Nick Richey enjoys building relationships with athletes.
|Nick Richey, BGSU's new head trainer, in the training room at the Sebo Center. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
And he likes helping them recover from an injury so they can return to competition.
Richey is the assistant athletics director for sports medicine at Bowling Green State University.
He was hired in March to replace Doug Boersma, who was named the director of sports medicine at Purdue.
Richey is BG's head trainer for football, and also is the trainer for the men's and women's golf teams.
"The most important trait an athletic trainer can have is just having a compassionate bone," said Richey, who came to BG after serving on the training staff at the University of Illinois for five seasons.
"With our student-athletes, we don't know what their day has been like, we don't know what they've been through, today, yesterday, the week before, the year before.
For them to walk through our door and ask for help may be their only chance at a positive interaction with somebody all day long. If they walk in here and don't get that, we lose them. If you can have a little bit of compassion, a little bit of understanding, a little bit of the ability to open up to what the student-athlete is going through, more often than not, you can make a connection that makes the evaluation, rehabilitation and return to play even easier, more fun and more of an excitable challenge for us. It's very gratifying to see an athlete return from an injury, knowing you had a small part in it."
Richey, 31, was hired as an assistant athletic trainer at Illinois and promoted to co-head athletic trainer for football in June, 2008. He then was named the head trainer for football in May, 2009.
"We want them to be able to find help, whether it's related to athletics, whether it's related to academics, whether it's related to their social life," Richey said. "If one of those areas of their life is failing, the other two are probably going to fail. There's a unique relationship between the three and we tailor our efforts to making sure the student-athletes succeed in each of those areas. It comes down to building relationships with the student-athletes."
Richey said BG was a "perfect fit" for him and his family.
It allowed him to become a head trainer and it enabled his wife, Abby, and their two sons, ages 4 and 2, to move closer to Abby's family in Kendallville, Ind., about 40 minutes north of Fort Wayne.
"I felt I was ready to take the next step," said Richey, who was hired by Notre Dame in January, 2005 to be the trainer the school's men's and women's lacrosse team. "At Illinois, it was all about coordinating medical care, coordinating services and coordinating a comprehensive medical program for the football program. I really wanted to see if I could challenge myself and transition into doing that for an entire athletics department.
"(BG) is a great community, a great university, there's been a real commitment to athletic facility development here the last several years. The facilities here are an upgrade for me."
Richey oversees three full-time and three graduate assistants for BG's 18 sports.
"Right now, it's about understanding how the different puzzle pieces fit together for Bowling Green," Richey said. "Everybody, everywhere does things different and everybody, everywhere always does things the same too. It's a matter of little tweaks and twists, and understanding all of that, and I think I have a pretty good grasp of that at this point. Now, it's about putting our plan into action and getting our student athletes on the field, in the classroom and in the weight room and in film study."
Concussions remain a major emphasis in football, Richey said.
The Mid-American Conference and Big Ten Conferences require coaches to be well versed in concussion symptoms and treatment and care programs.
"We can make the game safer, but we're not going to take concussions out of the game because of the way the game is played," Richey said. "We have to continue to become more and more knowledgeable about them."
The other most common injuries in football, Richey said, involve the knees, shoulders, ankles and elbows. Injury prevention also has improved, thanks to an increased emphasis on strength and conditioning.
"Sports medicine is all about learning how do we manage this better than we have in the past, how do we take better care of this, how do we advance the rehab, how do we protect the athlete from this happening again, how do we protect the athlete period so some of these injuries didn't happen, that's our primary focus," Richey said. "We want them to be prepared for the rigors of a 12-game season."