We’re celebrating National Athletic Training Month in the month of March by sharing our appreciation for the hard work our athletic trainers do on and off the field.

Abby Blatz, Southeast High School, Springfield, IL

Female athletic trainer smiling in school gymnasium.

What lead you into athletic training? 

I have always been interested in pursuing a health care profession. Athletic training stood out to me specifically due to the close relationships you can build with athletes, coaches and the rest of the community.   

What do you like most about your job at Springfield Clinic? 

My favorite aspect of working at Springfield Clinic is the way our Sports Medicine department collaborates as a team. With this being my first year in the field, I worried about working alone at my own location. However, I have felt anything but alone. Our team is constantly communicating with one another despite how far apart our individual locations may be.   

Tell us about the community you serve and what impact you make.

I am currently located at Southeast High School. I have only been at my location for a few months but I am eager to begin my career here. I plan to serve this community by becoming a figure my athletes and coaches can grow to trust with their injuries and as a friend.  

Karen Gregory, Springfield High School, Springfield, IL

Female athletic trainer smiling in high school athletic trainer room.

What lead you into athletic training? 

I got into Athletic Training because I wanted to help injured athletes. 

What do you like most about your job at Springfield Clinic? 

I like being able to work directly with athletes and being able to utilize the vast resources provided by Springfield Clinic. 

Tell us about the community you serve and what impact you make.

I serve the student athletes of SHS and do everything I can to keep them in the game. 

Josh Hicks, Taylorville High School, Taylorville, IL

Male athletic trainer posing in front of a red background.

What lead you into athletic training? 

I loved my athletic trainers in high school and college. I love to be around sports and studying the movement of the human body. I went to a community college trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Once I graduated with my associate’s degree I knew I wanted to be around exercise and sport. I decided to major in exercise science at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. That is basically an entry degree to get a masters or doctorate in a related field. During my senior year I was able to participate in a sports medicine internship with one of the graduate assistants in the training room. I loved the experience, and it confirmed my decision to pursue athletic training. 

What do you like most about your job at Springfield Clinic? 

The open communication is great. Anytime I need help I know I can rely on my fellow trainers, management, physicians, nurses or any other member of orthopedics at Springfield Clinic. There have been multiple times I have been able to call up the trainers and get an instant response. They are happy to help out the new guy.  

Tell us about the community you serve and what impact you make.

As soon as I started at Taylorville I felt a sense of acceptance. They understand the importance of the profession and are willing to work with athletic trainers. Everyone at Taylorville is willing to help. It’s been a tight knit community.  The parents make a big effort to help from bringing food before and after the football games to putting on toy drives for people effected by tragedy. As an athletic trainer I am readily available whenever they need me. I live in Taylorville so I can come in a moment’s notice. I put a lot of effort into my work. I want to go the extra step to improve sports medicine at Taylorville. I would like to be a guy that the community can count on, rather than being here for a couple years and leaving. 

Torie Keane, North Mac High School, Virden, IL

Female athletic trainer smiling on an outdoor track.

What lead you into athletic training? 

While in high school I knew that I wanted a career where I could help people and knew I wanted to go into the medical field. At first, I was drawn to the field of physical therapy and, while visiting colleges, I found athletic training. This field combines the medical aspect I was looking for while also allowing me to be around sports and athletes.  

What do you like most about your job at Springfield Clinic? 

I like that we have a large team of athletic trainers at Springfield Clinic that I can go to with questions or run through scenarios with. I also like the close relationships we have with our providers and how helpful they are when our athletes need them.   

Tell us about the community you serve and what impact you make.

The community I serve is North Mac (Virden/Girard).  This is a small rural community about 30 miles south of Springfield. This is also the community I grew up in. I think a benefit of me serving this area is that it gives the community access to someone with my experience without having to go directly to a hospital that is not close by. I can also give them access to care more directly due to working for Springfield Clinic by setting up same day appointments or directing them to other specialties outside of orthopedics. By being available at the school, I may also be the only professional around that is qualified to help manage concussions and provide education about them. 

