The UTD athletic training department has a new head of staff.
Head athletic trainer Josh Dreher joined the team in August following a hiring search over the summer. The position comes with another title — associate athletic director for student wellness. He had similar responsibilities at his most recent job at Adams State where he was also the head athletic trainer.
After practices started for the year, Dreher said he immediately felt comfortable, from settling in to working with the athletes, although the administrative side took longer.
“The health and wellness of our student athletes is the number one priority, so I’m focused on that,” he said.
Assistant Athletic Trainer Kerri Kalina helped in the search for the new head of the department. Dreher has worked with nutrition and mental health in previous jobs. When combined with his good ideas to move the team forward, his experience helped him to stand out, she said.
She asked athletes to see how they’re handling the change and received positive and receptive feedback.
“He’s done a good job and they’ve been responsive to that,” she said.
Dreher’s current responsibility is men’s soccer. Senior defender Marco Barbosa said the team didn’t know what to expect at first. After Barbosa sustained an injury in a recent game against Trinity, he started working with Dreher, alleviating his concerns about the change.
“He’s great and he makes sure we try to get to 100 percent as soon as possible.” he said.
Dreher has worked in all three athletic divisions, including Boise State and Northwestern. One of the biggest differences Dreher has seen between Division I schools and Division III schools is that Division I schools have team physicians and outside medical professionals available. This year, the staff at UTD is working to provide the same benefits, including bringing in a team chiropractor and dentist.
Division I programs typically have a higher number of staff and sports, but there isn’t a major difference in how the work is divided up, Dreher said. Each trainer has the sports that they are assigned to cover.
“That’s really what athletic training and sports medicine should be about — working together with a team and putting a good staff together so we all work in harmony and help each other out,” he said.
The athletic training staff at UTD won multiple awards in recent years, including a share of the ASC Athletic Training Staff of the Year this past spring. Dreher is still getting accustomed to the program before he makes any big decisions, he said.
One change Dreher is already planning to implement is the training staff giving equal support on game days to both the Comets and their opponents. While they are employed by the school, athletic trainers are supposed to be unbiased in the game. Moving forward, anything that is available for UTD athletes will be available for the opposing team as well.
“If at a soccer game, we have Gatorade on our bench, I want Gatorade on the opponent’s bench too,” Dreher said. “Keeping a fair playing field for all is what makes sports great.”
Dreher said he hopes to reassure and teach the athletes that the trainers are not there just to take them out of the game, but aim to do what’s best for them, both in the short term and the long term.
“We’re here to help them succeed,” he said. “We’re not here to hold them back.”