Senior Kat Hiller assists athletic trainer Mitch Smelis

Emily Battaglia, Writer

While many of the athletes found in the training room are visiting because of an injury, senior Kat Hiller is there for a different reason. With aspirations to become a physical therapist for veterans after college, Hiller works alongside athletic trainer Mitch Smelis to gain the experience she needs to someday take up this occupation.

“I initially joined Mitch because I wanted to be a physical therapist’s assistant,” Hiller said.“Then I had the opportunity to work with Mitch’s boss, Jamie, at Physiotherapy Associates, and it was then that I decided I wanted to be a physical therapist.”

Despite simply wanting to pursue a career in physical therapy, Hiller’s interest in assisting Smelis grew when she faced sports injuries running track during her freshman and sophomore years.
“My freshman year I had a lower leg injury, and then when I was a sophomore I injured my ankle,” Hiller said. “After spending a fair amount of time with Mitch in the training room, I realized how good he was at what he did, and I figured I could learn something from him.”

For the past two years, Hiller has worked twice a week during the fall sports seasons, and occasionally during the winter season in Mitch’s office.

“My main job is to file the paperwork that athletes turn in at the beginning of the season,” Hiller said. “I also write out the weekly sports schedule, check the med kits, fill up the 10 gallons of water for practices and games, set up the field for home games, and serve as the ‘water girl’ for the games.”

Along with her daily tasks, Hiller is able to learn a lot about what it takes to be an athletic trainer like Smelis.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot these past two years,” Hiller said. “I get to see the entire recovery process of what he does to help an injured athlete recover, and it is great to be able to apply the things I learn in my sports medicine class at the Genesee Career Institute in real life.”

Hiller’s time at FHS is coming to an end, however, and Smelis will need more reliable students considering a health centered career to assist him.

“If you are interested in learning about anatomy and physiology, I would go see Mitch, and hear about his experiences,” Hiller said. “Along with that, you also need to be a very reliable person and have the desire to help others.”

Hiller is not the only one who assists Smelis during the season. Seniors Becky McDermott and Rachel Siekierski, as well as juniors Rashard Ingram and Maddie Albrecht are the other four student assistants who work in the training room with Hiller during each of the sports seasons.

“It is not just me, it’s a lot of people, making it a team effort,” Hiller sad. “I love all of them, they are seriously great people.”