My dad was the coach; I was the Athletic Trainer

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Posted June 17, 2016

By Mike Hopper, MS, ATC

Many people love spending time with their families, and my family was no different. But what made my family unique was that life always revolved around sports. Growing up with 3 older sisters and a younger brother, with mom being a teacher and dad being a teacher/coach, to say that I grew up around athletics would be an understatement. In fact, that childhood experience clearly drew me into my career as an Athletic Trainer (AT).

All of my siblings were active in one sport or another, and I played 3 myself. In fact, I played for my dad in all 3 sports. So working together in the sports atmosphere was nothing new. When I graduated from college, I spent a little over a year at one school before I was transferred to my alma mater. At the time, my dad was an assistant boys’ basketball coach at Waterloo.

At Waterloo, I worked alongside my dad for 2 years.  My dad was the coach; I was the Athletic Trainer. During those 2 years, we spent a lot of time together. Some would see it as a negative thing to say that work often went home with us. However, we also had many great conversations because we shared so much in common.

My dad and I did have slightly different perspectives resulting from our different roles, but I did learn something from the experience. I know that I have been able to adapt and work alongside different coaches due to my relationship with my dad. He taught me how to work with coaches who have different personalities and to be loyal.

As a veteran of 40+ years in high school coaching, my dad is that “old school coach” who may not always understand our role as ATs. But I know he is terrified thinking about how quickly we can be put into life-threatening situations, and as the AT it’s my job to manage the situation. After all, I am still his son, and it’s scary to him that I have to take on that responsibility.

When it was time for me to move on, and into bigger and better things, I too became Coach Hopper. In Texas, many ATs go by “Coach” or by “Doc.” It was such a weird feeling for a long time because Coach Hopper was always my dad, and now it’s me. For many, my dad will always be Coach Hopper, but to me he’ll always be Dad.

So on this Father’s Day weekend, I want to wish Coach Hopper a Happy Father’s Day! I have learned so much and being the son of a coach has helped make me into the AT I am today.


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