From the NFL to the ‘Boro

Category:  Sports
Thursday, November 1st, 2018 at 8:56 AM
From the NFL to the ‘Boro by Shayma Musa
Photo: Shayma Musa

Buzzers sound, the coach gets soaked in Gatorade and the crowd goes wild. Camera shutters open and close, capturing the moments. These scenes of joy and seeming effortless feats of athleticism are familiar to the average sports spectator. 

But the endless runs, the sweat-drenching weight room sessions, the drills, they have only the eyes of a select few. 

One of those select few is Ryan Grove, the latest addition to the Edinboro University athletics department.

“The athletes — whether they are coming off an injury or even in the weight room — just being around them and helping them, teaching them how to do exercises properly, educating them on how to rehabilitate their ankle or knee or shoulder are the best parts of my job,” Grove said. 

Grove was hired as an athletic trainer and Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for Edinboro in late August. 

Before coming to the Fighting Scots, he was the assistant athletic trainer for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 15 years, the head athletic trainer for the Miami Dolphins for the last four, and in those 19 combined years in the NFL he was on duty four times as an athletic trainer for the biggest football event of the year—the Super Bowl. 

Grove had this to say of that time: “I just enjoy being around athletes — the way I treated an ankle at the professional level is still the same way that I treat an ankle here.”

A sentiment repeated over and over among the people who work with Grove closely is this: a good athletic trainer must be willing to get down on the athlete’s level and be familiar with the competitive drive that athletes run on. Additionally, they must be humble and good at their jobs, at the same time. 

John Norwig is one of those who praised Grove. Norwig is the head athletic trainer for the Pittsburgh Steelers and worked with Grove during his time with the organization.

When asked about the new Fighting Scot, Norwig painted the perfect picture of an athletic trainer: “Someone who is professional, diligent, and well educated. Folks that have a solid work ethic. And folks that present themselves appropriately.  I think that athletic trainers need to be a person that…if I’m going to tell an athlete to do something, I should be able to demonstrate it or show the athlete how to do it. Ryan checked all the boxes.” 

In his role as an athletic trainer at ‘Boro, Grove is responsible for injury prevention and what happens when an athlete does get hurt. Specifically, he helps take care of immediate injuries on the field and helps with pre-surgery and post-surgery recovery and therapy. 

As a strength and conditioning coordinator, he helps athletes achieve proper form in the weight room, designs workout programs for athletes both in and out of season, and works closely with the head coaches of the athletics department to make sure that the athletes are well taken care of. 

“He (Grove) has brought to Edinboro women’s basketball a new style of training that we believe will pay huge dividends not only in our student-athlete performance and strength, but injury prevention as well,” Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach Chris Bess said. “His organizational skills and attention to detail are superb. He makes our lives as coaches easier and is a strong asset to our department.”

As part of the women’s basketball coaching staff, Bess has seen Grove work with his athletes during their off-season as well as transition into a season training plan as they gear up for the beginning of their winter play.

Grove’s father was a coach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, but athletic trainers where not the norm in sports lower than the professional and collegiate level while he was growing up. 

“My dad was a coach at a university and without him I really wouldn’t have known about athletic trainers. I grew up being an athlete and high schools did not normally have athletic trainers, but being around my dad I learned about the field,” Grove explained. “When I went to college I knew I wanted to work in healthcare and was deciding between physical therapy and athletic training. I chose to be an athletic trainer because I knew that I wanted to be working around sports because that’s what I really enjoyed. I wanted to be around a more competitive environment,” he said. 

Grove grew up playing sports, and throughout high school he played two, basketball and golf, and now in his spare time he keeps active by competing in triathlons. 

Edinboro is familiar to the new Fighting Scot. He grew up in western Pennsylvania and both his and his wife’s families are all over the Erie and Pittsburgh areas. 

“I know what to expect and what the expectations are,” Grove said of coming to Edinboro. 

The new job is a chance for him to spend more time with his family — he and his wife have two children — away from the demanding schedule of the NFL where workdays can average between 10-14 hours. According to Grove, it’s not unusual for NFL trainers to work anywhere from 70-80 hours a week and to be on call 24/7 for six months. 

Athletic trainers, or ATs, go through rigorous training to study for their jobs: four years of undergraduate, two years of graduate school, and a grueling four-hour certification exam. And as athletic training becomes more well-known, the field becomes more competitive every year. 

“When I went to University of Pittsburgh, you had to go through an approved curriculum and they even had an internship route at the time. Now you have to go through an undergraduate curriculum with a specialization in athletic training, which is a four-year degree. Once you become nationally certified, you then have to get licensed in each state. The standards are going up,” Grove said. 

The current minimum requirements for the athletic training profession is a bachelor’s degree, however, in the next several years the minimum professional requirements are transitioning to a master’s degree. Upon completing a Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) athletic training program, students are eligible to sit for the national certification exam. Students will then become nationally certified athletic trainers by successfully completing the Board Certification examination. 

According to National Athletic Trainers’ Association numbers, less than 2-3 percent of athletic trainers work at the professional sports level, and those numbers make sense: there are only 32 NFL teams and each team only hires 3-6 athletic training staff members. 

Edinboro’s athletic department put out a call for athletic trainer applications this past summer, and applicants were screened by an athletic trainer search committee consisting of three people: Danielle Lodanosky (athletic trainer and committee chair), Gary Hanna (head athletic trainer) and Dan Gierlak (head softball coach). 

“We looked for someone with at least three years’ experience, a PA license and a certification that would qualify for a strength coach. Specifically, we looked for the person who had the best fit for our staff,” said Lodanosky. “A good athletic trainer is skilled and someone who cares; Ryan is very kind and knowledgeable.”

Grove began his residency on Sept. 4 and plans to get a feel for each team and player before implementing plans for the department. 

“The number one quality of a good athletics trainer is someone who takes the time to get to know the students,” Head Football Coach Wayne Bradford said. “He (Grove) is taking a real laid back approach and getting to know the kids and their strengths and weaknesses before jumping in and offering advice.”

Shayma Musa can be reached at sports.spectator@gmail.com.

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