Thank You First Responders

Taeopae Wetterman’s work as Yorkville athletic trainer goes well beyond the sidelines

Wetterman’s care for athletes starts during school, and she also teaches future trainers

Taeopae Wetterman is an athletic trainer at Yorkville High School.

Taeopae Wetterman’s day as an athletic trainer starts well before the first ball is rolled out for games or practices.

She likes it that way.

Wetterman, in her ninth year as an athletic trainer, and one of two athletic trainers at Yorkville High School, does provide care at after school activities. But she also has hours during the school day.

“Which is unheard of and sets Yorkville apart from other high schools, that they can provide athletes care during the school day,” Wetterman said. “It’s nice to have a dedicated time during the school day to to get injuries evaluated and work on rehab. It makes a difference.”

Taeopae Wetterman is an athletic trainer at Yorkville High School.

Wetterman is making a difference not only as a full-time athletic trainer at Yorkville, but she is also in her third year teaching future athletic trainers with an emphasis on concussion care in the athletic training program at Naperville’s North Central College.

A Bartlett native, Wetterman spent much of her childhood athletically as a club gymnast. She did gymnastics and track in high school, and ran track at North Central where she did her undergrad. She received her Master of Science in kinesiology and graduate certificate in sports neurology and concussion from A.T. Still University in Mesa, Arizona.

She spent eight years in the orthopedic department at a Northwestern-affiliated physician’s clinic in the western suburbs and worked as an athletic trainer at St. Francis High School before coming to Yorkville.

“The mental component we provide and the support is almost more important.”

—  Taeopae Wetterman, athletic trainer at Yorkville High School

Yorkville athletic director Luke Engelhardt said that the school went from one trainer to two in the last year, and was fortunate to hire an experienced young athletic trainer to make positive change. Two days a week there is open campus time built into the schedule where trainers Wetterman and Nicole Collins can work with athletes rehabbing or preventative work.

Taeopae Wetterman is an athletic trainer at Yorkville High School.

“To be able to provide that extra care and be accessible to student-athletes if they have questions is a huge benefit. Our data shows it is used a ton,” Engelhardt said. “To use the schedule and get to know kids and provide that extra care, and just their presence after school at events and practices, they are an extension of our athletic program.”

Wetterman said that one of the most rewarding aspects of what she does as an athletic trainer is guiding an athlete through the whole process of an injury, not only physically but just as important mentally.

“The mental component we provide and the support is almost more important,” Wetterman said. “Providing a safe space for athletes to come to is something I truly try to do. For me to be a successful trainer my athletes have to trust me, to be comfortable that they will come to me with injuries.”

How an athletic trainer such as Wetterman might handle an injury at the moment it occurs depends on what the injury is. First and foremost, she makes sure if it’s anything that needs a referral to the emergency department. Ruling that out, she determines if the athlete needs immediate care.

“A lot of the sideline work is ruling out red flags,” Wetterman said. “Is the athlete safe to continue in the game, or are they finished? It ends up with a follow up the next day. What is the treatment plan? Do we need to refer them to a physician to provide treatment to the athlete? It varies.”

Engelhardt said that one of the most overlooked but important qualities in an athletic trainer is to be approachable, a person who is always trying to build relationships to make athletes comfortable around them.

He said that there is a notion that a trainer is someone who sits on the sidelines waiting for an injury to happen, but it is actually the opposite of that. Athletic trainers like Wetterman are there to prevent injuries, and if there is one to be there as a first responder.

“I will say that Taeopae, one of her strengths is her calmness under pressure,” Engelhardt said. “She is able to use her knowledge and experience to make decisions quickly. She has good judgement when situations come up. We have trust in her decision-making. I feel like we’re in good hands.”

With Wetterman’s expertise in concussion management and treatment, she has worked with Yorkville’s nursing staff to revise concussion protocols to make sure they are updated. She set up meetings with EMTs in Yorkville and the Bristol Fire Department, leading training sessions with parademics.

“I don’t think the public knows that these trainings happen. If an injury happens, they are prepared,” Engelhardt said. “They’ve come in and did a nice job of getting us in a better place, and we couldn’t be happier.”

Wetterman said that through her teaching future athletic trainers she hopes to continue to advocate for them as health care providers.

“You see us giving out water, or taping an ankle but there is so much more that we do,” Wetterman said. “We are the liaison between students and parents and their physicians a lot of times. We have a wide variety of skills that include injury assessment but also mental health, strength and conditioning, rehab. We do a lot of things and most of what we do is behind the scenes and not on the sidelines.”

Joshua  Welge

Joshua Welge

I am the Sports Editor for Kendall County Newspapers, the Kane County Chronicle and Suburban Life Media, covering primarily sports in Kendall, Kane, DuPage and western Cook counties. I've been covering high school sports for 24 years. I also assist with our news coverage.