Local athletic trainers see the commitment of area athletes

There's no such thing as an ordinary day for an athletic trainer, but much like many jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, their careers took a turn throughout this past year.

Scott Scholl
Scott Scholl

From taping sore ankles and handing out bags of ice, to furloughs and an uncertain future, Alexandria's head trainer continues to keep a positive mindset after a challenging 2020. Scott Scholl joined the Heartland Orthopedic Specialists staff in 2010 and worked with Parkers Prairie Secondary and its athletic programs before taking over as the head trainer at Alexandria Area High School. A trainer's role is to serve as the middleman between the athletes and their coaches, doctors and parents.

"Our job is to prevent and care for athletic injuries," Scholl said. "We are there prepping the athletes for a competition, whether it's stretching or dealing with an acute injury. At practices, we are there to take the pressure off of coaches with first aid, CPR and medical care if an injury were to happen. From a finger sprain to a knee injury that needs to go in for an operation, we are there for the rehabbing so they can get back to play safely."

Trainers often work with the same teams at the same schools, which allows them to build relationships with the athletes and coaches.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit Minnesota athletics back in March, Scholl was at the University of Minnesota for the Alexandria girls basketball state tournament run. Little did he know those were the last games of the school year he'd work.

"I remember one of the assistant coaches showed his phone to me, and it said there was the first positive case of COVID-19 at the University of Minnesota," Scholl said. "My heart just sank. I remember thinking that it's on us, and now what? Then you see an empty stadium the next day at Concordia-St. Paul. Beth Swanson, who works for the Sauk Centre girls, walked in. We both realized this was it. This is our last game, and we don't know what the future is going to bring."


What made that day so challenging was not knowing when things would go back to normal. As society still waits for the day where everyday life goes back to what it was, Scholl wants to forget the feeling of loss that he had in St. Paul.

"It kind of felt like when your dog runs away, and you wonder if he's ever going to come back," Scholl said. "It was a sad day because there wasn't an end in sight. Then we went into the spring season, where we were going to have sports. Then we weren't going to have sports. It kind of went back and forth. When they finally canceled it, all you can think about are those seniors that never got that chance to compete."

When sports were on hiatus, athletic trainers were asked to take time off. Despite being the lead trainer in the area's biggest school, Scholl was no exception.

"You always think that athletics will always go on," Scholl said. "If a weather component or a scheduling complication comes up, games are always going to be rescheduled. When we were shut down, it allowed me to reflect on what was happening and realize that we are doing this for the good of the community. The shutdown directly impacts me, but I can't take it personally."

Getting the go-ahead for fall sports was a much-needed return for Scholl. However, he and his staff had to learn how to do their job with the extended safety precautions in place.

"The toughest thing is learning to talk through a mask when you can't see their face," Scholl said. "It's hard to see how much pain they're in, and communication is difficult. The other thing is, how does the athletic department deal with a positive case? Dealing with contact tracing and figuring out how to return kids to their teams safely was new to us. I think Ben Kvidt, the parents, personal doctors and medical professionals did a great job this fall."

Scholl's staff was supplied with personal protective equipment from the hospital to follow the COVID-19 guidelines. Scholl said he felt safe on the sidelines during the fall season.

"Back in September, when soccer was going on, I told the teams I was going to be their worst nightmare about masks and social distancing. I have to be that person," Scholl said. "Our fall teams were tremendous. I can't speak on the stats, but most of our teams weren't affected by it. Our boys soccer team did get shut down, but they came back and played very well. I think the time they had away made them stronger because they realized they needed to come together and stay safe."


As athletes gear up for winter sports coming out of the second state-wide shutdown, the hope is that sports can be played safely. Scholl has confidence in Alexandria athletics to go the extra mile.

"(University of Minnesota Gopher Men's Basketball head coach) Rich Patino says 'Every day is a gift,'" Scholl said. "That's the approach the coaches and athletes took every day. Not everybody gets the opportunity to play and practice. We do, and we have to make the most of it. For us, it starts with Rick Sansted, Chad Duwenhogger and Ben Kvidt. They know we only get one chance at this, and they want to do this the right way. If I can be a part of making sure they're out there competing, that's a win for me."

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
What To Read Next
Get Local