Trainer enjoys work on sidelines
It’s more than simply a job
A softball injury helped Leslie Kenney chose a career.
While rehabilitating an injured ankle during her sophomore year at Cornell College in Iowa, she became interested in the exercises and therapies the trainer was using to help her recover the strength and action of her ankle.
"I started out in criminology," she said.
Her injury and the recovery process, however, motivated her to look at another option.
She took the introductory course for athletic trainers, biology and physical education classes. After she graduated from Cornell, she attended the U.S. Sports Academy in Daphne, Alabama, where she earned a master's degree in sports science.
Now Kenney, a certified athletic trainer, works for Providence Medical Center. The Tonganoxie school district has contracted with Providence to provide an athletic trainer during high school games, especially games like soccer, football, basketball and softball that have the potential for dangerous collisions.
Kenney was at almost every Chieftain home game during the fall and winter seasons and is a familiar face to Tonganoxie high school athletes.
It wasn't exactly what she had expected.
"When I started athletic training, I was looking forward to setting up my own training room," Kenney said.
She has learned a lot working in both field and clinic settings, she said. She also likes the people and athletes with whom she works.
"I like Tonganoxie," Kenney said. "It's a nice, homey little town."
The feeling is mutual. Kenney jokes around with the players on the sidelines before and after games. She also travels to the high school on Tuesdays during the various sports seasons to examine injuries and evaluate how injured athletes are progressing.
John Lee, athletics director and girls basketball coach, said Kenney is an important presence.
"She's a good person," Lee said. "The kids like her."
Kenney has been assigned to progressively more of the Tonganoxie games in her three years working for Providence.
The consistency has been important for the Tonganoxie teams Lee said, and Kenney agrees.
"You get to know the kids," she said.
Like the coaches who work with the kids every day, Kenney has watched certain athletes progress as competitors and as they grow up.
She sometimes fields queries similar to the ones she herself made in choosing the profession.
"They're learning aobut different types of careers by talking to me," she said.
She would be content to stand on the sidelines and watch a game. When, however, one of the athletes is injured, she is one of the first people to the players' side.
She is responsible for the primary first aid and determining whether a student athlete might need additional care or need to consult with a doctor. She communicates closely with the coaches to keep them informed about how serious an injury is.
"I'm not there to tell them what to do," Kenney said.
But she does offer assistance and advice.
"I'm not going to put a sprained ankle back in the game just because that's the kid that's going to help them win the game," Kenney said.
Harold Pittman, Tonganoxie soccer coach, complimented Kenney's work.
She provides peace of mind for a coach trying to concentrate on the game and not worry about injuries, he said. She's also there when something the coach is not trained to handle occurs.
"We are trained to cover everything," Kenney said.
Pittman said he's watched Kenney stay after the game and help an athlete to the car.
"It just goes a lot deeper than the job," Pittman said.
Kenney said the most common injuries she treats during games are ankle injuries. Soccer players seem to hurt their ankles quite often either as a result of the field or as a result of their shoes. Basketball players who don't wear high top shoes have a lot of ankle injuries too.
At the clinic, Kenney and the other trainers see a lot of othopedic injuries including torn anterior cruciate ligaments in the knee. The trainers work with the athletes to rehabilitate and strengthen those injuries.
Kenney is not new to the Kansas City area. She grew up in Leawood and attended Shawnee Mission East High School. She graduated from high school in 1991.
She returned to the area in 1997 after completing her undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Like the parents in the stands, Kenney would prefer to see no injuries in Tonganoxie games.
"Then, I get to watch a good game for free," she said.