The National Athletic Trainers Association Intercollegiate Council has honored a College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences graduate with the 2020 NATA Intercollegiate Council for Sports Medicine Head Athletic Trainer of the Year Award. Mike Matheny (B.S. PE, concentration in Athletic Training, Magna Cum Laude 1982) received the award for exceptional performance as a head athletic trainer in the Div. III category. Award recipients are actively involved in their community or campus, athletic training associations and promotion of the profession.
Matheny, who serves as clinical professor and head athletic trainer, department of exercise science and athletic training at Ithaca College, spends part of his day with classroom teaching in the athletic training education program, serving as a preceptor for students in their clinical experience.
The North Royalton, Ohio native splits his time in an administrative role as head athletic trainer. “I also work as the primary AT for men's soccer in the fall and men's lacrosse in the spring. As a faculty member, I do academic advising, scholarship and service,” Matheny said. “Since the start of Covid, I have spent an enormous amount of time working with our team physician, medical director and athletic director on how we can continue to safely provide athletic opportunities for our 800 student-athletes.”
As a former CPASS student, Matheny says two experiences stood out for him. “The first was my clinical experience assignment as a junior with men's gymnastics. They practiced in an off-campus facility in downtown Morgantown and I was the sole health care provider at that location,” Matheny said. “It forced me to use the knowledge I had from my classes and initial assignment with football, working out of the old downtown Mountaineer Field. It was exciting but scary and proved to me that I could handle pressure and make correct decisions on my own.”
Matheny says the second critical hands-on involvement was working with football his final year. “Don Nehlen had taken over as coach, Oliver Luck was the quarterback and we had a pretty good team that finished the season beating Florida in the Peach Bowl. That experience, from preseason camp through our New Year's Eve bowl game, showed me that I had the skills and mindset to continue into a career as an athletic trainer,” he said. “Greg Ott and John Spiker trusted me. I figured if they trusted me, then I must be doing something right.”
Matheny’s initial academic pathway took a few twists and turns. “I entered WVU as a forestry major, but changed over to physical education quickly, with the intention of becoming a teacher and coach. Bill Douglas, and then Carl Bahneman, were my advisors,” Matheny said. “Dana Brooks was a GA at that time, and I was foolish enough to take him on a few times in badminton. He left welts on my body from hitting me with the birdie.”
As a track athlete, Matheny says he was exposed to the quality work provided by the AT staff. “I had to take PPE 121, Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries, from Sam Kegerreis, who was the AT for basketball prior to Randy Meador. Sam, and then John Spiker, talked me into applying for admission into the AT program. They took a chance and accepted me.”
Matheny admires John Spiker for his vast knowledge in the field of athletic training. “John was a valuable mentor to me. I have always tried (and probably mostly failed) to live up to the high standards he set as an athletic trainer and educator.I am extremely grateful to still count John and Randy as friends and colleagues,” he said.
Matheny suggests that current undergraduate students take responsibility for their own education. “Seize every opportunity presented to you and learn from it. Develop a relationship with someone in your field whom you see as a mentor,” he explained. “Put in the extra effort as an undergraduate student that sets you apart from your peers.”
“I appreciate the start I got at WVU and the people who looked out for me while I was there. I'm sure that process is still going on today with the many students in the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences,” Matheny said. “I have always been proud to represent the WVU AT program and am fortunate to have benefitted from the education I received and the connections I made during my time in Morgantown.”