By Holly Farason
In the past, South Oak Cliff High School student-athletes had limited access to athletic trainers who had to split their time among several local high schools. Since 2012, they’ve enjoyed having a nationally recognized athletic trainer of their own and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Imagine being a 300-pound lineman playing high school football in the Texas heat and passing out from heatstroke. Then imagine waking up and finding out an athletic trainer less than half your size has saved your life. This very scenario occurred during one summer football practice at South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas.
“It was pretty intense,” said Tashanee Williams ‘12, an alumna of TCU’s athletic training program. “It was one of those situations where the clinical setup really helped me in that actual moment, because I had seen at TCU football practices what it looked like when someone was fading from heat exhaustion.”
During that particular practice, Williams was filling in at South Oak Cliff High School. Williams recognized the student’s condition, administered first aid and called for an ambulance. It was in that moment that, as Williams remembers, the head coach saw her recognize what was happening, diagnose the player’s condition and call an ambulance and said, “We want her. I don’t know what we have to do, but we want her.”
Williams said that athletic training first piqued her interest when her older sister became a student athletic trainer at DeSoto High School and went on to pursue it in college. Williams had spent summers shadowing her sister, seeing what a career as an athletic trainer was like.
“I became a student athletic trainer at our high school and decided I wanted to pursue it as a profession,” Williams said.
At TCU, Williams gained real experience each semester when she was assigned to different sports. The goal was to gain lower body experience with soccer, upper body experience with baseball and a combination of both with football.
Williams found that she enjoyed working with football the most and spent three semesters with the team. This time greatly prepared her for her career.
“It was very hands on,” Williams said. “I was able to see a wide variety of injuries and I was prepared to deal with them.”
Prior to graduating, Williams had her sights set on working for the NFL. But working with TCU Football caused her to reframe what she wanted from her career.
“You spend a great deal of time with that sport year-round,” Williams said of working in the NFL. “I was going to have to give up a personal life and that would’ve been hard for me.”
Working at the high school level offers a nice balance between work and family compared to college or professional sports, Williams explained.
Williams began working at South Oak Cliff High School in 2012 and she, along with the other athletic trainers, helps up to 500 athletes across 12 different sports.
Each day, Williams sets up for practices, tapes ankles, covers wounds, provides treatment for lingering injuries and rehabilitates kids who have recently had surgery.
While things can get hectic and crazy, she said the students really know how to buckle down. Because she looks young, her athletes are more open with her and come to her for advice.
“I speak with my other co-workers in the district and they tell me that it’s challenging to get honest feedback from kids with regard to injuries and how they’re really feeling,” Williams said. “[Students] don’t feel defensive with me and are more honest with me about injuries.”
Since coming to South Oak Cliff High School, Williams has had many accomplishments. She has implemented an athletic training program that allows students to handle basic procedures like taping ankles, first aid, setting up the fields and getting ready for games. They are her extra set of hands and give her room to do treatments and rehabilitation.
When the program first started, many students signed up and other Dallas ISD schools took notice and wanted this program on their campuses. Williams then created a framework for these schools to follow, in addition to creating a student handbook and nutrition plan.
She focused heavily on what the athletes were consuming and realized they weren’t eating the right kinds of food, since they were in what she described as a “food desert” where healthy options weren’t available. In partnering with neighborhood organizations, she was able to make sure these athletes received the proper fuel to compete and stay healthy.
Many recognized her devotion and actions in helping these kids and, in 2015, Gatorade presented Williams with the Secondary School Athletic Trainer Award. She received one thousand dollars to be used on the program along with a package full of Gatorade products like bottles, bars and shakes.
The second those products arrived on campus, students gobbled them up. Williams knew supplies would run out eventually and wanted to figure out a way to keep them replenished.
“At TCU and DeSoto, we could get that for free and never had to worry about paying for it,” Williams said. “When you’re at an inner-city high school, funds are limited and it’s too much to ask the kids for money. They should be able to have a similar experience to the districts around them.”
Williams decided to hold an annual fundraiser by providing annual physicals to local athletes who would otherwise have to go to a clinic or see their regular doctor. The program raised enough money to provide athletes with year-round access to Gatorade sports nutrition products.
When asked what she enjoys the most about her job, Williams says it’s definitely the kids.
“They’re very grateful,” she said.
Williams recalls working a playoff football game at her old high school and being observed by the head athletic trainer.
“I was doing pre-game taping and he stood back and was watching,” Williams said. “When everybody left he said, ‘Tashanee, you have to tell me how you do it. Every kid that got off the table would say thank you Miss T. Our kids are not that nice, how do you do it?’”
For Williams, it just comes naturally.
“I just talk to them like they’re responsible young adults,” she said. “I guess they’re more appreciative because they don’t expect to get what they have. They’re not used to getting the
bare necessities, so they’re very grateful.”
Williams has been asked many times if she would consider going to another high school or college, but feels South Oak Cliff is where she belongs.
“These kids need me the most right now,” she said. “They are just so grateful and that gratitude makes the job enjoyable.”
Learn more about the TCU Athletic Training Program here.