able to work the event, see Michelle Kwan and a bunch of the other athletes at the time as well as learn what happens behind the scenes. It was really eye opening seeing the logistics of an event that big and important to the skating world.
Looking at some of the places you find yourself working, what are some of the positives and challenges of working in those kinds of environments?
Well, typically athletic trainers will most often work with a team so you get to know the athletes on the team. So you know their personality, if they are having an off day or if they [appear to be] limping or favoring something. But if you work one event you really have to ask a lot of questions of the patients and make sure you’re getting all the information you need to make a good judgment. It really takes patience. Sometimes [the athletes] really don’t have a lot of time but you still have to make sure you’re getting all the information you need to make the best judgment possible.
You later ended up going back to school and getting your Ph.D. – when was it that you decided that you wanted to take your education to the next level and get your Ph.D.?
I went to UNLV for my master’s degree and I had some really excellent professors there who inspired me to get my PhD. I never would have thought of going on and getting my PHD but they kept bringing it up and encouraging me and making me believe this was something I could do. I chose the University of Utah for my PHD because I really wanted to study with Dr. Bill Sands. He was working with elite athletes in several sports at the time. He ended up being a really great mentor.
So you went from bachelor’s degree in athletic training, and then got your master’s degree in kinesiology, is that correct?
So looking at the opportunities that were opened after getting your master’s degree compared with after you earned your PHD, what new opportunities opened to you after doing your PHD?
Well getting a PHD means you can be a college professor. You can still teach at the college level and be a professor with a master’s but a PHD allows you to have more career options as a professor. I decided I loved teaching, I liked doing research and I liked answering interesting questions to try and further the scholarship of athletic training. I loved teaching, so preparing the next group of athletic trainers to go out in the world is where my passion lies.
So specifically about that, why do you think athletic training as a profession could be an excellent choice for young people out there, especially like you, who were athletes themselves, or people who are passionate about sports?
It’s a pretty unique health profession in that we get to work with patients when they are actually healthy. We get to care for them and try to prevent their injuries. Also we get to care for them at the moment they get injured, then help them heal and improve throughout the process and cheer them on as they return to the activity they love. There aren’t too many other fields that get the whole gamut like that.
Very true. Looking at the professional landscape right now, what can you tell us about the demand for athletic trainers out there?
The bureau of labor statistics says we are growing and that we will continue to grow 16 percent from 2019 to 2029, but there’s an opportunity for athletic trainers to work in a variety of settings, and that seems to still be growing and expanding as well. So people tend to think, athletic trainers work in colleges, high schools and professional sports. And probably assume we work at the Olympic level too. But athletic trainers are in hospitals and clinics, physician practices, corporate and industrial settings and in the military. They’re helping law enforcement professionals. They’re in the rodeo and performing arts, youth and recreational sports. There’s athletic trainers employed at NASA and Cirque du Soleil, the Cincinnati Ballet, as well as UPS and the Marines. There are also tons of international opportunities. One of my alumni spent a year with the Chinese National Fencing Team. Another alumni traveled all over the world working with a professional tennis player.
You mentioned that there are new opportunities for athletic trainers in hospitals or corporate situations. What does the day-to-day look like for athletic trainers working in a more standard type of environment?
Athletic trainers are often employed with orthopedic surgeons and so they will see patients and they will work on diagnosis in concert with the physician. And if they go into surgery, they will help coordinate their rehabilitation plan. Lots of people go in and have reconstructive surgery for elbows and knees. We are skilled and trained to help with all parts of that, minus the surgery.
Based on your anecdotes, It seems like travel opportunities can be a huge perk for athletic trainers.
It is. Our day-to-day is often very different – it’s not just going into a cubical every day or going into the exact same setting. Things change and we get to adapt and change with them. Traveling with teams is fun and exciting – you get to see different parts of the country or the world and experience those things with a team of people. So it’s very rewarding.
Looking specifically at your program, what factors would you say separate Xavier’s athletic training from other programs? What would you say some of the highlights are?
We are located in a great town for athletic trainers. Athletic trainers are valued in Cincinnati and we have an excellent network of preceptors that are fantastic at their jobs and enjoy teaching our students in the field. The faculty are all super committed to doing all we can to ensure our students have everything they need to be successful in the field. We see each student as a unique individual with strengths and gifts and interests. We [have a really strong community], and we are very resourceful in finding and providing learning opportunities for each student. Our faculty, preceptors, students – they are all working together towards a common goal and that creates a very valuable bond. And our alumni are very impressive and I am very proud of them. Many of them give back to the program in a variety of ways to help our current students succeed. They generously lend their experience and expertise to our current students. They mentor them and help them learn. Then they send me job notices so I can help our students get jobs.
So tell me some of the ‘outside the classroom’ opportunities that exist. Who are some of your partners in that area?
Students get the opportunity to work with our Division I athletes and amazing athletic trainers but they also get the opportunity to work at local high schools which is a great experience. In this community, we have the Cincinnati Ballet, FC Cincinnati (MLS soccer), Cyclones which is hockey and UC is a neighbor of ours. We have two students working with UC Football this semester. Mount St. Joseph University as well for students who want experience at the Division III level. And then we have our students next semester who are going to be working with some gymnasts. FC Cincinnati is also building a new stadium downtown and there is an athletic trainer who is working with the construction workers, and we have a student who is going to work with them.
Is there any final advice that you’d like to share with the next generation of students who are following your footsteps into the field of athletic training?
I would say that [athletic training] is a really rewarding career. It’s a difficult job so people who do it tend to love it otherwise they would probably do something else. It’s a profession filled with people who are passionate about what they’re doing and find rewards in what they’re doing which makes for a really great community. I would say that if students are interested in this, to take advantage of every opportunity there is to learn and be focused and pro active in reaching their goals. Reach out to people too. Athletic trainers are very generous with their time and attention so never be afraid to ask questions. They’ll be happy to answer them. It’s not an easy profession – it takes a lot of education and training – but it’s filled with people that love it which makes for a really wonderful professional community.