By Samantha Clark, NSU Sports Information student intern
While athletic training has been traditionally a male-dominated field, more women are making their mark. Northwestern State employs six women out of the nine-member athletic training staff.
March is National Athletic Training Month and International Women’s Month. NSU Athletics salutes its women in athletic training. Featured today in a question and answer interview: Ashley Leggett, associate director of sports medicine, who works primarily with Demon football.
Q: How long have you worked at Northwestern? How long have you been an athletic trainer?
A: I’m in my third year here at NSU. I’ve been certified for six years.
Q: Since you’re from Alabama, what made you decide to come to Northwestern?
A: Esi Atinkah came here as a graduate assistant. Esi and I went to undergrad together (at Alabama). I was an intern at Samford University in Birmingham looking for a full-time job, and there was one available here. Esi called me and was like, “How do you feel about moving to Louisiana?” I said, “I wouldn’t mind it one bit.” The rest is history. Esi got me here.
Q: How did you get involved with athletic training? What was your moment when you realized this is was your calling?
A: I don’t know if I really had an “a-ha” moment. Growing up as a kid I wanted to be a firefighter. Then I wanted to be a doctor. I still have inklings of sometimes I want to be a doctor, but my whole life I loved sports. I grew up watching Braves baseball with my dad. I remember watching the Braves since I was two or three years old. I saw the guy who ran on the field when people got hurt, and I really thought that was cool. I didn’t think too much of it. I got to college and went into chemical engineering because I wanted to be a doctor, and they look for random degrees. After a year in chemical engineering, I got this itch that athletic training is where I was supposed to be. It merged the two loves I had of being around sports all day while also getting to work in a medical field, and I don’t regret the decision one bit. I love what I do every day.
Q: Since it’s Women’s History Month, who are some of your women inspirations and role models? Are any of them in the athletic training profession?
A: My biggest mentor in the profession would have to be Erin Weaver (Cohn). Erin was the softball athletic trainer at Alabama while I was there and took me under her wing. She’s taught me a lot, mentored me a lot. We’re still really good friends. We’re still close. She’s not the softball athletic trainer at Alabama anymore. She’s actually more of the director of rehab. She moved into a different position but still in the profession. I’ve always looked up to Erin. Other female role models… This is a tough question because my biggest role model in my life is my dad. Sue Falsone was the athletic trainer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. As somebody to look up to and aspire to be, I think Sue is that because she made it to the pinnacle of a man’s world in Major League Baseball as a female in athletic training. She made strides for women to break into professional sports, and I think that’s really awesome.
Q: How has this profession changed for women since you entered?
A: To be honest, it’s gone a lot from a guy’s world to a woman’s world. I feel like the profession now is almost more female-dominated than men. There are more female athletic trainers now than men, and we’re getting more opportunities to work with male sports and bigger-time male sports. We continue to make strides in the right direction by doing things the right way, professionally. I think the sky’s the limit now for women in athletic training. I mean I’m a 29-year-old female working collegiate football, and 10 to 15 years ago that was unheard of.
Q: In 1996, the NATA membership was 44 percent female. The most recent stats have come out, and it’s now 44 percent male. Why do you think that is?
A: I really don’t know. It’s hard to say, but I feel like a lot of the medical professions are going that way. I think if you look at physician’s assistants and PA school it’s more female-dominated than guys. I don’t know that med school is there yet, but I feel like more women are going after these historically male-dominated fields because the opportunities are there now. There’s been people who have paved the way for us to have these opportunities, and we need to go out there and grasp them and make way for the next generation.
Q: Do you have any advice for females just starting in the profession or are considering becoming an athletic trainer?
A: Chase your dreams and never give up. There are plenty of opportunities out there now. Find a mentor and latch on to them. Learn and grow as much as you can. The sky’s the limit. There are really no limitations to what women can do in this field any more, and it’s pretty awesome.
Q: Northwestern’s athletic training department is 2:1 in gender. Even though it’s a noticeable ratio, do you think there’s any barriers you’ve had to break through or work with on this campus as a woman?
A: I don’t feel like I have. I work a male-dominated sport. I work with all male coaches, and I’ve had nothing but respect from them. They all listen to me and take what I say to heart. They trust me. Since I got here three years ago, I haven’t had any issues being a female in a male-dominated world.
Q: Do you have any additional comments you’d like to make?
A: I love what I do. I love coming to work every day. I take care of 115 guys, and they’re all a joy and a pleasure to work with. They’re all nice, respectful, yes ma’am and no ma’am. Sometimes football guys get a bad rap, but I’ve never been anything but respected around here. I think that says a lot about our coaching staff, and that starts at the top. I think Coach (Brad) Laird is doing a great job with the guys and the program. I think we’re going in the right direction. I really appreciate the opportunity to work here.