Four athletic trainers on duty in Wilkes schools


CERTIFIED ATHLETIC TRAINERS working fulltime in the Wilkes schools are, left to right, Elliott Vogler at East Wilkes High, Eric Maggio at West Wilkes High, Grant Yarbrough at Wilkes Central High and Kelsey Rice at North Wilkes High. Maggio is coordinator of the athletic trainer program in Wilkes. The four are employees of Wake Forest Baptist.

By Jule Hubbard
Wilkes Journal-Patriot Staff 

The Wilkes County Schools’ first fulltime athletic trainers were introduced and people who helped make this partnership with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center possible were recognized in a luncheon Wednesday at the Stone Center.

The certified athletic trainers (ATCs) are Eric Maggio at West Wilkes High, Elliott Vogler at East Wilkes High, Grant Yarbrough at Wilkes Central High and Kelsey Rice at North Wilkes High. Maggio is coordinator of the athletic trainer program in Wilkes. The four are employees of Wake Forest Baptist.

The State Board of Education requires having either ATCs or first responders at all high school football games and practice sessions. The N.C. High School Athletic Association requires the same for football, plus requires that high schools in member school systems, which includes Wilkes, have ATCs or first responders at wrestling matches. ATCs must have four-year degrees.

Prior to this school year, the Wilkes schools utilized first responders rather than ATCs.

Mandatory training for athletic “first responders” differs from fire department first responder training. These Wilkes school positions will still be funded.

“We have had great work and help from our first responders…. but I just knew this (ATCs) was something we definitely needed…. Through a lot of hard work by many people, that dream is finally a reality,” said Wilkes School Athletic Director Chris Skabo on Wednesday.

Skabo said getting ATCs topped the list of goals he shared when he was interviewed for the position of athletic director of the Wilkes schools five years ago. About 75-80 percent of public school systems in the state already have ATCs.

In addition to the four ATCs, Wake Forest Baptist is providing the Wilkes schools with a medical director, team physicians, management, support services and more.

Wake Forest Baptist developed concussion programs for the Wilkes high schools that comply with state laws governing treatment of concussions. These include providing student athletes with pre-season, baseline testing and additional testing if a concussion is sustained or suspected. The four ATCs will also oversee middle school concussion protocol.

Skabo said he and three people at Wilkes Medical Center—Gene Faile, CEO; Tammy Love, vice president of business development; and Robert Carlton, manager of rehab services—started working toward getting licensed athletic trainers in the Wilkes schools soon after he became athletic director. He said Faile, Love and Carlton visited other hospitals with licensed athletic trainer programs in public school systems.

Skabo said those three pursued the goal with Winston-Salem-based Wake Forest Baptist when it entered into an agreement with the Town of North Wilkesboro for the long-term lease of the town-owned Wilkes hospital in July 2017.

Faile thanked Skabo for his enduring persistence in seeking an athletic trainer program for the Wilkes schools, even when told it would be too expensive.

Skabo thanked staff of Wilkes Medical Center’s orthopedics office—Regina Gryder, office manager; Dr. Steve Fleming and Dr. Eddie Pollock, orthopaedists; Dr. David Popoli, physical medicine and rehabilitation; and Alexa Gregory and Christian Galloway, physician assistants.

He said Chris Ina, athletic trainer coordinator for the Forsyth County and Lexington schools, helped design the athletic trainer program in the Wilkes schools. It’s based on the program in the Forsyth schools.

Skabo recognized Dr. Heath Thornton, sports medicine medical director at Wake Forest Baptist.

Ina said Thornton deserved credit for keeping Wake Forest Baptist’s ATC program with the Forsyth and other school systems alive and viable. Ina said the Wilkes high schools now have great athletic training rooms.

In his comments, Thornton noted the importance of having ATCs based at the schools they serve so they can develop relationships with students, parents, administrators and coaches to more effectively help prevent and treat injuries.

Skabo also acknowledged the efforts of Dr. Andy Komen, orthopedics chairman at Wake Forest Baptist, plus Amy Goodman and Anna Mickleberry in that same office.

He thanked Wilkes School Superintendent Mark Byrd “for stepping up to the plate and giving us the okay and a little bit of funding for this program.” Skabo said Byrd is a former coach and understands the benefits of having athletic trainers.

Byrd said that after he became superintendent about two years ago, Skabo came to him with his vision for starting an athletic trainer program in the Wilkes schools. Byrd said he told Skabo he supported that goal but didn’t think it would happen.

Byrd said Skabo took him to a meeting with Faile, Carlton and Love and realized that others shared his dream. “Isn’t that what we teach our students—to set high goals, work hard and surround yourself with people with the right viewpoint and good things will happen?”

He thanked the people at Wake Forest Baptist and at Wilkes Medical Center for helping to ensure student-athletes in Wilkes are provided training services that are second to none because they deserve this.

Skabo noted the support of Wilkes school board members, Wilkes high school and middle school principals and Wilkes high school athletic directors. Several high school coaches were present.

The Wilkes schools will contribute $50,000 a year toward the athletic trainer program, based on an annual service fee of $12,500 per high school athletic program payable to Wake Forest Baptist in monthly installments. Wake Forest Baptist will absorb the remaining costs, said Skabo.

The initial term of the contract runs through June 30, 2020. It includes an annual service fee increase of 3 percent, which is the responsibility of the Wilkes schools.

The trainers will work flexible hours to coincide with athletic events at the high schools and will be available to assist with other injuries that occur, even in classroom settings, said Skabo.

Wilkes Early College High School has no campus athletic program, but students there can compete in athletics at their home district high schools.

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