Christa Finney understands the power of a moment. Whether it’s taking an moment to snuggly wrap an ankle in the field house, refer a student with a sprain to a local clinic, or make a split-second decision as the first responder on the field in front of a crowd of thousands at a football game, Christa knows each of those moments add up to change a life.
As the Head Athletic Trainer for the Bryant School District, she’s spent the last ten years watching every student athletes’ journey to victory on the sidelines. While a coach may follow an athletes completed passes or how fast they crossed the finish line, Christa carefully examines the details of each student athlete, focusing on the safety of their head, neck, feet and arms.
“You never know what could happen,” explains Christa. “I have to be ready for anything from a scratched finger, to cardiac arrest, to a broken neck. You pray for games where there are no injuries, where nothing happens. I’m constantly monitoring the situation.”
Growing up as student athlete through dance and cheer, Christa discovered her interest in athletic training after an injury she received in college. Her time with the athletic training team at Ouachita Baptist University inspired her to get a Master’s degree in the field and never look back.
With more than 1500 student athletes in the district, Christa has watched each of these students grow and learn. Her students have given her the endearing nickname of Mama Christa; as she watches their safety and takes care of the bumps, bruises and scrapes that occur throughout the season.
“We are the behind the scenes unsung heroes of the athletic world,” says Christa. “Thank you from the moms go such a long way. It’s all about building relationships with the kids and the parents. If they don’t feel like they can trust you then it doesn’t work. Establishing those relationships are so important.”
Now with more than 15 years of experience as an athletic trainer, she’s stepping into a new role this fall. Christa and her team of athletic trainers will bring an athletic training program into the classrooms of Bryant High School.
The new Sports Medicine program will consist of two-year long classes: Sports Medicine I will serve as an introductory course for students introducing HIPPA laws, the administrative side of the field as well as the professional organizations associated with the field and the 101 basics of becoming an athletic trainer. Sports Medicine II introduces students to injury evaluation, CPR, spine boarding and wound care.
There will be 90 sophomores and juniors in the program this year through the career and tech education program.
With many other high schools around the state implementing athletic training programs, Christa is thrilled to lead this program for Bryant High School. “This will be the first program of its kind in Bryant under the health and occupational program,” explains Christa. “Being involved with this program as a high school student gives kids a leg up when they go to college. When they step into these programs in college, they know they’ll have a solid foundation and it’s competitive.”
Christa is quick to acknowledge, she’s not beginning this program alone. With a new program, come new additions to the team. Athletic trainers Alex Guin and Brandon Sitez will join her both on the field and in the classroom this year. Students from the Sports Medicine II class will also receive hands-on training this year.
Her hopes for the program include creating one of the top programs in the state by providing students real-life scenario training in the classroom and practicing on the sidelines. With more than 14 sports to cover among 7th through 12th grades, no doubt these students will gain valuable experience.
With this job comes a significant level of dedication, not only of your personal time but also to your students. “Athletic training had a stigma that we were water boys and girls, but it’s so much more than that,” explains Christa. “You have a kid who has a college career on the line-they look to you to help them. There’s so much more to treating the kid than just the physical, it’s about treating the whole child.”
Christa is there during some of her students’ most vulnerable moments. Moments when her students are injured and may want to give up on their sport. Her motivation to help them succeed comes in daily affirmations. “Seeing kids comeback from an injury, seeing them get on the field and score three touchdowns, knowing you had some part of that is so special. There is nothing like Friday nights under the lights.”