Darby McCauley, Riverton High School, Riverton, IL

Female athletic trainer smiling with indoor basketball court in background.

What led you into athletic training?

I always knew I wanted to be in health care. I went through an injury in high school and had an amazing athletic trainer that inspired me to become one. I wanted to be able to do for other athletes what he was able to do for me in getting me through a rough time and coming back stronger and more confident on the other side.  

What do you like most about your job at Springfield Clinic? 

I love being able to work and serve in the community of Springfield and beyond. I really enjoy being at Riverton High School and getting to be a part of a great team of trainers where we can support each other and help each other out. I also really like working so closely with the Orthopedic doctors and building relationships with them in order to better serve our athletes with a team approach. 

Tell us about the community you serve and the impact you make.  

Riverton is a hidden gem! It’s great to have that small town homey feel but still be close enough to Springfield and not feel removed from everything. The people here have really welcomed me and made me feel a part of the team. I absolutely love serving the athletes and families in this community! 

Stephanie McNally, Jacksonville High School, Jacksonville, IL

Female athletic trainer sitting in a chair smiling in school gym.

What led you into athletic training?

I was a soccer athlete in high school and suffered two ACL tears, one on each knee. I had surgery on both and ended up spending a lot of time working with my high school athletic trainer. I gained an interest in the profession after working with them and seeing what the job as an athletic trainer entailed.  

What do you like most about your job at Springfield Clinic? 

The people I work with! Everyone I have had the pleasure to work with has made me feel very welcome and like a member of the family. It has been a very positive work environment.  

Tell us about the community you serve and the impact you make.  

I am the athletic trainer for Jacksonville High School. Being able to serve a small-town community has allowed me to make great connections with the people of Jacksonville. I have the ability to treat my patients and athletes like members of my family, which I believe helps me provide the best possible care.  

Phil Nickols, Pleasant Plains High School, Pleasant Plains, IL

Male athletic trainer smiling with basketball court in background.

What lead you into athletic training? 

It was a bit of a combination of things that lead me into athletic training. I grew up with three brothers that all loved playing sports. We loved playing sports with each other, our friends and on competitive teams as we got older. As I entered my senior year of high school, that enjoyment of sports met up with a special interest in the medical field. I went on a medical mission trip to Haiti with a few local physicians, one of them being an orthopedic physician. I learned a little bit more about the field of sports medicine and was introduced to the athletic training profession. I loved the idea of combing my enjoyment of sports, interest in the medical field and desire to serve and care for people. 

What do you like most about your job at Springfield Clinic? 

My favorite part of working as an athletic trainer at Springfield Clinic is the opportunity it offers to get involved in the community and connect with people. I enjoy the day-to-day interactions with student athletes and helping them through the ups and downs that come with playing sports, or even just life. 

Tell us about the community you serve and what impact you make.

The high school I am primarily involved in is Pleasant Plains High School (PPHS). Being new to Springfield Clinic and Pleasant Plains, I am enjoying the opportunity to get to know the community. As I attend more and more practices and games, as well as the day-to-day interactions with caring for student athletes after school, I am slowly getting to know the young adults and families here which has been great. Both parents and student athletes have been so appreciative of everything I do to help keep our athletes playing the sports they love.  

Jessica Nika, Auburn High School, Auburn, IL

Female athletic trainer smiling with outdoor track in background.

What lead you into athletic training? 

I have always wanted to be a part of the health care field but did not know in what capacity. While in college I took an intro into athletic training class and loved the idea of being able to work with athletes and be around sports, while also working with other health care professionals. I played soccer my whole life and loved the idea of being able to continue to work around sports and help athletes get back to the game they love.  

What do you like most about your job at Springfield Clinic? 

