The Diboll High School student athletic trainer aides are gearing up for a new season of fall sports with a record high amount of involvement.

Diboll ISD Athletic Trainer Mike Waters said that in all of his years teaching programs, even when he was at a 6A school in Houston, this is the biggest interest he has ever had, and his 24 trainers are preparing to work with the fall sports like football and volleyball.

“Even though I’m at a smaller school, this is the biggest staff I’ve had,” Waters said.

Senior Israel Lopez has been in the program for four years. He said he wanted to get into the program because he wanted a chance to help people.

“I got drawn into it,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘There’s going to be injuries; I’d rather put my time somewhere where I can help.’”

Israel said he loves Friday night football: seeing everything happening, following Waters, hanging out with the other trainers. Israel wants to have a career as a mechanic, but he said medicine is a fallback plan and a good skill to have. The trainers all obtain their CPR certification, and Israel said it feels good to know he can do something if there is ever a need.

Waters said he and his trainers have to balance their schedules with care sometimes because many students do multiple extracurricular activities and programs. Of his 24 students right now, he has four that are focusing their attention on band and drill team.

The trainers are required to work two sports a year. Currently, football has the biggest following, with 18 trainers assigned, and the others are assigned to volleyball. Assignments will change once the winter and spring sports begin.

Waters said the students rotate their jobs weekly, so they each get a chance to learn everything they can. Two of the biggest jobs they have right now are hydration and cleaning.

“I tell them, ‘This is a medical facility; you don’t want to walk into a doctor’s office and see a dirty doctor’s office, so you don’t want to see a dirty training room,’” he said.

With water, he said he tells the trainers it’s their job to prevent as many injuries as possible, and even if the trainers sometimes get called “water boy” or “water girl,” he told them that keeping the athletes properly hydrated is a very important part to keeping the athletes healthy.

“That’s what they spend a lot of time doing, but they also help me with all aspects. They help me with taping, first aid, wound care, rehab. Pretty much everything I do, they’re an extension of me.”

Junior Anna Dunn let freshman Eli McGaughey and junior Itzell Avendano practice taping her wrist. They practiced the rodeo wrap.

“We prewrap first,” Itzell said.

“So the tape’s not on the skin,” Eli said.

The prewrap is a soft pink material. They follow it with a layer of tape. Toward the elbow, they leave a little bit of the tape on the skin so it will stick. Toward the wrist, they twist the tape into a thin line and end it between two bones for extra protection and support to help athletes absorb pressure and avoid breaking the wrist.

Anna said she thinks it is called the rodeo because the riders in the saddle bronc competition will wrap a rope around their wrist and hand.

“Most of my kids are looking into some type of healthcare career, so this is kind of a springboard exposure for them,” Waters said.

He’s had doctors, nurses, physical trainers, surgical technicians and more come out of his program. Currently, senior Olivia Jackson is on her third year in the program, and she is going to Angelina College to become a registered nurse in a CNA and phlebotomy program. She said she thought the sports medicine program at Diboll ISD would help her.

“I wanted to learn more about the body in depth with hands-on experience,” she said. “Last year and the year before, I was in anatomy and physiology and health science. Basically everything is repeating itself, so this is a big refreshment.”

She said she didn’t expect to see as many injuries, and she started to get used to the blood, puke and bone, including the time when her brother broke his ankle. Senior Andrew Richard knows first hand the benefit of student trainers.

Andrew plays football and wants to be a physical therapist after graduation. He has had two knee surgeries and has spent a lot of time in rehab from student trainers. He has experienced full body cramps and strained ligaments in his foot and has received numerous treatments for those injuries.

“Without student trainers, everyone would not receive the treatment and hydration that we need to compete in sports,” he said. “Our head trainer would not be able to keep up with all of the sports if he did not have help from the students.”

Eli and freshman Makiah Moore are on their first year of the program. They both want to be pediatricians when they grow up, and they are happy to be learning things like wrapping an ankle. Makiah said she likes kids and helping people.

“I did it mostly so I could learn and not be a total amateur when I went into the medical field,” Makiah said.

“It feels good to know we can help out, but it’s a little intimidating to think about messing up,” Eli said.

This is Anna’s first year in the program. She said she’s been looking into sports medicine, and this would give her the perfect chance to try it out.

“I’ve had a dream, ever since I watched the doctors stitch up my chin, to do something with the medical field,” Anna said. “I liked how good the nurses and doctors were together and how they treated me, and I wanted to be like that for someone. Then I saw what Doc (Waters) does, and I thought it was cool.”

Waters said the students learn teamwork, cooperation and work ethic while in his program. They put a lot of hours into the program, and Waters said it shows.

“Their blood, sweat and tears are just like the blood, sweat and tears of the athletes,” Waters said.

One thing in particular that Waters said he tries to instill in his students is to be impartial on the field.

“I don’t care what uniform we’ve got on. If the opposing team needs our help, then we’re going to help them,” he said.

At the beginning of the season, Waters said he makes up a candy bag that his trainers take to the opposing teams’ trainers to introduce themselves, intermingle with them and welcome them.

The trainers go to two workshops in January where they compete in taping contests, poster contests and team building “Olympics.”

Waters often has Stephen F. Austin State University season athletic trainers like Aaron Chavez come assist him on the field so they can learn and, in turn, teach the students some. Chavez said he is interested in working in a middle school or high school.

“I still have a lot to learn, a lot to grow,” he said. “I came into the program with no experience.”

He said he didn’t get a chance to have a program like this in high school. He taped his very first ankle last year.

“I’m enjoying it so far,” Chavez said. “Some days it’s difficult, but I’m excited to learn more. I love being in the sports setting. I get to motivate, be the mentor, the good word of advice.”

For more information about Waters and the student athletic trainer aides, visit https://hs.dibollisd.com/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=448436&type=u&pREC_ID=622728.

Grace Juarez’s email address is gjuarez@lufkindailynews.com.