Longtime athletic trainer in AZATA hall of fame

And Mtn. View's Oliver is the only one surprised
2013-04-11T00:00:00Z Longtime athletic trainer in AZATA hall of famePhil Villarreal Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Perhaps Mountain View High School athletic trainer Leah Oliver was the only person surprised that she was inducted into the Arizona Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame in February.

Principal Patricia Cadigan said Oliver is the hardest-working colleague she's met in her 26 years in education. The school is at 3901 W. Linda Vista Blvd.

Cadigan, who has worked with Oliver, 52, for four years, said Oliver deserves the honor for going beyond her job duties to help students and athletes. Oliver said it's common for her to work 12-hour days as many as six days a week. She attends sports events, takes her students to training events and often checks up on injured students with house or hospital calls.

"When I think about describing her, a couple of key words stick out in my mind," Cadigan said. "Character and professionalism. Ms. Oliver goes way above and beyond."

Oliver's cellphone bill - she said she's even fielded calls from parents on camping trips who wanted injury-care advice - would be monstrous if she didn't invest in an unlimited minutes plan.

A Mountain View employee since 1989, Oliver teaches sports medicine classes in addition to serving as athletic trainer.

Two years ago AZATA gave her its Athletic Trainer of the Year Service Award and she was named Marana Unified School District Teacher of the Year. She's also helped her students find recognition, garnering eight Lanny Williams Arizona Student Athlete Trainers of the Year awards.

Oliver is the department chairwoman for Mountain View's Career & Technical Education Department and she writes curriculum for the Marana Unified School District's Joint Technical Education Department.

We caught up with Oliver via phone.

Q. Is the hall of fame honor something you've been expecting?

A. It absolutely never crossed my mind. It made me kind of speechless because when I read that - "hall of fame" - it means "Oh my God, that's other people. Those people I look up to as role models." And now I'm in the same club as they are. It's just surreal.

Q. What makes you passionate about your job?

A. There are so many things that make me passionate for it. One is actually working with young athletes, and young people in general in my classes I teach. My sports-medicine classes are geared to students who are interested in any type of medicine, or maybe athletes who want to learn to take care of themselves.

Q. What do you like to accomplish as a trainer?

A. My main goal is preventative medicine, if at all possible. Athletes can prevent many injuries by accruing thorough and correct conditioning techniques. I also focus on nutrition and equipment - proper skills with those. I don't actually teach football players how to correctly tackle, but I'm out there all the time making sure that during practice coaches are teaching it correctly.

Q. What do you say to athletes who try to push themselves too hard, to their detriment?

A. I tell them that this is the only body or body part they are gonna get. You're going to live with that the rest of your life. If they get a sprained ankle, they think they can keep playing. They don't think about when they are in their 40s through 60s and their body parts aren't functioning correctly. They have a hard time picturing themselves that far in advance. I bring in the parents a lot and I try to educate them.

Q. What about when students get in over their heads with supplements?

A. I try to really reach out to them and teach them that good nutrition can do the same thing as a supplement. A lot of times, when you buy a supplement you're wasting all this money. You're not getting what you think you're getting. With good nutrition and hard work you get the same benefits. Some kids want instant gratification. They don't want to be in the weight room or conditioning.

Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or pvillarreal@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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