My favorite part of working for Springfield Clinic is the true team approach we have as the sports medicine group. Between the other athletic trainers, physicians and physical therapists, you are never on your own. Everyone is always open to bounce ideas off, ask questions and support each other to get an athlete back to playing their sport.  

Tell us about the community you serve and what impact you make.

I have been working at Auburn High School since the fall of 2017. I have been fortunate to help numerous athletes return to their sport and have loved cheering on all the sports. I hope that I am someone they trust within the community to give advice and provide a great level of care for all the athletes at Auburn High School. 

Melissa Perkins, Lincoln College, Lincoln, IL

Female athletic trainer sitting in chair smiling in school gym setting.

What lead you into athletic training?  

I have always been an athlete but working with my high school athletic trainer helped me find a passion for health care and athletics that has stayed with me ever since.  

What do you like most about your job at Springfield Clinic? 

I love working for a company that really shows that they care about both employees and patients. I feel very supported by my coworkers and supervisors as well as by the physicians that my athletes see. I trust every provider to give the best care for my athletes. 

Tell us about the community you serve and what impact you make.

I am the head athletic trainer at Lincoln College providing care for hundreds of athletes across 16 different sports at the NAIA level. I get to work with athletes every day providing healthcare and getting them back to the sports they love.  

Kris Schwiderski, Routt Catholic High School, Jacksonville, IL

Male athletic trainer wearing purple shirt smiling in school gymnasium.

What lead you into athletic training? 

I was led into athletic training for several reasons. I sustained several injuries during high school sports which I saw our school’s AT and also attended physical therapy.  I always enjoyed science, especially human anatomy and physiology, which helps in this profession. Lastly, I was dating the daughter of ISU’s Head Athletic Trainer and he asked me to come over and observe what they did in the AT room prior to and post practices – I was hooked! 

What do you like most about your job at Springfield Clinic? 

I enjoy working with athletes, coaches, parents, etc. on a daily basis to help them understand what is going on with the injury and how we are going to tackle getting better and back on the field or court. I enjoy seeing an athlete return to their high-level sports from an injury and having the success that they strive for. I enjoy working with my fellow trainers and collaborating about different things to utilize at my schools/with my athletes to take better care of injuries. 

Tell us about the community you serve and what impact you make.

Jacksonville is a rural community and lacks much expertise in injury care and rehabilitating injuries for a safe, but quicker return to sport. I believe I am a big asset to both the athletes, coaches and parents of the Jacksonville and surrounding communities due to that lack of knowledge and lack of personnel in our rural area. I am constantly getting phone calls/texts about injuries from not only coaches and athletic directors, but also parents and the athletes themselves that I have come to know throughout the years. I see former athletes/patients and parents at grocery and other stores weekly and get stopped and have conversations about themselves, their sons/daughters and just what is going on in their lives. I have made many, many friends through being an athletic trainer over the past 30 years. 

Pete Stoll, Rochester High School, Rochester, IL

Male athletic trainer smiling with arms crossed in a school gym setting.

What lead you into athletic training? 

I was always a sports nut.  I loved being around and playing sports. I played baseball, basketball and football in grade school. I wasn’t good or big enough to play football or basketball very well but loved baseball. I grew up with severe asthma which always slowed me down, so I had to find another way to “participate.” When I got to high school, the head football coach asked me to be equipment manager for the football team, I knew this was a way to be part of the team. In my sophomore year, coach taught me how to tape ankles and wrists and I never looked back. When I graduated from high school, and moved to college, I was the equipment manager and trainer for the athletic teams. My freshman year, our basketball team qualified for the NAIA National Tournament in Kansas City. My senior year of college, I met the equipment manager for the Wichita Aeros Baseball Club, the AAA affiliate of the Texas Rangers. He introduced me to the Athletic Trainer, Danny Wheat, and we hit it off. I spent the entire summer with the Aeros, as an intern and even ended up as head trainer for a week when Danny had to go to Arlington, TX, for a wedding.  He sent me to Oklahoma City and Denver with the team. After that, I was hooked. I started looking for Athletic Training jobs after the season, sending out resumes to most of the professional baseball teams. On April 1, 1982, I was called to the athletic office at Newman, (no cell phones back then).  The St. Louis Cardinals were looking for an athletic trainer for their Rookie Ball Club in Johnson City, Tenn.  I flew out 2 days later and, the rest as they say, is history.  Nearly 40 years later, I am still working in the field, meeting new people and becoming reacquainted with some from many years past.  I have many 3rd generation families and even a couple of 4th generation families who I have been associated with my entire tenure.  Athletic training has taken me across the United States and even internationally. I have been part of teams which have won the World Series, National Championships, State Championships and Olympic medalists. In the last few years, it has led to my inclusion in many Halls of Fame including the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Springfield Sports Hall of Fame.   

