High school has been making due without an athletic trainer for the last five years

A series of questionable decisions coupled with a budget shortfall left the Crook County High School athletic program without an athletic trainer five years ago.

Since then, the school district has operated with each sport’s head coach taking responsibility for the safety and injury evaluation of their athletes. LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - New Crook County High School athletic trainer Mike Estes tapes an ankle. Estes, who started work on Monday, July 20 will be the first athletic trainer that CCHS has had in five years. His duties include injury prevention, assessment and rehab.

All that has changed as CCHS will have a full-time trainer when the fall sports season begins on Monday, Aug. 17.

“For the last two years we have been working on it,” said CCHS athletic director Rob Bonner. “We were making little gains here and there, but nothing really substantial. It was a little frustrating. Everybody was agreeing that having an athletic trainer is vital to having a healthy athletic program, but money is short and there was little we could do.”

That changed this summer when a coalition of several groups began working together to find a way to make things happen. The hard work finally paid off on Monday, July 20 when Mike Estes was hired to be the school’s new athletic director.

“Both his parents and his wife’s parents are here and are longtime members of the community,” Bonner said. “That appealed to me because we all know tons of people come to our community and are here for a few years and then they move on. Michael wants to come here because he loves the community. He knows what it’s about and he wants to raise his kids here.”

Momentum towards rehiring an athletic trainer picked up steam when Dr. Natalie Good and her husband, James Good, moved to the community. “She breathed some energy into this thing,” Bonner said. “She put together a list of local health care providers that would come and donate their time at sporting events and she was really instrumental in picking up the cause and getting it out there to people in the community.”

This summer, the head coaches for all 16 CCHS?athletic teams agreed to donate $500 each of fundraised money towards an athletic trainer and the Crook County Booster Club agreed to match the money.

“All of a sudden we had right at half of what we need and then the district kicked in some money,”?Bonner said.

That still wasn’t enough to make things happen until County Commissioner Seth Crawford became involved. Crawford met with both the Center Foundation in Bend and St. Charles Medical Center and helped kick start their interest in supplying CCHS?with an athletic trainer.

“I’m really excited,” Crawford said of the hiring of Estes. “I think that’s something the kids have needed for a long time.”

The Center Foundation agreed to hire an individual for 30 hours a week, while St. Charles agreed to kick in some of the necessary funds.

“Doing it this way the Center Foundation takes care of malpractice insurance and that took a burden off of us and allowed us to do this.”

Estes was then hired 10 hours a week by Rebound Physical Therapy.

The Center Foundation already supplies athletic trainers to all the Bend High Schools as well as Sisters and La Pine.

“Michael Estes, a Prineville native, has been hired by The Center Foundation as athletic trainer for Crook County High School,” The Center Foundation said in a press release. “Recognizing the need for an athletic trainer, funding was secured through donations from the community, Crook County High School athletic departments, the booster club, Good Bike Company and St. Charles. In addition to working as the high school athletic trainer, Estes is also working at Rebound Physical Therapy in Prineville part-time. The Center Foundation is the only nonprofit in Central Oregon that is solely dedicated to providing sports medicine as a means to ensure that student athletes are safe, healthy, and protected in sports and activities.”

Bonner added that long-time Prineville physical therapist Ken Smith was also instrumental in helping the school hire an athletic trainer.

“I don’t know if there is a truer definition of home town effort,” Bonner said. “I’ve been impressed with this community for the more than 20 years that I have been a part of it and this is just another example of how special it is. People just saw the need and acted on it.”

Estes has been hired on a three-year contract. However, Bonner noted that the school district is still short of funds.

“We are still a little bit short the first year,”?he said. “We are $6,000 short the first year, $12,000 short the second year and $18,000 short for the third year. We have got it shared for three years, but then after that it’s going to be our responsibility to keep him.”

Good Bicycles Co. has stepped in to help raise money to make up some of the shortfall. The Prineville bicycle shop is hosting a bike race, the Ochoco Grand Roubaix, on Saturday, Aug. 29 with proceeds going to the program. Bonner noted that the Good family is also planning future races to help support the program.

Bonner went on to say that the importance of an athletic trainer cannot be overstated.

“The athletic trainer position is so vital for a healthy athletic program,” he said. “I’m proud to say that our kids are going to be serviced as they should be as far as the athletic trainer role.”

Estes is a graduate of the Oregon State University athletic training program and then completed a master’s degree in athletic training at University of Oregon. His experience working with student athletes includes time a Corvallis High School as well as working with intercollegiate football and club sports at U of O.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be moving back home,”?Estes said. “To be able to get the exact job I wanted straight out of school is just a dream come true.”

Estes added that he first learned about athletic training from former CCHS athletic trainer Anne Speck.

Two years ago, Estes worked with club sports at U of O and taught an athletic training class. Last year he was a staff athletic trainer for the school’s football team, traveling to all games including the Rose Bowl and National Championship Game.

Estes said that his duties at Crook County High School will include attending all football games, plus all high risk sports events.

“I will be at all of the game whenever possible — whenever they don’t overlap,” he said. “We need someone there that will be able to help out and take care of kids that are injured instead of having parents have to take them to a physical therapist or to a doctor for something that I should be able to take care of myself.”

Bonner is excited about having Estes as part of the athletic program.

“Our coaches have done an amazing job for the last five years that we haven’t had a trainer, but this is a weight that I’m happy to see lifted off of them,” he said. “He graduated from one of the top athletic training programs in the country at the University of Oregon and he spent the last couple of years traveling to every game with the Oregon Ducks football team. So I think if he’s good enough for them, he’s good enough for us.”