Two New Jersey Athletic Training Students Attend ILEAD Conference Sponsored by the Athletic Trainers' Society of New Jersey

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Every two years the NATA offers a student leadership workshop featuring presentations and workshops on various topics including, but not limited to: leadership style, effective communication, cover letter writing, interview preparation, work life balance, etc. This year’s conference was held in conjunction with the NATA Joint Committee Meeting that allowed attendees the opportunity for interaction with the NATA Leadership and Committees. Representing New Jersey were Calen Sutton, Seton Hall University 2019, and Nicole Thompson, Rowan University 2020.

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"The first thing I said to my peers and program director when I got back from the ILead conference was that we needed to get more people from our institution at conferences like this one. I learned something new during every session at the conference."

Every two years the NATA offers a student leadership workshop featuring presentations and workshops on various topics including, but not limited to: leadership style, effective communication, cover letter writing, interview preparation, work life balance, etc. This year’s conference was held in conjunction with the NATA Joint Committee Meeting that allowed attendees the opportunity for interaction with the NATA Leadership and Committees. The Athletic Trainers’ Society of New Jersey (ATSNJ, Inc.), once again helped sponsor two outstanding students attending this year’s conference. Representing New Jersey were Calen Sutton, Seton Hall University 2019, and Nicole Thompson, Rowan University 2020. ATSNJ Past President, Christina Emrich, had a chance to catch up with Calen and Nicole and asked them to share their experiences.

CE -Why did you want to attend the ILead Conference this year?

CS - In our society, leadership is a big component you tend to hear in business but not in athletic training. I wanted to attend the ILead Conference because I believed it would give me an idea of what it meant to be a leader as a student evolving as an athletic trainer. Additionally, I believed my attendance would give me more experience with dealing with my other colleagues in a professional setting.

NT - I wanted to attend the ILead Conference this year to gain knowledge on how to become a more advanced leader and to network with past, current, and future leaders of the athletic training profession. This conference was different than past conferences I have attended (EATA, ATSNJ) in the content that was being presented. Also, I wanted to gain a better experience with traveling and I thought that this was a perfect opportunity to do so.

CE - Why is it important for students to attend the conference?

CS - It is important for students to attend this conference in order to hear and understand the qualities of leadership have helped some of the most successful athletic trainers throughout their own respective careers. Each speaker's presentation serves as an inspiration to not only become a skilled athletic trainer, but a well-equipped leader within the profession as well.

NT- The ILead Conference hosts the top athletic training student leaders and professional leaders from across the country. This allows for a great amount of networking, questioning, and sharing of experiences. The conference gives a great opportunity to sit down with professional athletic training leaders to share views on both athletic training and personal experiences. Also, this conference allows an individual to take tips on how to become an advanced leader or rise up to one through workshops geared towards communication, problem solving, and different leadership styles. The conference teaches students how to excel and be professional after graduation through workshops geared towards cover letter writing and job interviewing. In addition, the iLead Conference gives a traveling experience from making traveling reservations to actually traveling to the conference.

CE - What was your favorite part of the event?

CS - My favorite part of the event was being able to interact with the other athletic training students and professionals from other parts of the United States. It was amazing to have representation from all the districts of the NATA in one room.

NT - I enjoyed the Work Life Balance Panel of the iLead Conference. The athletic training profession can become stressful at times as there can be a lot going on. The members of the Work Life Balance Panel shared experiences and answered questions from the student leaders on how to juggle athletic training and a personal life. It was realistic, but gave insight on how to handle difficult situations when they arise. The members also gave advice on how to prioritize when it comes to work and having a family.

CE -What is your biggest take home point from the conference?

CS - The biggest take home point for me during the conference came from our NATA president Tory Lindley. During his speech on the first night, he advocated for every athletic training student in attendance to remain lifelong learners. In this profession, we need to understand that having an open mind to learning will help progress us further in our careers. Close-minded persons tend to be stuck in their ways, which can lead to staleness and regression. We will never reach the point where we know everything, but if we strive learn something new every day, the effect that we will have on our own careers will be extremely positive.

NT - The biggest take home point I got from the ILead Conference was that improving and rising up to becoming a leader all starts with me. I need to be the one to continuously challenge myself to do better and that there is always room for improvement within the athletic training profession. Excelling at being a leader entails a combination of selfishness, selflessness, communication skills, professionalism, personal values, and enjoying what you do.

CE - What advice do you have for future athletic training students who may be interested in attending?

CS - Go into the conference prepared to learn something new, even if it's only one thing. Additionally, I would advise that future athletic training students come prepared to network with the other professionals who are in attendance for the Joint Committee meeting that runs in conjunction with the ILead conference.

NT - My advice for future athletic training students who may be interested in attending the ILead Conference is to step out of your comfort zone, starting with deciding to go. Traveling to the ILead Conference without anyone from my institution was a big step for me. By doing so, I have become more independent and confident with the paths I want to take in life. Also, most of the other leadership students attending the conference are in the same position as I was and only knew about 2-3 other students going into the conference. This encouraged me to be the one to first introduce myself and to come out of the conference with a several more athletic training acquaintances that I still keep in touch with today.

CE - How has attending the conference affected your experiences as an athletic training student since returning?

