Farmers Insurance has the tagline "We know a thing or two because we've seen a thing or two." When it comes to collegiate athletic trainers, that mantra might not even be enough to cover The College of Wooster's head athletic trainer Tom Love, since well, let's face it, he's seen more than a few things during his exemplary career with the Fighting Scots.
Love, a staple in the College's athletic department since his arrival on campus in 1982, will be retiring at the end of May. While oversight of the sports medicine needs of Wooster's student-athletes has always been at the forefront of his duties, Love's also taught classes in prevention and care of athletic injuries. Last year, Love was designated as the athletic healthcare administrator when the NCAA mandated each member designate a lead admin for injury management.
Outside of the College, Love was a volunteer firefighter for 10 years, coached Little League baseball for six years, and has been an active volunteer with the Kiwanis Club of Wooster and at area hospices.
"The early years were very different," summed up Love. "In those days, almost every coach coached two sports. Everybody had extra duties. The first several years, other than a few student trainers, I had no full-time assistants. It was challenging from that standpoint."
In the 1990s, a lot more policies and procedures came into play, in particular with physician referrals, and looking back, Love feels Wooster was one of the industry leaders in being on top of that.
One thing Love's especially proud of is Wooster's longstanding commitment to concussion management.
"I think we were way ahead of the curve with concussions," stated Love. "We started to do some of the more conservative management with concussions well before that became industry standard. We found when we rushed the student-athletes back and let them play with minor symptoms, they didn't play as well and the concussions were prolonged."
Not long after, athletic training education took a big step forward. The College did away with the athletic training internship program for students, and aspiring athletic trainers had to attend an accredited program. During that time span, more licensure programs were started, and Love was among the first 100 athletic trainers to obtain a license in Ohio in 1992.
In recent times, student-athlete expectations have risen, and Love attributes that to the increase in athletic trainers at the high school level. With that, Love feels the levels of student-athlete compliance and cooperation has improved due to student-athletes already being accustomed to the skillsets and services provided by athletic trainers in high school.
Another recent change is more specialization in coaching. Head coaches working two different sports is no longer the norm, and that's led to much more intense and involved non-traditional seasons, which Love notes has been a challenge to provide coverage for of late.
A few things have stood out to Love over the years, most notably watching student-athletes mature and develop, and the longtime athletic trainer "enjoys seeing how much they change over the four years."
Other aspects of the job Love enjoys the most are "helping athletes progress back and participate at the same level of play before injuries and looking at the big picture of what's best for the athlete for long-term health."
"Returning too quickly isn't always in the best interest of the athletes, and more people are starting to realize that," summed up Love.
As to his most memorable events during his career at the College, well one stands out above the rest – Wooster playing in the national title game at the 1997 NCAA Div. III Baseball Championships.
"My son, Chris, was the batboy for Wooster," said Love. "Lining up with him on the foul line for the national anthem was one of my favorite memories."
Wooster's five other trips to the Div. III World Series are also near the top of the list of Love's favorite all-time events at the College, while the men's basketball team's 17-point come-from-behind win against Williams College in the 2011 national semifinals ranks right up there too.
"It's always great when athletes come back and visit," wrapped up Love. "Some of my favorite memories are catching up with alums, especially some of those who maybe didn't see the big picture when they were playing, but express appreciation for me looking out for their long-term health. I want all of them to be able to enjoy playing with their kids when they're 30 or 40 and playing golf when they're 70."