By Jackson Vaughn
Scott Michel is not a well-known name outside of the athletic community here at K, despite having held a full-time position for the last eight years. As the Head Athletic Trainer, Scott oversees all of the sports and is in charge of the training and treatment of all of the college’s athletes. Jan. 25, in a letter circulated to all the athletes and coaching staff, Scott announced his plans to leave Kalamazoo College for a position at Albion College.
“Working with Scott has been a great way of seeing how he deals with such tough situations in such great ways,” Martin Blanc K’12 says. “This is my third year working in the training room. I think that a big part of why he’s so great at his job is his relationship with his students. He said that he always thought what his purpose in this world was to teach, that that is what he loves to do and that is what he is good at. And I said he was mistaken, that he is amazing at teaching, but what he is best at is affecting people’s lives. For example, when you are talking to an athlete that is injured you not only have to express the physical problem that they are dealing with but there are also all the emotional issues aside, and I feel like that is something great that he is touching at.”
Getting a Bachelor’s in Sports Medicine from Mercyhurst College in Pennsylvania, Scott came to WMU to get his Masters, where he was first introduced to K. Starting his career here as a graduate assistant, before becoming Co-Head Athletic Trainer in 2003 with current AD Kristen Smith, then acquiring the sole head position the following year which he has held ever since. Scott Michel agreed to sit down with the Index to discuss his time at Kalamazoo and plans for the future.
J: What has been your favorite part of working at K?
J: That’s a little broad.
S: No, it’s not a broad question. It’s a hard question, because there are so many components of this institution that are enjoyable. And that goes from day, that uh…I would say that the two things that are most dear to me are probably the athletes that I have come to know and the day to day interactions that I get to do with the coaches. Having the ability to form relationships and bonds when they are at their weakest or worst, whether it is physically, emotionally, or psychologically and finding out the inner workings of what makes them tick and finding out the thing that will get them back on the field the quickest is probably the most rewarding aspect of my job. Because I get to impact, I really feel I get to impact the life in a way not many other people can and I think that’s pretty cool.
J: What is the worst injury you’ve had to deal with as head athletic trainer?
S: I’ve seen gruesome injuries that people bounce back from and dislocations that you have a 90 degree angle at a limb that shouldn’t have a 90 degree angle, but I think that the ones that are most difficult are the ones that you have to tell someone that their athletic career is over. Because that is something that an athlete identifies, is part of their identity and to tell someone that whatever reason it comes down to being, whether it is safety or personal health and well being, you know, looking down the road for them. That by far is the toughest injury for me. I don’t like doing that and I have to do that a couple times and it is never easy. And it’s emotional, it’s emotional on our part, it’s emotional on the physician’s part, and it’s emotional for the athlete themself.
J: Which is your favorite sport?
S: Haha, unfair! Erroneous on all accounts!
J: I won’t take offense.
S: Well that needs to be more specific, which is my favorite to watch?
J: Let’s do both, which is your favorite sport to watch and which is your favorite to take care of. And again, I won’t begrudge you anything.
S: That’s tough. Gosh, I have avoided that question for ten years. You know, what’s really funny is, I don’t even know how to answer that question, because every season I’ll sit there and be like, ‘football is my favorite sport’ and or when I’m in basketball season I’ll be like, ‘basketball is my favorite sport’ and when I’m at tennis, I’m just like, this…I love to watch, I’ve always been a fan of football and basketball, they are my two favorite sports to watch just because of the excitement of it. Now but basketball I tend to have a bigger passion for because I understand the game a little bit more than I do football. There are so many nuances to football. Now my wife and I have gone to the Final Four, and that is the only thing that I have ever done that is related to outside of athletics here. As far as watching things go, I got a huge kick out of that, I get a huge kick out of basketball. And I’m going to avoid your question as far as which sport is my favorite to cover, and this is the honest to god truth is I always try to take the emotion out of the sport that I’m covering. I’m watching it from the perspective of I need to see the field, the court, in a different light than a fan because I’m looking for things, I’m looking for mechanisms of injury, I’m looking for predispositions to things. And so, you might see an awesome, an amazing 50 yard touchdown pass. I may never even see the catch because I’m still looking at what’s still going on in the offensive and defensive line; did our quarterback just get hit or what’s going on in the secondary away from the ball. So I never get to watch the game to enjoy the game. So I don’t have a favorite sport to cover because I go about it in the sense that I am there to provide a medical service to everyone. And I really don’t get to get wrapped up in the game. Will that change now that I am leaving and get to come back and watch? Yeah. And I am really excited about that aspect of it because I have never been able; I have never fully let myself go to become a fan. I am obviously a huge fan of all the athletes and teams that are here, but I have never been able to sit down and enjoy a game. Because I have always looked at it from a different perspective. So I am really excited about that, really excited about that. That is how I am answering that question.
