Rockville Center resident LaTonja Lee is Molloy College’s first black athletic trainer, but being a trailblazer isn’t enough for her. She said her goal is to help young people in underserved areas by teaching them what it is like to be a sports coach and educating them about a healthy lifestyle.
To that end, Lee visited a camp hosted by USA Lacrosse last month at Lincoln Park in Hempstead, where she taught campers what it’s like to be a sports coach. The campers ranged from 5 to 15 years old, and Lee said imparting knowledge to them was essential.
“In disadvantaged communities, they don’t have access to sports coaches,” she said. “I’m always looking for projects to do for the kids, and this one was awesome.”
Lee set up two tables at camp with brochures with information on how to become a track coach in New York City and what a track coach is. She also brought snacks to encourage the participation of children, whose parents also read some information.
One of the main goals of his staff, Lee said, is the mental health and well-being of athletes of all ages, especially after the coronavirus pandemic. She added that coaches deal with athletes of all races, ethnicities and backgrounds, and that she enjoys coaching people from various groups. Lee said she taught children about the different roles and duties of sports coaches, including assessing and participating in rehabilitation, pre-habilitation, concussion and neurological assessments, as well as a emphasis on emotional and mental health.
Become a trainer
Lee said she aspired to play in the WNBA, but joked that at 5-foot-8 she was unlikely to fulfill her dream of being a starting center. Instead, she decided to become a track and field coach and took classes at SUNY Albany. At that time, the New York Giants were using the campus when they were in training camp, and Lee was fortunate enough to meet Ronnie Barnes, the team’s head athletic trainer and the first African athletic trainer. American in NFL history. Lee said Barnes gave her plenty of advice on what she needed to do to become a sports coach, and she noted that he and her teacher, Jack Koelmel, were instrumental in leading her.
Lee gained practical experience in Albany and continued her education at Long Island University-Brooklyn, where she continued her studies in sports medicine.
“I feel like I always wanted to play sports and medicine,” Lee said. “It was the perfect mix for me.”
After college, Lee started coaching at Wantagh High School in 2011, then SUNY Purchase in 2013 before joining Molloy in 2018. She became the first and only black athletic trainer at each of those stops, and said that his objective was to use his platform to disseminate information about his profession, in particular to underprivileged students.
Lee became an assistant athletic coach at Molloy College, where she works with the women’s tennis, lacrosse and volleyball teams, as well as the men’s basketball team. The position also gives her the opportunity to organize clinics and visit camps to talk to younger people about the possibility of becoming a sports coach in the future.
“I think we are both benefiting greatly from it,” she said. “Children can see the performance through the visibility of health care providers, and we can see children and educate them on what our profession is. “
During her visit to the last camp, Lee was joined by Marsha Grant, a pioneer in her own right, as she became the country’s first certified African-American athletic trainer on August 3, 1975. Grant served alongside Lee on the ethnicity Diversity Advisory Committee, which has 11 districts across the country. Lee represents New York and Grant, New Jersey.
“She’s very passionate about what she does,” Grant said of Lee. “The lacrosse clinic was a great time, and I got to do something that I love to do, so it was a win-win. “
Grant, from Philadelphia who now lives in New Jersey, said she was happy to help Lee educate young people because as a former lacrosse player, she loves the sport and enjoys spending time with it. the children.
As an athletic trainer, Grant has been involved in many sports, ranging from high school to college to professional, and from basketball to gymnastics to archery. In May, she worked in Switzerland as an athletic trainer for the World Archery national team. Additionally, she teaches athletic training classes at Montclair State University in New Jersey and is an alumnus of East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, where she studied the ins and outs of becoming a sports coach. ‘Athletics.
Grant said she had no plans to become the country’s first certified black athletic trainer and didn’t even realize she was until years later. Seeing her friend Lee become the first black track coach at Molloy College gave her mixed emotions, Grant said.
“Although I’m very proud, it’s a little sad for me that these types of firsts in my life are still happening,” she said. “I had been hoping that we would be beyond that now, and it is and we are not, and I’m just wondering when is that going to happen?” I’m sure I won’t see it, but I was hoping, and I’m sure my parents had hoped for me, but we’re still hooking up, I guess.
Grant and Lee each said underrepresented youth deserve the same level of medical care as other students, and many lacrosse campers and their parents either did not know or had access to a sports coach. .
Grant said the inequality also spilled over to underserved youth, which was the responsibility of teaching people in the lacrosse clinic about athletic coaches and a healthy lifestyle. “All children deserve to have medical care that will keep them in sport,” she said, “that will keep them healthy and help them develop the skills they need throughout life. . “
Lee said she hopes to continue to impact communities in the future. “I want to continue to promote and increase diversity in the field and continue to mentor people,” she said, “and hopefully serve as a haven where people who want to become sports coaches can talk to me. at any time. ”