National Athletic Training Month

Williams, Taylor athletic training program recognized for safety, health care

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 3/31/21

Not even a year into his new job as Taylor High’s head athletic trainer, Roderick Williams found himself guiding Mustangs athletics through a pandemic.

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National Athletic Training Month

Williams, Taylor athletic training program recognized for safety, health care

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Not even a year into his new job as Taylor High’s head athletic trainer, Roderick Williams found himself guiding Mustangs athletics through a pandemic.

Hired in the late spring of 2019, Williams, a Texas Tech graduate and formerly an assistant athletic trainer at Tomball Memorial and Pearland Dawson high schools, was tasked with the toughest challenge he may ever have to face in his career. But the Denison, Texas, native has done quite well, so much so that his program was the recipient of the National Athletic Trainers Association’s Safe Sports School award in March, a recognition that highlights schools that have met recommended standards to improve safety in sports.

“This year has been a full spectrum for me, from start to finish,” Williams said. “But I’ve loved every minute of it. I’m very fortunate to be in a situation where I can help kids and impact our student-athletes on a daily basis.”

Along with his staff of assistants Daniel Young and Tashia Hairston, and a student leadership committee of senior Deya Rana and juniors Grace Falknar, Alec Sotelo and Breilly Westbrook, Williams’ innovative thinking and commitment to next-level safety and health care have been impressive.

“Roderick does a great job,” said Justin Landers, Katy ISD assistant athletic director over sports medicine. “He takes care of his kids. He tries to make that program better and he works hard to stay with the times. His pedigree is strong. He asks the right questions and he’s very involved.”

Every Katy ISD school, with the exception of new Jordan High, has now won the award at least once.

“The award is an initiative to put kids first and they have the things they need to be successful,” Landers said. “Not just athletic equipment, but a support staff like having enough athletic trainers, having enough equipment, having enough ice and heat. Katy ISD is continuing to do that, and Roderick and Taylor High School are showing they’re committed to their athletes and being top-notch.”

The NATA award oversees a three-year period. To be considered for the award, a school’s athletic training program must create a positive athletic health care administrative system, provide and coordinate pre-participation physical exams, plan for selection, fit function and proper maintenance of athletic equipment, develop illness and injury prevention strategies, and provide or facilitate psychosocial consultation and nutritional counseling and education, among other requirements.

Williams credits Landers, Katy ISD athletic director Debbie Decker, new Taylor principal Dr. Melinda Stone, head campus athletic coordinator Chad Simmons (“a godsend,” Williams said), assistant athletic campus coordinator Brooke Plemons and athletic secretary Lynda Gardner for their support in his vision for the athletic training program.

“It really gives me confidence and comfort knowing steps are taken to build this program into one that people will respect in the district and outside it,” Williams said.

Williams came to Taylor from two programs at Tomball Memorial and Pearland Dawson that were structured, organized and well-respected in the Greater Houston area. Pearland Dawson won the NATA Safe Sports award while Williams was an assistant there.

Williams’ first goal when he arrived in Katy was to build the student training program. Before he arrived, there were 12 students in the program. Now there are 20.

Williams adjusted the schedules of the student trainers to a simpler crew format, from one head student athletic trainer to the four crew leaders—Rana, Falknar, Sotelo and Westbrook. It has fostered competition. Student trainers wish to be one of the four crew leaders so that they have a prominent voice in the program.

“Those kids are the face of the program, as far as attracting other students that want to be a part of this and being the advocates to athletes and parents to trust what we’re doing here,” Williams said.

Williams desired a training room that “flows naturally.” He cleaned out old, useless equipment. He brought in equipment that was relevant. And he demanded a spotless, professional environment.

“I really wanted this to look like a health care clinic, because at the end of the day, that’s what we are,” he said. “I want parents to know that when we have their kids, we’re taking care of them with competency and compassion. We’re invested in the students. I have an open-door policy, and if the kid is struggling with their diet, sickness, stress or injury, they can trust us to listen and know we’re going to support them.”

Williams has worked tirelessly to change the status quo. When kids get hurt, they’re typically taken to the doctor or physical therapy. Williams works to ensure parents know those same services are offered, and at no cost, at Taylor, under his watch. Not just a couple days a week. Every day, with the consistency of doctor’s protocol.

“It’s the biggest thing we’ve done,” Williams said. “We’re versed in the mains as far as prevention, rehabilitation and emergency management.”

The pandemic proved as much.

Williams strategized with other athletic trainers about how to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and then implemented his own ideas.

Clear barrier screens between each training table were placed to isolate students with COVID symptoms, protecting themselves and others while they were treated. Students wore gloves and goggles in the training room. Tables were sanitized after every use. Williams had “Quick Grab” carts placed outside the entrance to the training room to limit foot traffic in it. The carts had essentials like bandages, tape, Biofreeze, gloves and cups.

The district provided two hands-free water units for each campus, but Williams went a step further, finding the necessary parts at Lowe’s and Home Depot to build three more handmade, hands-free units to hook up to hydration stations during the summer strength and conditioning camp.

Aside from attending to the needs and care of students and coaches, Williams also had a more serious personal investment. His wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in November and went through the bulk of her treatments and operations during the pandemic.

“My concern was looking out for the well-being of the athletes and coaches and parents who are going to be here, but I also had to worry about what I would bring home to her,” Williams said of his own safety, protection and care. “Once the district and UIL provided their recommendations and guidelines, my focus was on what else we could do to build upon that.”

Williams said students have done an admirable job wearing masks, sanitizing their hands before and after use of the training room, and wiping down their own rehab equipment when done. They also bring their own water bottles and devices, and Williams and his staff have emphasized how to thoroughly rinse, clean and reuse bottles.

It’s made for successful application of forward-thinking safety and health care practices during a dire time, though Williams still borders on more cautious than not.

“I’m still wary of our students becoming too lax at the time,” he said. “We try to control what we can control. As apprehensive in some stages I want to be, I can only control what happens here, and we’ll leave the rest up to luck and fate.

“A lot of the stuff we put in place allowed us to be fortunate, as far as not having some of the outbreaks and stuff that other schools had,” Williams added. “I’m very thankful that myself and the two other athletic trainers we have are all on the same page, and our students bought into that. They really look out for each other.”

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