by Jonathan Weaver
A local high school was recognized nationally for sports safety.
West Shamokin Junior/Senior High was one of 47 high schools in the state recognized by the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) with the Safe Sports Award.
School Trainer Jennifer Wally Blystone began the “extensive” accreditation process in August shortly after classes began.
“We received the honor as a Safe Sports school after I had the entire program reviewed by the NATA,” Blystone said. “We received a 1st Team award – the highest award.”
A sports trainer in Armstrong School District for 21 years, Wally Blystone has assisted athletes at Elderton, Ford City and West Shamokin. This was the first year she applied for the accreditation.
She said working full-time for the district allows trainers to provide better care and do more
“When I started in `96, injury rates were pretty high and most of when kids got hurt, they went to the doctors or just sat and rested and waited to get better to play again. In rural areas, people don’t go rehab as much because it’s too far to drive,” Wally Blystone said. “Since then, injury rates have gone down 40 percent.
“Of the total evals and injuries that we treat, our rates are down to 12 percent of the kids that get hurt need to be referred out. We’re better able to provide prevention care – education programs, manage injuries so that they’re not hurt to begin with. Right now, actually, we don’t have one athlete on our roster sitting out.”
Wally Blystone – a former girls` basketball and track athlete at North Allegheny High School (in Wexford) – said football players also suffered less concussions this past Fall.
In order to achieve the award, West Shamokin had to demonstrate 10 actions, such as a comprehensive athletic health care plan, promote safe and appropriate environments and provide certified sporting equipment.
“I’ve been here so long and know these families, these communities that I want to give them what I’d expect if it was my kid,” Wally Blystone said.
Head Baseball Coach Dave Powers said Wally Blystone’s efforts have ultimately helped his team.
“It’s very nice to have a trainer that does her job and she has taken care of our kids when their arms are sore. She gets them back on the field real-quick,” Coach Powers said.
Athletic Director Ray Blystone praised Wally Blystone for the rehabilitation services and on-call assistance she provides. He hoped parents have faith in coaches and trainers
“We really try to take care of our student athletes, to do a good job and do what’s best not just for (students) but their families,” Blystone said. “What the award means to us is that we’re doing it right and we need to keep doing what we’re doing.
“Our goal every year is ‘What can we do to make this better in all aspects?’”
West Shamokin is certified through September 2018. The school district received a few hundred dollars in grant funding to supplement the cost of the process.
More than 350 students in the West Shamokin population play after school sports for the Wolves.