The Heroes Behind the Scenes

USD 465 Winfield athletic trainer Arista Groom tends to a WHS boys soccer player who suffered a gash when butting heads during a game. The athletic trainer is often the first one on the field when an athlete is injured.

Arista Groom likes to see young students experience the hard work, joy and accomplishment of participating in any activity, especially if it involves sports.

Groom is the athletic trainer for USD 465 Winfield High School and Winfield Middle School. She not only concentrates on each athlete’s physical health and improvement, but also helps with psychological and emotional issues that may arise from a game or completely independent of their sports world.

According to this athletic trainer, a trusting relationship is vital to her students, their parents and the entire school system.

Groom covers all sports at the high school, supervises middle school athletes at times and is present at middle school home games.

“I often find that sports serve as motivation to many young kids,” she said. “Many basic life skills can be learned through sports: accountability, sacrifice, teamwork, being on time and a social aspect in that you don’t always win or get your way. And if they are involved, they will work toward the greater good of not only themselves, but their community or team.”

Born and raised in Winfield, Groom graduated in 2007 from Winfield High School. During her childhood, her attention was drawn to sports. Throughout her high school days, she played three different sports.

Groom participated in boys soccer before the girls program had been established. She enjoyed softball and basketball, and continued with basketball for two years at Lindenwood University, in St. Charles, Mo., where she earned a bachelor of science degree in athletic training and a minor in Spanish.

Eventually, Groom gave up basketball to focus on her degree and future career path. But her true interest in athletic training occurred during her freshman year in high school when she began attending sports medicine camps.

“That interest just stuck. It was the best of both worlds — medicine and sports,” she said.

Groom became a certified athletic trainer in July 2011. From that point on, she soon realized how greatly she could further her education and skills by enrolling in an Emergency Medical Technician class through Cowley College, earning her license in August 2011.

“I worked as a part-time EMT for 2 1/2 years, which helped me gain valuable medical experience,” she said.

The start of the 2019-20 school year will mark Groom’s ninth year at Winfield High School.

“I have achieved many goals since I was the first athletic trainer at Winfield, but still have more that I seek to accomplish,” she said.

When hired out of college in 2011, Groom didn’t have anything — no facility, no equipment or supplies, and no budget. However, with the initial help and support of the WHS Booster Club and the district providing some funding, she was able to acquire a few basic supplies to get her started.

The school district renovated an old locker room as a facility upgrade to what is now the athletic training room.

“It is spacious and has room for treatments, rehabilitation, whirlpool therapies, ice and heat therapies, a private office and lots of storage,” she said. “This will be my third year in that room, as I was previously in a classroom space away from the sports facilities.”

As far as various treatments go, Groom has access to electrical stimulation and ultrasound modalities. She also uses tape and weights, and assigns rehabilitation programs for the strengthening of a body part or joint.

“For endurance or stamina, I can use stationary bikes, the indoor pool at Southwestern College that is operated by the Winfield Recreation Commission, the weight room facility or just good ol’ stairs,” she said. “Those who do have a membership at the WRC Fitness Center can take advantage of some extra equipment that our weight room does not have. I don’t oversee a lot of the weight training, but I know that most every athlete is involved in some sort of weight training and agility program through their class schedule.”

In her eight years, Groom’s job description or title has changed drastically. She still continues to work as the full-time athletic trainer and serves as the administrative assistant to the Athletic Department. In addition, she has been co-teaching the Sports Medicine I and II classes for five years.

Her certification to serve as cardio-pulmonary resuscitation/automated external defibrillator/first aid instructor for all district staff personnel has been a huge bonus.

“I help the school nurses teach those classes in the fall and spring, and have done that for about five years as well,” said Groom, who has been married for 6 1/2 years and has two girls ages 4 and 1 1/2. “I always keep busy, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I like to try to do what I can to help fill a need.”

While Groom wants to achieve many goals, one specific goal for this school year would be for her to seek recognition for the “Safe Sports Schools” award from the National Athletic Trainers Association.

“Basically, there is certain criteria you meet to receive the award to show you are a ‘Safe Sports School.’ It involves having AED access, emergency action plans in place training sessions for coaches and athletes, providing and coordinating pre-participation physical exams, and so forth,” she said. “It is anything that promotes safety for the athletes.”

One goal Groom has accomplished is putting together a “last chance” sports physical clinic at the high school for the past three or four years. This is done one week prior to the start of fall practice to remind student-athletes and their parents to get their physicals done and on file. Groom is thankful to several medical doctors, doctors of osteopathic medicine and advanced registered nurse practitioners who volunteer their time to the safety of the student-athletes.

“The money is donated directly back to the athletic trainer to help purchase advanced rehab equipment and safety equipment to maintain the utmost safety of our student-athletes. This is a big event that cannot be possible without the help of our coaches who volunteer their time as well,” she said.

She also emphasized that she would not be able to work as an athletic trainer if it was not for Dr. Bryan Dennett.

“He has been my supervising physician for my licensure, which has allowed me to be involved and provide the care that I do. I just want to say ‘thank you’ for his support and trust,” Groom said.

In her years as athletic trainer, Groom has witnessed significant injuries that can change the course of life for an athlete. She is “that voice of calm” in the midst of chaos, and knowing that is quite rewarding.

“I love medicine because I truly care for people. And taking care of athletes who have a passion for a game makes it even better,” she said. “My favorite thing about being an athletic trainer and serving the kids of Winfield is seeing the difference I make in their personal lives. I feel that I can really get the kids to open up to me because I have built that trust with them and help them understand that I am there for them and want the best for them, just as their parents do.

“Sometimes even reaching out to the coach is beneficial to follow up with the particular individual who may be struggling. I believe psychology is an important factor  to student athletic performance and health, and it takes a ‘team’ (counselors, coaches, parents, doctors and trainers) to all be on board and want what is best for student-athletes. Sports and other activities can teach a lot to a young kid who will be a future employee in the working world.”

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