Harrell Heads Rapid Rise of SBISD Sports Medicine Program


Over the last six years, Harrell – who has been with SBISD for 21 years – has overseen the sports medicine program for the entire district as its lead athletic trainer.

Since her arrival, Harrell, who is also the head athletic trainer at Spring Woods High, has seen substantial growth in the district’s sports medicine curriculum.

When Harrell was hired as an assistant athletic trainer at Spring Woods High, there was no cohesive planning across the district within the athletic training program. The year she was hired, assistant athletic trainers were put in place at each of the four high schools. Prior to that, there was only one athletic trainer per school. Now there are three athletic trainers at each of the four campuses.

Since starting a sports medicine workshop in 2009, Harrell has led a collaboration of all the district’s athletic trainers and student athletic trainers working hand in hand.


“Regardless of who we play against, we all work as one unit,” Harrell said. “If I’m at a sub-varsity game and we’re playing against Stratford, those kids need to know who I am so that if something happens, we work in conjunction with each other. We’re all on the same page so we can all have a more cohesive healthcare system.”

The sports medicine program had 40 kids districtwide when it started about six years ago. Now it has approximately 100, and Harrell said that number is on the low end compared to recent years because of COVID-19.

Harrell, along with other head athletic trainers, worked with the district to implement a sports medicine course that is now a state-elective credit. When she started, only athletic training was available as a course, and it was only offered as a local credit. Now there are three levels of sports medicine courses available, and AP (advanced placement) students are getting involved since it is a state credit.


In 2009, the SBISD Athletic Department established an annual Student Athletic Trainer Workshop. The workshop provides student trainers with opportunities for team building, skill review and certification, along with exposing them to a wide range of learning opportunities and speakers. This year, our student trainers attended the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s Body Worlds Exhibit. They participated in small groups, engaging directly with the exhibit to learn firsthand about the body and its functions. Later, they competed in an athletic taping contest based on skill, time and technique. They also renewed their certifications in CPR and AED training.

“The problem we run across in athletic training is people don’t know what we really do,” Harrell said. “Our primary focus is on the well-being of our student-athletes. We work in coordination with other health care professionals to provide our student-athletes with experiences in injury prevention, injury rehab, sports nutrition, and more. If something does happen at a practice or contest to one of our student-athletes, we want to initiate the protocols we have in place to ensure that we care for those students expeditiously and appropriately.”


Not all kids involved in the program are interested in pursuing sports medicine in college.

“The program is all-encompassing to teach lifelong skills in addition to the technical skills needed to be an athletic trainer,” Harrell said. “Those life-long skills include the development of such things as a strong work ethic, punctuality, dependability, and the traits needed to be a good team member. Skills that are vital to one’s success in any profession.”

But the foundation of training in the program is the same for all. All student trainers are certified in CPR, First Aid, and the processes critical to the execution of a successful emergency action plan. That knowledge is put into practice while working at practices and contests alongside head and assistant athletic trainers.

“It’s a program that provides our kids with real-life experiences as they perform their duties as student-trainers,” Harrell said. “When we have issues, they’re assisting us. They’re the ones bringing us the emergency equipment or whatever is needed. It truly is a team effort, and our student-trainers play a vital role in the success of our overall district athletic training program.”


The sports medicine program has many alumni that have gone on to become licensed athletic trainers or professionals in the health care industry. Two former students, Marianne Landon and Angela Perez, returned to work for the district. Landon is the head athletic trainer at Stratford. Perez is one of her assistants.

Spring Woods, Northbrook, Stratford and Memorial high schools were recently recognized as National Athletic Trainers Association Safe School Award first-team recipients.

“The NATA award signifies that we are meeting national standards of safety and care in our school and with our student-athletes,” Harrell said. “We’re challenged to look at our program objectively. Are we enacting emergency action plans in cases of crisis? Are safety protocols in place? Are we educating coaches and student-athletes in these protocols, and do we have everything in place and in the proper location for emergencies?


Harrell is excited about what’s to come.

“We’re always challenged due to the amount of hours needed to serve our student-athletes and how our sports program is growing,” she said. “Despite that, the way our athletic training program has evolved, it is so much better. The athletic department, our district administration, and our school principals value what we do and see the need for our program. They have embraced our program and encouraged us to keep things moving forward. Because of this support, we continue to evolve and work to find ways to improve what we do, so that ultimately our student-athletes are served as they need to be and our student-trainers gain more opportunity for growth.”


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