 What do you like most about your job at Springfield Clinic? 

I probably like the camaraderie that is Springfield Clinic. It doesn’t matter who you are, what your position is within the clinic or your job title, everyone seems to be working for the same goal, service. From the physicians to all the staff, it is very easy to work here because you know you will be supported from the top to the bottom.  As we have grown sports medicine over the last 7 years, the physicians and administration have never wavered on their position, to make Springfield Clinic Sports Medicine the best program in central Illinois.   

 Tell us about the community you serve and what impact you make.

While my main school is Rochester and the Rochester community, I feel my community is the entire Springfield area. After 37 years of athletic training in central Illinois, I have probably worked games in over 100 schools, from grade school, to high school to college and even professional sports and community events. Community service has always been a very important aspect of what we do as trainers and the events and teams we cover are wide ranging. I have made thousands of acquaintances throughout my time in Springfield and for the most part, wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have become part of this community, raised my family here and look forward to serving it for years to come.  

Cole Thornton, Lanphier High School, Springfield, IL

Male athletic trainer smiling in a high school athletic trainer room.

What lead you into athletic training? 

My senior year in high school an intern athletic trainer took care of me and got me back to playing the very next week. 

 What do you like most about your job at Springfield Clinic? 

I like being able to give back to the area I grew up in by helping young athletes like I was. 

 Tell us about the community you serve and what impact you make.

I provide services to Lanphier High School. Besides taping, rehabilitating, evaluating and other normal athletic training duties, I provide a safe place for student athletes and students to come talk to me about anything and everything. I think building a great rapport with the students, faculty, coaches and administration is key to being successful in our line of work. Developing community trust and belief that you have their best interest at heart makes the job easier and more rewarding. 

Kurt Turner, Williamsville High School, Williamsville, IL

Male athletic trainer smiling in outdoor setting.

What lead you into athletic training? 

I have always been a sports fan and was interested in the health care field. Athletic training was the perfect profession to combine those two interests to be able to help athletes back from injury and succeed in their sport.  

What do you like most about your job at Springfield Clinic? 

My favorite aspect of Springfield Clinic is the team approach to health care. With the resources of Springfield Clinic, we are afforded the privilege to collaborate with all specialties under one roof to make the injury process as seamless as possible. There is never a moment where I feel like I’m on an island approaching a situation on my own. 

Tell us about the community you serve and what impact you make.

I serve the communities of Williamsville and Sherman. Creating lifelong relationships with everyone including parents, athletes and coaches has been my favorite part of serving these communities. I consider myself very lucky to be able to help connect these communities with Springfield Clinic in any way possible.  

Jon Wiezorek, Glenwood High School, Chatham, IL

Male athletic trainer smiling in school gym setting.

What lead you into athletic training? 

I wanted to work with motivated injured people!  

What do you like most about your job at Springfield Clinic? 

Team approach and physicians that I trust sending my own family to! 

Tell us about the community you serve and what impact you make.

I work and live in the Ball Chatham School District and cover everything I can from youth to middle school to high school athletes and even their parents’ injuries sometimes! It's a great day to be a Titan!