CS - Since returning, I feel as if my outlook on how approach the profession has changed significantly. Even if I’m not in specific leadership role (i.e. Head AT or Director of Sports Medicine), I can still affect the people I interact with everyday in a positive way. Being able to lead without a title is a crucial characteristic that young ATs must possess in order to make a wave within the profession.

NT- Since I attended the ILead conference I have been encouraging my peers and underclassmen to get involved and to step up and be a leader. I encourage them that it’s never too late to make a change and show what leadership skills you have to offer. Something is always better than nothing. I feel more confident with my leadership skills as I have made some adjustments from the tips provided from the conference. I also feel more confident with my athletic training career path and how to succeed in it. I feel comfortable with taking initiative and leading others with everyday athletic training experiences.

CE - Do you feel you learned strategies in developing better communication skills related to generational gaps?

CS- Yes, during the conference we had a breakout session led by Dr. Matthew Kutz that discussed navigating the complex world of leadership styles between the generations of young athletic trainers entering the field and veteran, well-established athletic trainers.

NT - Once of the sessions from the ILead conference that stuck out was the Situation-Behavior-Impact Model Workshop. This workshop showed the appropriate ways to approach an issue, whether you are a certified athletic trainer or an athletic training student. It is a way to professionally handle problems when they arise and not offend any parties. It’s a way of expressing the situation, the behavior of the other party, and how it affected you. This model is beneficial because it can be applied to two people close in age, or farther apart in age.

CE - What type of leadership styles did you see and how do you think they would help you for a future in leadership?

CS - Some of the leadership styles that were presented over the course of the two days at the conference were democratic, servant, transformational, and situational. Between all of these styles, I believe the situational approach set well with me. Situational involves taking a little bit of all the leadership styles you believe are beneficial in order to handle certain situations with your colleagues and other people you encounter in the workplace. I believe as I embark on my career as an athletic trainer this would best fit my leadership style.

NT - A strong leadership style that I noticed throughout the ILead Conference that my peers expressed was how comfortable they were with standing up in front of a crowd and sharing their experiences. This stood out to me because it is a weakness of mine. They did not hesitate to speak their mind, but they did so professionally. Another strong leadership style that I noticed throughout the iLead Conference was that the professional leaders wanted to get to know the student leaders. Having a leader that wants to get to know others, besides their experience in the athletic training profession, shows how much they care.

CE - Did any of the topics resonate with you for the future?

CS - The topic that resonated with me the most came from David Csillan’s presentation on “Effective Communication”. As ATs, we need to be able to effectively communicate whether it is with our patients or our colleagues. Knowing when to be as descriptive as possible is important for our job, especially when dealing with emergency medical situations.

NT - One of the topics that resonated with me for the future was from the keynote speaker, NATA President Tory Lindley. Mr. Lindley presented on personal values and how to narrow our personal values down. The personal values that I was able to define for myself have become highly motivational for me. Whether I am going through athletic training related circumstances or circumstances in extracurricular areas of my life, I carry these values with me to remember who I am and what I value. These values are great in helping an individual to prioritize areas of athletic training and their personal life.

CE - How would you encourage other students to promote the profession based on what you learned at ILead?

CS - I would encourage students to promote the profession by simply engaging in conversation and making a personal connection with persons they encounter everyday. Being able to interact with people with people who may not know much about the profession can lead to greater exposure and recognition outside of the main population that we treat.

NT - Based on what I learned at ILead, I would encourage others that they don’t have to be in a leadership position to promote our profession. Educating others on who athletic trainers are and what we do can make a huge difference to some individuals. By doing so, it can show how important we are in keeping patients healthy. Also, by getting involved and promoting the profession can have a domino effect. By educating and encouraging at least one individual on athletic training can lead them to do the same for others.

CE - How do you see yourself implementing what you learned at the conference into your practice as an athletic trainer?

CS - I feel as if I have already started to implement what I learned at the conference into my practice as a student athletic trainer. From the important messages I received from Tory Lindley and Dave Csillan, I have worked to better my communication with the patients I encounter everyday while also opening myself up to learning even more from athletic training students from other schools. As I approach graduation, I look forward to continuing the implementation of these skills in my practice as a future certified athletic trainer.

NT - I see myself taking all the presentations and tips I gained from the ILead Conference and implementing them into my practice as an athletic trainer. I plan on using an effective balance between selfishness and selflessness when it comes to future patients, colleagues, coaches, supervisors and staff. I plan on using clear communication between staff, patients, coaches, and I. I plan on using my defined personal values to continuously motivate and remind myself of who I am. I plan on approaching every situation and individual with an open mind as well.

CE - Would you recommend the conference to other AT students? Why? Why not?

CS - I would highly recommend the conference to other AT students because you gain valuable information from prominent figures in the profession on what it takes to become a leader. Additionally, students have the opportunity to engage in workshops discussing the improvement of resumes, cover letters, and interview skills that are extremely beneficial as you prepare to enter the workforce after graduation.

NT - The first thing I said to my peers and program director when I got back from the ILead conference was that we needed to get more people from our institution at conferences like this one. I learned something new during every session at the conference. Going to ILead was a traveling experience as well. Before this, I had only been on a plane twice accompanied by a large group of people. This time it was my friend and I. We both were unfamiliar with airports and navigating them. Traveling to Dallas for ILead gave me this experience and I am more confident with air traveling in the future.

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