Always Learning

Always Learning

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By Brian M. Newman, PhD. MS, AT.C, LAT, CNS, CSCS, SNC

Minor League Athletic Trainer, Tampa Bay Rays

This season marks my 6 season with the Tampa Bay Rays organization.  Getting here, has been a story of a road less traveled, with maybe twist and turns, but all boil down to one central theme. That theme is an inherent thirst for knowledge, an unyielding craving for more, always more. I have never been happy with just accepting an answer without understanding the why and how that made it come to be. This thirst guided me into pursuing advanced degrees in research/theoretical sciences. During my time in grad school and working on my doctorate in Epidemiology, it became more evident to me how crucial bridging the gap between research/theoretical sciences and clinical medicine was, not just for me but also for the profession.

I’ve gained numerous experiences through my professional quests and each experience opened new doors to more opportunities. From the beginning as a meathead college athlete, to a strength and conditioning coach, to a nutrition consultant, to where I am today; each degree, professional credential and position taught me something and usually left a scar to remember. Throughout this time I set a path that allowed me to function in numerous disciplines within the sports medicine/performance enhancement world to better understand how all of these disciplines come together and work synergistically to improve the process and outcome of athletes.

Prior to joining the Rays Organization I had the opportunity to be (at the time) the youngest Clinical Coordinator of Athletic Training at a Division 1 institution.  I accepted the position and my goals as a coordinator were simple, to teach the students of the profession how to think systematically, to show them how to use research to deeper their understanding, and how to combine the two to lead you to the best course of action.

As I took on this newly created position, each day gave new meaning to “no one can predict the future.” I was wearing multiple hats overseeing the clinical aspect for staff, graduate assistant, and athletic training students; as well as teaching courses, tending to my own research agenda, and still working with athletes and their rehabs. I enjoyed all parts of this and the challenges that it provided, but shortly into the year I found myself being pulled away from numerous areas and spending more time behind a desk or in department or university meetings. I learned a lot from these university administrative committees and meetings, specifically, a real world crash course on university politics and funding for departments and programs. During all this I felt I was losing part of myself, I was getting to spend less and less time getting to use my clinical skill set with the athletes and rehab.

When my position with Tamp Bay was first presented I was excited that it would allow me to get back into the trenches, to be a part of the everyday grind that makes this profession so unique. As I joined the Rays Organization I knew that numerous items would be different. At surface level the two worlds of being a coordinator of sports medicine and an athletic trainer in professional baseball seem worlds apart and opposite of each other. When you look though underneath that polished surface, they are in fact very similar. Day to day tasks may differ but they still are tasks. Short term goals still encompass educating and improving the athlete’s health, and teaching for future success.

There was still some differences and individual learning curves to navigate. One in particular was being a sample size of 1, having to switch roles of being one of the chiefs and now finding myself as one of the Indians. I went from having sole decision-making power over, day-to-day and big picture decisions, to being apart of a more specific and concentrated area within a larger organization. It was a difficult learning curve to lose that autonomy and find myself feeling like an island. I think to a certain extent as a profession we all feel like that at some point in our careers, as ATs’ we are in the middle of everything yet miles away from anything. Taking that and now adding coming from a clinical academic world is enough for anyone to question what the heck I was thinking.

My line of thinking to leave that world and join this one was a chance for me to continually push myself and become better. Working with our extended and short season team I get to accomplish this. With any successful organization the quality of the finished product is found in the foundation; everything you do is to build the young players’ to be better and help them learn the basic tools to, hopefully succeed in the future. For us to accomplish this we need to follow are own advice, continually better ourselves and not be complacent with where we are as an individual or profession. Each day if every AT strives to learn something and has ability for application we will be in the crosshairs to prosper as leaders. Leadership can come from the top of pyramid and pull up, but I view some of the best leadership comes from the base and pushes up.

In whatever clinical setting you find yourself in we will always have some kind of learning curves and with every learning curve is an opportunity to improve. Improve yourself, improve your patient, and improve the profession. With every twist and turn, down any road less traveled. Wherever or whatever situation you find yourself, make the effort and continue to look for the opportunity to take make those improvements to keep pushing our profession up the pyramid a little more every time.


Brian M. Newman, PhD. MS, AT.C, LAT, CNS, CSCS, SNC

Minor League Athletic Trainer

Tampa Bay Rays