Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 14
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
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(Photo by Janet Paxton)
HEALING HANDS: Princeton High head athletic trainer Shannon Koch aids a Little Tiger football player in a game last season. Koch, a PHS alum, is marking her 10th year as a head trainer, having spent four years at the Hun School before coming to her alma mater in 2001.

Hit With Injuries in PHS Sports Career, Koch Finds Calling as Athletic Trainer

Bill Alden

Shannon Koch couldn't beat the injury bug some 16 years ago during her sophomore year at Princeton High.

Koch, a soccer and lacrosse player, found herself spending more and more time in the training room, getting her injuries tended to by PHS head athletic trainer Carlos Salazar.

One day, Salazar turned to Koch and suggested that she might want to try being a student trainer.

Koch enjoyed that work from the start and by the end of her sophomore year had decided to make sports training her career.

Upon graduating from PHS in 1993, Koch went on to East Stroudsburg University where she earned a degree in Athletic Training.

Koch eventually succeeded her mentor Salazar and this spring is marking her 10th year as a head trainer, having spent four years at the Hun School before coming to PHS in 2001.

Sitting in the old PHS gym recently supervising a blood drive, Koch made it clear that she is living out a dream. "I was hooked on this since the start," said Koch with a grin. "Growing up, I never wanted to be working in an office inside. This was a perfect job; I could be involved with sports that I loved playing and participating in and be outside watching them."

Koch, though, wasn't looking to return to Princeton after graduating from college. "I wanted to go somewhere else and eventually come back here," recalled Koch. "I put out my application everywhere. Hun was nice enough to say that I didn't need any more education and experience and they brought me on."

The Hun job gave Koch some invaluable experience. "It was a unique position; I was the first full-time athletic trainer so I got to build the position whichever way I wanted it to go," added Koch. "It was my own show; it usually doesn't happen in that short a time. I was able to what I wanted to do in the training room and I had the support of the administration."

In 2001, Koch learned from Salazar that the PHS training job was opening up and she jumped at the opportunity to go back to her alma mater.

"Carlos called me the day before my birthday in May, 2001 and the next day I put my resume together and brought it over to John Curtis," said Koch. "They started the interview process and I got the job. I loved it. I love Princeton and I love Princeton High. The weirdest thing about it was having to call coaches and teachers by their first names, I still have trouble with it."

Koch hasn't had any trouble putting in long hours in her PHS job. "I usually start at 1:00 everyday and stay until practices and games are done which is around 7:00 in the fall and spring," explained Koch, who has also been a member of the Princeton First Aid and Rescue since 1992. "In the winter, I came in a little later because I end up staying until 9 or 10. I'm here most Saturdays and that can be anytime from 8:00 in the morning."

For Koch, one of the best parts of the time she spends on her job is getting injured players back in action. "In the high school setting, when someone gets hurt they probably haven't been injured before," said Koch, who often works with orthopedic doctors on rehabilitation programs for injured athletes.

"You have to settle them down and get them to take the time to heal. You end up working hard with them to get them to put in the effort to get back on the field. To see them back on the field again after that process is amazing."

The PHS coaches are also a vital part of that process, according to Koch. "The coaches, for the most part, are great," said Koch. "They understand the role of an athlete's training. They understand that we are not trying to keep the kids out, we're trying to get them back so they can play longer and healthier."

In order to keep athletes hale and hearty, Koch has to keep abreast of medical developments. "There have been a lot of advances in sports medicine; you are constantly learning," said Koch.

"When I first started training with Carlos, the most common surgery for a knee was a lateral release which is unheard of now. From the fall season to the spring, you may change the way you treat a certain injury."

For the last several years, Koch has been passing on her expertise to PHS trainers. "We have a student training program, we meet every Wednesday after school," said Koch. "We teach them the basics of athletic training to see if they are interested in it when they go to college or to see if they want to get into a medical field."

And with Koch passing on her passion for her work, she may end up grooming the next PHS trainer.

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