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Softball to Athletic Trainer: Saginaw grad’s journey at helping high school athletes

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Kayla Holubek has spent most of her life playing softball – from the select circuit to being a starting pitcher while at Saginaw High School. But when softball went away, the 24-year old Holubek had to find a different path.

It was around her junior year when she started to develop chronic shoulder pain.

Her athletic trainer at Saginaw couldn’t figure out a solution, so Holubek was sent to a vascular doctor where she found out she had nerve damage that required surgery. It forced her to end her softball career, but since her AT was there every step of the way until she got better – she realized that athletic training was for her.

“After experiencing my career ending injury and watching my high school AT be one of my biggest supporters, I realized athletic training was the profession for me,” Holubek said. “I attended Tarleton State and during my masters program, I was able to gain experience working with the football team.”

But her experience didn’t stop at Tarleton State.

In the spring of 2022 – she was placed at Tolar HS. Then that fall, Holubek was with Glen Rose and worked with the football team that went all the way to the state semifinals. The following spring, she was at Keller. After graduating with her Master’s degree and passing her BOC exam, she is now the head athletic trainer job at Rio Vista ISD working with both the middle school and high school.

“I also teach two sports medicine classes at the high school level. I attend pretty much every single practice that happens on our campus and I am at every single home game,” Holubek said. “When teams make it to the playoffs, then I do travel with them which can be difficult when I am one athletic trainer, but I can’t do all of this without the help of my amazing coaches.”

March was Athletic Trainers Month.

But with all the good that comes in sports such as coaches, athletes and the wins – there are bad days that come with the profession – like seeing an injury happen. However, Holubek just remains calm at all times.

“I always tell the kids ‘it’s a good thing when the AT is bored because that means everyone is healthy’ but not every game is boring. The biggest thing for me when having to stay calm is knowing I am doing everything I can to help these kids play the sports they love,” Holubek said “I spend more time with these students than my own family, so these students become my family.

“It’s hard making decisions on the fly or telling a student that they have suffered a critical injury, but the key component of being an AT is making sure we keep these athletes healthy and safe.”

Holubek added that after the incident to Buffalo Bills DB Damar Hamlin, people began to realize what athletic trainers do and how much they mean to sports. “I believe more people should know what athletic trainers do. We just don’t hand out water, but that we are health professionals. Athletic trainers are the first ones on scene to an injury then we call for EMS. The field of athletic training can be a lot. It’s a lot of long hours and stressful times but my absolute favorite thing about athletic training is watching my athletes play the sports they love. We are the team behind the team and I love cheering and supporting my students.”

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