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Skills and Knowledge Checklist for Becoming an Athletic Trainer

Athletic training is a growing field found at the intersection of active lifestyles and healthcare.  Athletic trainers support their patients in a variety of ways, such as emergency care, diagnosis, and rehabilitation.  They are also found in a variety of settings, from traditional settings in collegiate and professional sports teams, to high schools, public safety, and industrial settings.  If the idea of practicing healthcare in a dynamic, fast-moving environment with active individuals sounds intriguing to you, you may be an athletic trainer in the making!  Are you wondering what skills and knowledge you need to flourish in this career?  Join us for a peek into what makes a great athletic trainer.

What is an athletic trainer?

Athletic trainer duties can vary a lot from position to position, but there are some key elements that always remain the same.  According to the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), “As a part of the health care team, services provided by athletic trainers include primary care, injury and illness prevention, wellness promotion and education, emergent care, examination and clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions.”

Athletic trainers can be found providing emergency care at athletic competitions, taking health histories in physician’s offices, creating safety and injury prevention plans at manufacturing sites, or helping a patients rehabilitate after an injury in clinics.  In addition to these, you can find athletic trainers performing their duties with dance companies, theatrical productions, theme parks, rodeos, military instillations, and everywhere else in between! 

What are important athletic trainer skills?

As healthcare providers involved in all aspects of injury prevention, recognition, and rehabilitation, we see certain athletic trainer skills that help our students thrive in this career.  Here are a few.

Communication skills

Strong communication skills are a must for any healthcare professional, but athletic trainers especially see benefit from strong active listening skills.   Unlike other healthcare professionals who may work in hospitals or clinics, many athletic trainers provide services outside of the clinic, even on the sidelines of athletic competitions.  Successful athletic trainers can filter out the noise and distractions of their surroundings to listen to their patient, including hearing what the patient may not be saying. In addition to this, athletic trainers are often a liaison between patients, other health care providers, and those close to their patients. This requires knowledge in how to best communicate with each individual but also tailor how they interact to their backgrounds and the information they need to know.

Technical knowledge

Athletic trainers are often on the front lines in athlete monitoring and injury evaluation.  Often they are called upon to make decisions quickly with limited information.  While some success here depends on experience, a strong understanding of the body and its mechanisms is key.  There are no short-cuts around gaining a strong technical understanding, and a large part of the journey to becoming an athletic trainer is learning about the body, how it moves, and how it handles stress.  This in-depth knowledge serves our students well once they leave the classroom.

Stress tolerance

There is no getting around it; athletic training can be a stressful career at times.  Athletic trainers make split-second decisions, have difficult conversations, and support patients through long and painful recovery processes.  Our strongest athletic training students are resilient and have the personal skills and tactics to tackle stressful situations head-on.

Empathy and compassion

Athletic trainers often see patients when they are struggling.  Genuine kindness and compassion elevate their practice and helps them provide the best care.  Many athletic trainers are drawn the profession after they experienced their own injury, and this can help them bring kindness and respect to their practice.


As you read over our athletic trainer skills checklist, did you see yourself reflected in it?  Or did you maybe see some areas for growth?  Here at the University of Idaho, the strongest indicator we see for successful students is a growth mindset.  Students who are willing to face challenges and learn from their mistakes are the most likely to succeed in our program.  



MSAT Rolling Application Deadlines:
Priority application deadline: Nov. 15
Secondary deadline: Jan. 25
DAT Application Deadlines:

Only one for Summer admissions: April 15 each year


First day of classes and Summer semester dates:
MSAT: June 3- August 2nd 2024
DAT: July 1st through July 26th 2024

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