Tale of the tape: daily trials of a trainer

Published May 8, 2007

TAMPA - Steve Williams was hoping for a working whirlpool.

What he got was a "godsend."

The Blake assistant principal greets Sharvettye Frazier this Monday afternoon in March with a warm smile and sigh of relief.

Frazier arrives at 2 p.m. after spending three morning hours at her alma mater, USF, where she attends staff meetings, studies emergency action plans and prevention strategies.

The 27-year-old former Eckerd basketball player is shorter than most students at 4 feet 11, but her role "is just as big as any coach I have, " Williams said.

Frazier is Blake's first full-time athletic trainer, supplied in December through a state-funded $3-million grant to USF's Sports Medicine and Athletic Related Trauma Institute.

Frazier's typical 8- to 14-hour day is anything but predictable. Some afternoons are jam-packed with a half-dozen sporting events and practices spread all over campus.

She walks into her trainer's room, the size of a small classroom, which boasts six black training tables soon to be filled with athletes battling nagging injuries.

There's linebacker Ivory Gadson, who props up before getting taped up. Gadson sat out his sophomore season with a broken finger. It was an injury, that treated correctly, shouldn't have sidelined him so long, Frazier said.

"It was crazy, " Gadson said of life pre-Frazier. "Crazy."

Assistant football coach Melvin McKay put it another way: "Chaos."

Coaches taping athlete's ankles over their socks - over their cleats. They would rub strawberry balm on sore muscles, put ice on injuries that required heat.

Assistant coach K.L. Muldrow said the line for JV and varsity football players wanting tape was so long, sometimes 60 deep, "we'd just do the skill guys and hope nobody gets hurt."

McKay said he often would just suggest athletes go to the doctor's office or hospital to treat injuries. He's not alone.

According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, high school athletes account for 2-million injuries, 500, 000 doctor visits and 30, 000 hospitalizations annually.

Luckily for McKay's daughter, junior sprinter Alexia, Frazier is her one-stop shop for treatment today.

McKay has inflammation in her patella tendon. Frazier rubs transmission gel on her knee, calming the teenager's nerves by making small talk on McKay's recent sorority pageant.

Finally, Frazier pinpoints how the junior got hurt; she tripped at track practice.

The toughest part, Frazier said, can be getting athletes to open up about their injuries - how they occurred and how much pain. Those aspects are vital to finding the right treatment, but some, as Frazier said, often are reluctant to tell coaches about it, worried about bothering them or losing playing time.

That's why Frazier is a multitasker: part mediator, counselor, cheerleader and coach. She pokes fun at star basketball player Ryan Davis for his plan to wear a colorful prom tuxedo. She pays attention to players' hobbies, whom they're dating.

The athletes trust her. Many call her "Coach."

Just ask sprinter Sidnie Patterson, who came in complaining of shin splints. Frazier told her why, showing her the lack of tread on her shoes and giving her a real-life example of why it matters: "Would you drive your car forever without getting an oil change?"

Frazier is on duty until roughly 10 p.m. She scarfs her "lunch" - a grilled chicken wrap - at 7 on the way to Middleton for a flag football matchup.

Frazier is partly there to follow up on star freshman quarterback LeRia Jenrette, who was treated for a lower knee injury earlier in the day. Jenrette's shin area is swollen, sore and taped. Frazier suggests rest and an X-ray; Jenrette wants to play.

"I go to work with a peace of mind, " Jenrette's father, Michael said. "I know that (Frazier) know's what she's doing. I know my daughter is going to be taken care of."