Editor's Note: This article is part of a series recognizing National Athletic Training Month.
COVINGTON, Ga. — Chip McCarty has been an athletic trainer for 33 years now and currently holds that position at Eastside High School. Though McCarty has been all over Georgia as an athletic trainer, he remembers the moment he decided to become an athletic trainer like it was yesterday.
McCarty was a fourth grader participating in the University of Georgia’s summer football camp during which he was about to score his “one and only touchdown.”
It didn’t quite play out that way, though.
While racing toward the goal line, McCarty tripped over his “own two feet” and fell around the three-yard line. As a result, McCarty broke his collarbone.
Since the incident occurred early in the camp, McCarty had a choice — go home early or be confined to UGA athletic trainer Warren Morris’ office the rest of the way.
McCarty chose the latter.
“I watched what [Warren] did in amazement and loved every minute of it,” McCarty said.
The next six summers, McCarty returned to that same football camp but, instead of playing football, he shadowed Morris.
“He taught me how to tape, clean Whirlpools, mix Gatorade and stuff like that,” McCarty said. “My 10th grade year in high school, he sent me an official University of Georgia sports medicine kit for Christmas.”
That one summer sparked a lifelong dream McCarty is living today.
Since that moment, McCarty has earned a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine from Valdosta State University in 1989. He obtained a master’s in health and physical education as well as getting teacher certification in the state of Georgia.
McCarty has 33 years worth of athletic training experience. In Newton County specifically, he has serviced all three public schools the last two years.
And, though he originally aspired to become “the next Warren Morris” — at one point he thought of being an athletic trainer in the National Football League, too — McCarty is glad to have remained on the high school level.
“I learned in a small town years ago, there’ll be kids hanging out the window hollering at you,” McCarty said. “Or their parents are stopping me in the grocery store, ‘Hey, thanks for taking care of my kid.’ The relationships you build with the students, the parents, the coaches and the physicians is the best part.”
Being an athletic trainer, though, is more than just assisting a student-athlete when they sustain an injury.
McCarty highlighted six domains of athletic training — Prevention, Clinical Evaluation and Diagnosis, Immediate and Emergency Care, Treatment and Rehabilitation as well as Organization and Professional Health and Well-Being.
McCarty stressed how athletic trainers have to take each domain seriously.
“What a lot of folks don’t realize is that, it may look like we’re sitting over there on the sideline doing nothing in that 100 degree heat, but we’re monitoring the weather,” McCarty said. “We’re the ones documenting the heat. When it’s too hot, we’re telling the coaches, ‘Hey, it’s too hot. We got to do this, this and this.’
“We do concussion testing. We are one of only four professions in the state of Georgia that is approved to return a player to play after a concussion.”
Other aspects of athletic trainers’ responsibilities include surveying athletic facilities and helping student-athletes in their conditioning to best return from injury.
McCarty enjoys all facets of his position as athletic trainer. And, from that one summer where he didn’t score a touchdown, McCarty picked up much more than just six points in a touch football game.
“I knew from the fourth grade this is what I wanted to do,” McCarty said.