UTD’s two new assistant athletic trainers have settled into their positions with the help of engaging athletes and a supportive athletic department.
Kerri Kalina, one of the new athletic trainers, attended East Texas Baptist University where she was a student athlete.
“I played volleyball at ETBU and I work with volleyball and baseball here (at UTD),” Kalina said. “I like being able to stay with volleyball.”
Kalina didn’t always know she wanted to be an athletic trainer, but knew she wanted to be involved with the sports field in some way. As a student at ETBU, she started to work with the head athletic trainer.
“Two weeks into the school, once I got to campus, I was like, ‘Oh, this is what it’s all about. I love this,’” Kalina said. “It was a perfect fit.”
The other new athletic trainer, Karl Smith, said he first knew that he wanted to be involved in the field watching Cowboys games as a child.
“I always wanted to be the person, I didn’t know who it was, but whoever helped Emmitt Smith or Troy Aikman,” he said. “That’s who I wanted to be.”
Smith, who played basketball and golf growing up, works at UTD with men’s basketball, women’s soccer and both men’s and women’s golf.
Smith’s connections to UTD started before he was hired. While attending the University of Central Arkansas, he shadowed UTD’s head athletic trainer Tom Monagan. As a graduate assistant at Oklahoma State University, he worked with another future colleague.
“My first year (at OSU), I was with the women’s softball program with coach Rich Wieligman, who’s actually the softball coach here now,” Smith said.
On a daily basis, Smith said he and the other athletic trainers typically spend their time overseeing practices, working with athletes on their rehab and doing paperwork. He said they do their best to work around athletes’ class agendas, but their day-to-day schedules fluctuate based on need.
Tom Monagan, the head athletic trainer and associate athletic director, said one of the things he looks for in a good athletic trainer is the ability to adjust quickly.
“Every day is different,” Monagan said. “You never know what’s going to happen. A kid could walk in one day with appendicitis, or you could have someone have a ruptured spleen on the field, or they could come in and want an ankle sprain looked at. You’ve got to be able to adjust to that. Schedules change constantly.”
Kalina said instead of finding the changing schedules difficult, she thinks it’s one of the perks of the job.
“That’s one of the things I love about being an athletic trainer,” she said. “Every day is different. You don’t get bored just doing the same thing every day.”
Smith said the strong academic focus of the student athletes has made for a different and enjoyable experience for him at UTD. He said the athletes are smart and driven in a way that brings him joy.
“They really keep you on your toes,” he said. “They ask you, ‘Why are we doing this?’ in rehab. ‘How is this gonna make me better?’ There’s always these questions and they’re challenging and making sure you’re on top of your game, which has been great for me.”
Kalina said one of the most enjoyable things is the level of competition at UTD.
“It’s always great to work for a university that is competitive and that wins,” she said. “It’s fun to work for a school, but if you’re not winning, then that’s sometimes discouraging.”
Kalina also said she appreciates how well everyone in the athletic department works together.
“Coaches are more understanding of my job, and definitely the athletes and the coaches are more appreciative,” Kalina said. “They can be more appreciative of what I do and what we do.”
Both Kalina and Smith said they are happy with the dynamic within the athletic department.
“This is the smallest athletic department I’ve ever been in,” Smith said. “That makes it more of a family and more close knit. It’s almost like a little community over here in the athletic department.”
Monagan, who is in his seventh year at UTD, said it’s important to have a good educational background and experience as an athletic trainer.
“When I hired Kerri and Karl, they both came from strong academic schools for undergraduate education and then they both got experience at Division I institutions, which I think is important because you’re put under a little bit of pressure,” Monagan said. “You see a wide variety of things …They’re able to use that on an everyday basis.”
Monagan said the new trainer’s diverse backgrounds were also important to him.
“I don’t want a bunch of yes people,” Monagan said. “I want some people with new ideas. I want people that are going to challenge what we do.”
Monagan said he thinks Smith and Kalina fit in well with the athletic department.
“They have good personalities,” he said. “They all work well with the student athletes and the coaches. They’re well respected by them all.”