Trainers prove strong commitment to Generals

The Ring-tum Phi spoke with several campus athletic trainers to find out what makes their roles so special to W&L’s competitors

Elly Cosgrove

The student-athletes of Washington and Lee University train day-in and day-out to ensure top-performance come game day. However, there is an essential part of every program that works behind the scenes to keep each team healthy, functioning and in top condition: the athletic training staff.

“Just the interactions with everyone,” Head Athletic Trainer Josh Williamson said when asked about his favorite part of the job. “I genuinely enjoy being around all the student-athletes and they all have different paths in how they got here and different interests and everybody’s individual stories are interesting to me.”

Williamson began his career at W&L in the fall of 2004 and assumed the position of head athletic trainer during the 2006-07 school year.

Before coming to Lexington, he received a bachelor’s degree and master of science in athletic training from Indiana State University. Last year, he completed a clinical doctorate.

“The over-arching goal is to cut down and reduce the injury risk and what we can do to grow in that capacity and make this something that’s as safe as it can be,” Williamson said.

Williamson was a part of the wrestling, track and field and cross-country teams during his high school career. He originally intended to follow a pre-med track, but realized he wanted to “stay with an active population.” He looked into physical therapy, but ultimately decided to pursue a career in athletic training.

Football, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s swimming and men’s lacrosse all fall under Williamson’s sport assignments.

Katie Shank is in her second year as an assistant athletic trainer at W&L and takes care of field hockey, men’s and women’s cross country, wrestling and baseball.

Shank worked with the University of North Carolina Charlotte volleyball team for two years as an intern before joining the W&L staff. Shank graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran with a bachelor’s degree in sport and exercise science and with a minor in psychology.

Matt Phillips, who has been with W&L for 12 years, decided to become an athletic trainer after he was diagnosed at the age of 16 with a neuromuscular condition that didn’t allow him to play sports.

“I really enjoyed athletics and I really enjoy helping people, so I got involved with my high school athletic trainer who was the athletic trainer for the New York Mets back in the ’80s and fell in love with it and that became my passion.”

Phillips said the best advice his mentor ever gave him was to never get frustrated with an athlete or an injury.

“Every day is a new day, it’s completely different, it’s not like going into an office and you know you’re doing the same mundane thing over and over Monday through Friday,” Phillips said when asked about his favorite part of the job. “I see different injuries, I see different people; I enjoy the student-athletes that I work with, so every day for me is just a fresh start.”

Before coming to W&L, he received a master of science in health and movement from Virginia Commonwealth University. Phillips graduated cum laude from Lynchburg College with a bachelor of science in athletic training.

Phillips works with volleyball, men’s basketball, women’s lacrosse and equestrian.

Mechelle Norris, like Shank, is in her second year at W&L. She graduated from Lynchburg College with a bachelor of science in athletic training and worked with many different sports teams as an undergraduate. In 2016, Norris received her master of science in exercise science with a concentration in athletic training research from Auburn University.

During her time at Auburn, she worked as a graduate assistant with basic trainees at Fort Benning. She also served as a graduate assistant at Point University working with many different sports teams.

Norris’ sport assignments at W&L include men’s and women’s soccer, women’s basketball, men’s and women’s tennis and track and field.

According to Phillips and Williamson, the hardest part about athletic training is the time commitment.

“I think one of the hardest aspects is just staying mentally focused when you’re going 12 or 14 hours a day or you’re going for a long period of time,” Williamson said. “Really from about August to early November is a time where there’s just 12 to 14 hour days which is a common thing six to seven days a week.”

As challenging as these responsibilities are, though, each of the trainers doubled down on their devotion to keeping student-athletes healthy and W&L’s sports programs in peak condition.