March is National Athletic Training Month and Women’s History Month, which both hold a special place for Gina Giammanco, Tasha Koontz and Ashley Roe, who continue to perform key roles in the athletic training department at UTA.
Athletic trainers focus on the management, treatment and recovery of an athlete, which has an important role in every team’s success across the world.
Giammanco, associate head athletic trainer, has been working with UTA since 2005 and believes that one of the most important aspects of being an athletic trainer is to educate the public about what they do.
“As an athletic trainer we’re there, really, from start to finish,” Giammanco said. “It’s taking that athlete, trying to prevent the injury from happening, and then if the injury does occur, we’re there. We’re literally the first person on scene when an injury occurs — accessing the injury and determining the whole process of rehab for the athlete.”
Giammanco wanted to become an athletic trainer after a Louisiana State University volleyball camp that she attended with her high school team. During the camp, she got injured, which led her to spend the week in the athletic training room with the athletic training staff.
After spending time with the athletic training staff, Giammanco realized that being an athletic trainer could be what she wanted to do as a profession.
“Combining [sports] and the medical aspect of it, knowing that I was going to be helping people, that I could be a positive influence on my student athletes, is a big thing for me,” Giammanco said. “Obviously being in sports that I love, I’m still a competitive person, so I want to see our teams be successful. So you get to combine both of those in athletic training so that was the big draw for me.”
Koontz, who began working for UTA in 2019 and is the associate athletic trainer for the women’s basketball team, said athletic training is much more than what meets the eye.
“Everything that we do is day in and day out, working with these athletes and just overall helping them achieve their goals — to be overall mentally, physically, just well and good, and performing their sport to the best of their ability,” Koontz said.
Her ambition to become an athletic trainer came from Darin Moore, former head athletic trainer at Missouri Southern State University, where she attended school. Koontz worked with the football program but would get scholarship money from that to pay for her school.
Koontz became close with Moore, who showed her that being an athletic trainer was more than just passing out water, which she would do for the football team.
“He was just an awesome person, he became my mentor,” Koontz said. “He is the one that kinda showed me my passion.”
Moore died in 2017, but Koontz still remembers and dedicates all her work to him.
Koontz said being an athletic trainer can be fun and exciting. But for her, the most rewarding part of her job is seeing a player that has been injured for some time get back up on their feet and succeed on and off the court.
A new familiar face in the athletic department is Roe, who is the associate athletic trainer for softball. Roe was a student-athlete throughout her years of high school, eventually playing four years of college softball.
Since the start of the 2021 softball season, Roe has taken on the associate athletic trainer role for the team, as she has always wanted to be around sports.
As outreach athletic trainer, Roe has also taken on another task in working for Baylor Scott & White Hospital to further her knowledge in athletic training.
With many challenges that women in sports face in the world today, especially as athletic trainers, Roe said it has not been easy, but she tries to uphold the standard and keep going.
“Oh I love it, I absolutely love it,” Roe said. “I come from a background of always working with men’s teams, so being the only woman on staff usually is a humbling experience because you have to make your presence known. I think that there should always be a place for women in men sports.”
Koontz said that being a woman in sports in a program like UTA is an awesome experience as it’s good to know that she is part of the team, and in some cases a family.
She said women athletic trainers sometimes have to work harder when paired with a male dominated sport. While at Southern Methodist, she would be the only woman on travel trips with the male soccer team, and sometimes stuff had to be adjusted.
“When you are going through all of the beginning stages of going through school and getting your internships, you do have to work a little bit harder,” Koontz said. “Working sometimes a little bit harder to get to where you want to go, just to prove that you can do everything a male can.”
Giammanco said she advises any young women that aspire to be an athletic trainer one day to study hard, but the biggest thing is to be confident in who they are and not let someone tell them they can’t do something because they are a woman.
For her, being a woman and an associate head athletic trainer means a lot as she has always been a big proponent for women in sports.
“It’s really been a pleasure to see how women in sports [have] grown, and to know that I’m part of that is a really good feeling,” Giammanco said. “Looking back in 20 to 30 years from now, my name will be attached to the ‘associate head athletic trainer’ at UTA, she was a female.”