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Student Shares Experience Helping Athletic Teams

By Sean Callahan, News Editor

Even if all students at Saint Vincent College are not sports fans, they have seen the coaches on the fields and the courts directing sweaty athletes through long practices. However, not everyone sees the people who work behind the scenes to make athletics happen.

Becky Pizer, Athletic Trainer at SVC, has been contracted to the college since August 2000. Prior to this, she worked at a high school in Saltsburg, Pa. She applied for a position at SVC through Laurel Highlands Health Center. She is now contracted to Saint Vincent by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

(Saint Vincent College): Becky Pizer has been the Athletic Trainer at SVC since 2000.

Pizer played volleyball, track, and basketball in high school. However, she gravitated towards the physical therapy and athletic training aspect of sports, and was unable to play in college while also pursuing an athletic training career. She graduated from Slippery Rock University in 1996 with a BA in Health Science with a specialization in athletic training. She then received her master’s in Rehabilitative Science corrective Exercise from California University, and she will finish her MBA in December.

The title of athletic trainer may sound self-explanatory. However, Pizer says that the job demands more than just checking students’ physical fitness and injuries. The four athletic trainers of SVC are responsible for the healthcare of nearly 500 to 600 student athletes in many respects.

“We make sure they’re healthy physically and mentally. We are responsible for preventing, recognizing, assessing, managing, treating, and rehabilitating athletes and all their paperwork and documentation,” Pizer said. “Think of us as triage, EMTs, physical therapists, and secretaries together.”

Pizer claimed that many people don’t know about the extent of documentation that the athletic trainers do behind the scenes. Athletic trainers are state licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine, operating under the direction of a physician and in accordance with the state practice act.

“Every time we contact an athlete whether for an injury or treatment, we have to create a medical note up to documentation standards,” Pizer said. “We have to explain how the athlete felt at the time, what procedure we used to treat them, what we observed.”

Pizer says that, in her job, she gets to know athletes and coaches alike. Some of them, she gets to know like family. When founder and coach of SVC’s women’s basketball program, Kristin Zawacki, passed away in 2010, it was a difficult time for Pizer and the team due to the bond they had shared.

When Pizer has difficult days, what keeps her wanting to do the job is seeing athletes improving after injuries and initiating training activities with them. Athletes making big comebacks after serious injuries is a memorable part of her job, and being with a team when they win a championship.

Pizer feels that her own team of athletic trainers contribute equally to their job responsibilities and makes them more manageable.

“I couldn’t be do any of this without the other three athletic trainers here. Ben (Varilek), Kaitlyn (Williams), Ashley (Interrante), and I share a lot of the responsibilities and work very well together. All of them make this job fun,” Pizer said.

Nate Arendas, senior sports management major, brings a student behind the scenes perspective of athletics. Although he is not on the basketball court making slam dunks or on the baseball field hitting home runs, he has helped both teams operate in other ways.

Arendas worked for men’s basketball from 2020 to 2022. This will be his second year working for baseball and his first year working for women’s basketball.

Currently, Arendas assists with batting practice and charts for the baseball team. For the basketball team, he does laundry, runs the clock and sets up drills for practice. Sometimes he will participate in drills if needed. During games, he helps keep track of player statistics for home games. He also travels with and assists the team for away games. Arendas typically works 6 days a week, including weekends due to gamedays, traveling, and practices.

“I love sports and being the guy behind the scenes who’s still a part of the team. Even if I’m not directly helping the team win I’m still a part of the culture,” Arendas said.

Arendas also suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, a rare genetic disorder that affects mostly the lungs, resulting in long-term issues such as difficulty breathing, and mucus build up due to frequent lung infections. He said that he has been unable to play the sports he enjoys due to this condition. Helping the athletics teams operate has made Arendas feel close to and a part of the sports world still.

Arendas hopes to work for an MLB team. Over the summer, he had an internship with a prospect league out of Johnstown. He acted as clubhouse manager, hosted the umpires when they would come to home games, did laundry and provided water and equipment for the team.

“It was a long summer, but it was so much fun. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. It made me want to do the job professionally,” Arendas said.

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