The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

WRAP UP: Ex-Regional Occupational Program teacher now Sunny Hills’ new full-time athletic trainer

Athletic+trainer+Lauren+Wukadinovich%2C+newly+hired+to+serve+full+time%2C+treats+student-athletes+in+Room+141+during+lunch%2C+sixth+period+and+after+school.+Depending+on+the+sports+schedule%2C+she+attends+games+to+handle+injuries+or+emergencies+with+her+student+interns.
Asaph Li
Athletic trainer Lauren Wukadinovich, newly hired to serve full time, treats student-athletes in Room 141 during lunch, sixth period and after school. Depending on the sports schedule, she attends games to handle injuries or emergencies with her student interns.

Lauren Wukadinovich was a flyer in cheerleading her senior year at Riverside Polytechnic High School in 2006 when she suffered her first major injury.

“I was trying to do a heel stretch, which is where you kick your leg up and catch it, so your legs are straight up, vertical,” Wukadinovich said. “I thought I warmed up well, but I guess I didn’t because I kicked it up and heard a pop.”

Despite the tear in her right hamstring being a significant injury, she said she didn’t realize the gravity then.

“I think I also probably didn’t understand the severity of that type of injury, just thinking, ‘Oh, you’re going to get better in a couple of days, not a big deal,’” she said. “But even now, years later, I can feel right now that I still have issues with the hamstring, like I can’t sprint at a certain speed on the treadmill.” 

With the absence of an athletic trainer to tend to her injury, Wukadinovich said her school referred her to a sports clinic in Riverside to treat and help her recover.

“Other than the sports clinic, there wasn’t somebody at the school regulating whether I should practice or not,” she said. “So I think that’s why athletic trainers are so important to high school athletes, helping them take care of injuries at your age when you’re young so that you don’t continue experiencing issues when you get older.”

Getting instructions on how to recover allowed her to grasp what an athletic trainer — a professional specializing in the care and prevention of athletic injuries — does, which sparked her interest in pursuing such a career.

“Understanding athletic training then is what kind of got me interested,” Wukadinovich said. “I think the impact it had was just being aware of the actual career because I really wanted to do something in healthcare and something physically active, so it’s just nice to combine those two things.”

I think the impact it had was just being aware of the actual career because I really wanted to do something in healthcare and something physically active, so it’s just nice to combine those two things.”

— athletic trainer Lauren Wukadinovich

Sixteen years later, Wukadinovich was hired as Sunny Hills athletic trainer, the first such position since 2015.

WHY THE NEED FOR THIS POSITION

The Fullerton Joint Union High School District [FJUHSD] athletic directors, including Paul Jones from Sunny Hills, wrote a proposal for the trainer positions on campus during the 2021-2022 school year, opening up the opportunity for a full-time job. However, with the hiring of new superintendent Steve McLaughlin, they pitched it again and received approval in May 2023. 

“I definitely pushed to have a full-time athletic trainer because the position is extremely important to all sports, especially high school sports,” Jones said. “Our principals and the superintendent were all in favor of adding this position and saw the value that this position brings to our campus, students and district. I feel great about this new position on campus.”

According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, California remains the only state in the U.S. without regulation or certification for athletic trainers. Therefore, unlike FJUHSD’s recent changes, students in areas like the Los Angeles Unified School District [LAUSD] still can’t get easy treatment access, as the Tuesday, Aug. 15, Los Angeles Times article describes Emmanuel Serafin’s story.

“In California, athletic trainers are treated like trainers in 24 Hour Fitness, which is different than other states that consider them as a medical profession,” Jones said. “It’s wild and amazing that LAUSD hasn’t been sued for the medical safety of the students, too.”

Despite athletic trainers’ crucial role as medical professionals in sports, SH administrators previously relied on outsourcing because they didn’t have enough to hire.

“Last year was challenging for us because you do not always know if someone will be present for games to be the medical professional on campus,” the athletic director said. “Fortunately, prior to last year, Mrs. Wukadinovich had been our athletic trainer, and she is and has been great. We feel very fortunate to be able to bring her on full-time.”

Assistant principal Peter Karavedas, who coached football from June 2013 to February 2022, said he’s also excited for the athletes to have Wukadinovich full-time after working with her in previous years.

“She was great about always communicating with me about what our injury lists look like and those types of things,” Karavedas said. “I absolutely love that we have her full-time now because I think it’s great for our athletes; I couldn’t be more thrilled about it.” 

