Editor's Note: This article is part of a series recognizing National Athletic Training Month.
SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — Once upon a time, Sierra Nix wanted to pursue a career in physical therapy. So, to help boost her aspirations, she looked to athletic training as a “stepping stone” to her ultimate goal.
While doing so, Nix discovered that she really enjoyed being an athletic trainer and, as a result, set her mind to that career instead.
“Once I got into the program at Valdosta State, that’s when I fell in love with it,” Nix said. “I was like, ‘Yep, this is not a stepping stone anymore. This is it, this is where I’m stopping.’”
Nix finished her bachelor’s degree in athletic training at Valdosta State University and, later, she earned a master’s in sports medicine at Georgia State. Nix was a graduate assistant at Oglethorpe University while pursuing her master’s.
When called upon to assist an injured athlete in the game, Nix mentioned how all of her training in college comes flooding back in her mind. But there’s an aspect she said has to be compressed when assessing any situation.
“That training kicks in automatically,” Nix said. “You have to leave your feelings out and push the adrenaline away and focus more on, ‘OK, what’s my situation?’ And quickly think about the body part, what I’m dealing with and what could potentially be wrong. At the moment, you’re automatically in go mode. You’re there to do your job.”
Now, she’s the athletic trainer for Social Circle High School athletics where she’s been since fall 2016. Along the way, Nix has also served as athletic trainer at Alcovy and Newton for short periods of time, too.
The bulk of her time, however, has been spent with the Redskins.
One thing pops out to Nix about her favorite part of being an athletic trainer.
“You build these bonds with [the students] and you’re there for them. You end up wearing more than one hat being their athletic trainer,” Nix said. “You end up being their counselor and you end up being there for those moments good and bad. Working with the kids makes the job worth it.”
The past four years, Nix has worked with Playsafe — a South Carolina-based nonprofit that helps place athletic trainers in high schools. And, a year ago, she was promoted to be region supervisor.
In that role, Nix helps oversee athletic trainers in other schools and assist them on a regular basis when needed.
Nix’s responsibilities with PlaySafe are coupled with her service to the Redskins’ student-athletes. Nix does treatment, monitors weather, does evaluations, rehabilitation and much more.
There is one pet peeve Nix has when trying to explain to others what her role actually entails.
“We’re healthcare professionals. A lot of times when we try to explain, ‘Hey, I’m the athletic trainer,’ they think I’m the strength and conditioning coach,” Nix said. “What you guys see is only the tip of the iceberg. We don’t just train people, we are sports medicine.”
In all of her experiences as an athletic trainer, Nix seems to be more appreciative of her time at Social Circle High School. When asked why, her response was quite simple.
“The nice thing about being here is I get to see these kids from middle school onward. I do try to be that safe space where they feel comfortable to come talk to me if something has gone wrong,” Nix said. “I’ll still have kids who have graduated call me and be like, ‘Can you come look at my knee?’ or they’ll just ask questions. It’s just different connections you build with the kids.”