J: But if I go down next year, are you going to run out on the field and fix me?
S: I will say this. There have been people that have asked, that will be something that I’ll will still probably do is I’ll still get up out of my seat and it’ll take awhile for me to let go of that, because it’s something that’s been ingrained in me for so long.
J: What is the position that you are going to be taking at Albion?
S: It’s a visiting instructor in athletic training. The model is a full-time faculty position where I’ll be teaching athletic training courses in their major. There is an athletic training major, there are athletic training majors around the country, Albion College has an athletic training major in their Kinesiology Department. So I will be teaching classes for those students so that they can sit and take their Boards at the end of their four years. Now will I be able to keep myself out of the athletic training room and get my hands on student athletes and try to decipher what’s going on in their body? Probably not, I’m probably still going to have to do that, that’s in my blood and that’s something that I really enjoy doing, and I think it’s a wonderful opportunity not only for myself but also for students to show that there are two sides to the coin and you have to be good at both.
J: What are your reasons for making this move?
S: There are a lot of reasons. One of my big goals is to become a curriculum director and department chair for a sports medicine major. I want, I have a very strong aspiration, I don’t even know if strong is the right word to use, I have an aspiration, to change or influence the way the educational structure is set up for athletic trainers. It used to be, we are a hands-on field and hands-on profession, and I think we are getting away from that and I think it is becoming more theory based than hands-on and I’d like to see that change. I’d like to see, my big line I use is, ‘We are teaching students to become athletic trainers, we are not teaching them how to be athletic trainers,’ and I think that is a huge difference. And that’s why I’m doing it just given my time here and some of the interactions I have had with the grad assistants over at Western through the interview board process that I sit on and some of the skill level I see coming out of the undergrad majors around here and just hearing from some of my colleagues across that we are just missing the boat. That is a big reason why I’m doing it. Another reason is that I have a growing family and my wife is an absolute saint for having to deal with long hours, days and weeks on end where I don’t have a day off where I am at least here seven days a week during the fall, whether I just have to be here an hour or two. It’s time that I realized that a job is a job; it shouldn’t define who you are. Who you are should define the job that you seek. And I need to balance a little bit more. I want to be able to spend time with my wife and my girl and my other little daughter that is going to be born here at the end of May. And it’s the right time for me. When I came here eight years ago and I wrote down five year goals and I reached those goals and I rewrote them and I said, ‘What else can I do here?’ I haven’t reached them all, but I have had a wonderful opportunity to build upon what Kristen [Smith] started. She did so much with so little and to be able to build upon what she started, and I’ve learned a ton but you just get the inner sense that it’s time to go. And I really take that push, I feel like I just really got, I got a push from the good Lord, it was time. I got a big strong urging from within, that said I want you to move on, I have bigger plans for you. And that’s something I feel very strongly about as far as my faith goes, and people might think I’m crazy but that’s a big part of it.
J: Who is going to be taking over for you?
S: Haha, I have no idea! I am honored and flattered and humbled to be leaving on the terms that I am and to at least be involved in the process whatever level it may be in, making sure that the legacy we have left here continues, the legacy Kristen started and I continued. You’ll have to ask Kristen as far as the timeline for that but know that we’ll all have a hand in it.
J: And how is the search going to be run?
S: That is a Kristen question. We have put some feelers out there, some of us have, I have some colleagues that I’ll at least mention it to, but in the end it really all comes down to the timeline and the process that Kristen puts down to get that person in.
J: Do you have anything to add?
S: That’s the last question?
J: Always is.
S: Well, this was obviously a very hard decision to end my chapter here at K. And it’s never easy telling those that you have developed such a strong relationship that you can coin it as family. To write a letter to tell the coaches and then write a letter and have it sent out to the student athletes and to get the response that I got was very overwhelming and very humbling emotionally and to say thank you to you and every single student athlete that I have come to consider part of my family over my tenure here because that is what has made this place so special to me and I have a quote that has been on my computer for the last four or five years. It says, “They may not remember what you said or how you did it, but they will always remember how they made you feel.” I never realized what that meant until I wrote that letter and it developed that response that it got. And it made me smile. Because that hopefully will be the legacy that I will leave. I’m not the greatest athletic trainer in the world, but I sure will try my darndest to make you feel that you are the most important person in that room at that given time. And you can’t do that without a wonderful supporting cast and I am eternally grateful for Megan Hass and Monica Lininger and all the grad assistants that have come through because they brought something extra special to that athletic training department down there and they are all just as much as part of it as I am. Make sure you put that last part in print because they deserve to be recognized just as much as anybody else.