I absolutely love that we have her full-time now because I think it’s great for our athletes; I couldn’t be more thrilled about it.”

— assistant principal Peter Karavedas

Additionally, he said having a full-time athletic trainer makes it easier for athletes and trainers to communicate and keep track.

“It’s way easier to have somebody on campus, but not just easier because easier doesn’t make it better,” the former head football coach said. “It’s a lot better to have her full-time, and to me, better’s more important.”

ROAD TO ATHLETIC TRAINING

In 2015, Wukadinovich started working as a part-time Regional Occupational Program [ROP] teacher at Sunny Hills, while she served as an athletic trainer at John W. North High School to continue her interest in healthcare. After eight years of serving as an ROP Medical Careers and ROP Sports Medicine teacher, she enters her first year as a full-time SH athletic trainer. 

However, she said getting into athletic training wasn’t her initial goal.

Following graduation from Riverside Polytechnic High School in 2007, Wukadinovich majored in interior design at California State University, Long Beach. She said she pursued interior design after enjoying her high school art classes and getting encouraged by her cousin. 

“I started out with interior design but realized that wasn’t for me, and that’s when I switched my major my junior year of college to kinesiology after consulting with my counselor to see what I can do,” Wukadinovich said. “From then on, I knew I just wanted to do athletic training.”

After settling on her goals and graduating in 2012 with her bachelor of science degree in kinesiology with an emphasis in sports psychology, she attended California Baptist University in Riverside for her master’s degree in athletic training the following year. 

During her first two years of graduate school, she completed over 1,200 hours of clinical rotations, allowing her to experience hands-on athletic training in different sites, including high schools, colleges like the University of California [UC], Riverside and professional sports centers.

“It was exhausting but obviously necessary,” she said. “I felt like I was well-prepared because of all the different rotations that I went to, and all the different preceptors that mentored me all had different kinds of ways that they like to do things, and I kind of pulled from each one.”

I felt like I was well-prepared because of all the different rotations that I went to, and all the different preceptors that mentored me all had different kinds of ways that they like to do things, and I kind of pulled from each one.”

— Wukadinovich

After passing the exam two weeks after graduation, Wukadinovich received the Board of Certification. The certification secured her first job in 2015 as a part-time ROP Sports Medicine teacher in the morning here and worked part-time at the John W. North High School, located in Riverside, in the afternoon as the athletic trainer. 

Because Sunny Hills had an athletic trainer during her hiring process, she started by teaching three sports medicine classes in the morning.

“A lot of the time, if you want to work in a high school setting as an athletic trainer, not collegiate or professional, you have to teach, so I was looking for places that I could teach and then hopefully also do athletic training,” the former instructor said.

Starting her second year teaching, she instructed four ROP Medical Careers and one ROP Sports Medicine class and worked as a part-time athletic trainer at Sunny Hills upon the then-athletic director’s offer. For the past couple of years, she transitioned to teaching three medical careers and two sports medicine classes. Lastly, during the 2022-2023 school year, Wukadinovich decided to focus on her sports medicine classes until returning this term as a full-time athletic trainer.

“It’s nice being here full time because I don’t feel like I’m juggling two jobs,” she said. “It was hard teaching in the morning here and going to [John W. North High School] in the afternoon because I was split at two different sites and was working more; difficult in that respect, but I did enjoy it.”

Now, as a full-time trainer, Wukadinovich starts her day at 11 a.m. in Room 141, completing administrative work, such as documenting and communicating with school nurses and administration for any doctor’s note. She works with the in-season athletes starting sixth period and stays until 7:30 p.m., depending on the game schedule of each day. 

“The only team that I travel with away games are going to be varsity football, and then if a team makes it to playoffs, then I travel with them too,” the athletic trainer said. “I travel with pretty much any sport except for golf, probably because they play at different golf courses.”

During the football games, she said she monitors for injuries by following the line of play to ensure the athletes remain hydrated, especially because many players play both defense and offense.

From her training experiences in two high schools, Wukadinovich said common injuries tend to come comprehensively.

“I would say ankle sprains are the most common injury if you talk to any athletic trainer because, in any sport, you’re probably going to run into one person spraining their ankle,” the athletic trainer said. “There’s a lot of ankle issues and cramping, which I feel like that’s just high school because of nutrition issues where kids maybe don’t drink enough water that they should or eat the right things prior to practice.”

Cross country and track and field head coach Jacob Holloway said having a full-time athletic trainer will help in various ways.

“It’s important to have someone on site whose primary focus is on the physical well-being of the athlete,” Holloway said. “It will help with both aspects; we can schedule prevention talks to decrease injuries up front while also having more availability for recovery time, so it’s a win-win for us.”

Alongside coaches and administrators, Wukadinovich also expressed her anticipation about the transition, especially getting to know the student-athletes longer to understand their past injuries better.

“I’m excited to see this position grow because other schools now have this position as well,” she said. “I think it’s super important to stay for a while to get to know the athletes and their history, so I feel like that helps them like the care, too.”

I’m excited to see this position grow because other schools now have this position as well.”

— Wukadinovich

After working with outsources, Holloway said he found having someone dedicated to SH athletics more beneficial as well.

“For our cross country invitational, we work with an outside vendor, and they are totally fine, but having Mrs. Wukadinovich on-campus to build relationships with the students is very helpful,” he said. “She’s also awesome to work with because, in addition to daily help with water and ice, her availability to runners is essential to keeping the team fit and ready to race. She’s a great communicator and a valuable asset to the coaching staff.”

OFFERING STUDENT INTERNSHIPS

Wanting to allow students to gain hands-on experience with athletic training, Wukadinovich said she has created student internship opportunities for her SH students at the end of each school year since 2016. 

“That’s something that I wanted to do just because they’re also a lot of help,” the athletic trainer said. “Especially with football, this training room can be full of kids, and with one person, it’s kind of hard to take care of everyone and try to get them out to practice on time or at games on time.”

Although she now steers her focus away from teaching, she said she found a strong correlation between the medical concepts she taught students and the actual athletic training. This year, about 10 student interns attend various in-season games through sign-ups.

“I enjoyed [teaching] a lot; I think a big part of even being an athletic trainer is educating your athletes about their different injuries — teaching body parts and making them aware of potential injuries during games,” Wukadinovich said. “So it felt natural also to be teaching students, and I loved just having interns who took my classes come into the training room and help me after school and at games.”

Wukadinovich’s student intern senior Noeila Rojo, who took the ROP Medical Careers class as a junior, learned about the opportunity through the athletic trainer’s announcement in class asking if anyone was interested at the end of the last school year. After applying, Rojo started working over the summer, assisting student-athletes through what she learned in the ROP class.

I enjoyed [teaching] a lot; I think a big part of even being an athletic trainer is educating your athletes about their different injuries — teaching body parts and making them aware of potential injuries during games.”

— Wukadinovich

The senior said she found the experience helpful and enjoyable.

“She’s very hands-on, and she teaches us right when we get there with the very basics and rundown on how she wants to have things,” said Rojo, who spends around 12 and a half hours interning a week after school. “Going forward, she was very understanding with things, and she’ll be right there to guide us and everything.”

Senior Andy Aguirre, who had Wukadinovich for ROP Medical Careers and ROP Sports Medicine classes in his sophomore and junior years, respectively, said he appreciates how she takes care of her interns and her classes.

“I found myself really enjoying her class, especially the CPR testing and ankle taping units, and those also gave me experience that I use now in her student internship,” said Aguirre, who usually works after fifth period until 4:30 p.m. “I feel sad for the people who won’t be able to experience her as a teacher because of how friendly and outgoing she is, but I feel great about hearing that she’s a full-time athletic trainer now.”

Given more time and freedom to focus on her athletic training job, Wukadinovich said she’s looking forward to her full-time work.

“Not teaching was just so strange to me on the first day of school, so it’s kind of hard to compare then and now, but I think I feel a lot more relaxed,” she said. “And I feel like I could do this job a lot better because I actually have the time to do it.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Accolade
$1000
$1000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of Sunny Hills High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Seowon Han, Spotlight Editor & Business Manager
After an exciting year as a part of The Accolade staff, junior Seowon Han returns as a spotlight editor and business manager. Han served as a cub reporter her freshman year in Journalism 1 and joined The Accolade as a copy editor the following year. She experienced writing for every section and covered a range of topics. This year, Han looks forward to maintaining her section with fresh and relevant themes and stories to keep the readers informed with accurate news. Outside of The Accolade, Han is involved with several clubs on campus as a cabinet member and plays the flute as part of the Symphonic Band. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to and playing music.
Donate to The Accolade
$1000
$1000
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Accolade Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *