Above, members of Sports Medicine Team work the practices and games for all of the sports offered at Venice High School.
During any athletic practice or game involving Venice High School, there is more than one Gondoliers team on the court or playing field.
Venice is one of a handful of schools in L.A. Unified with its own Sports Medicine Team whose members oversee the safety and well-being of the Gondoliers’ athletes. Rather than enjoying the game with their friends in the bleachers, the student trainers watch from the sidelines for any sign of a sprain, pull, tear or bruise that will send them into action.
“Most of these kids are doing it as a love of service to others,” said Kirsten Farrell, a certified athletic trainer and the sports medicine teacher who created the Venice team in 2004. “They have a real love of sports medicine, but they also go above and beyond.”
Farrell limits the team to 30 students, who dedicate 80 hours each semester to the program. They learn to perform CPR, use a cardiac defibrillator and recognize the symptoms of concussion. They also master the basics of first aid, such as taping, splinting, icing, prevention and rehabilitation. And they put the skills to use regularly as they work to get and keep their classmates in playing condition.
“A lot of them were student athletes who have been injured themselves and so they know what is involved,” Farrell said. “And they find that it’s a pretty cool thing to do.”
That’s what happened with senior Gia Perrone, who joined the Sports Medicine Team after breaking her ankle on the volleyball court.
“When I got injured, I realized the importance of the Sports Medicine Team, she said. “I was so anxious to get back onto the court and the field, and the trainers helped me to heal but also to know by boundaries.”
Perrone said she’s long dreamed of becoming a doctor, but now is exploring options in sports medicine – especially after Farrell helped get her an internship at a sports medicine clinic in Manhattan Beach.
“Ever since I was in preschool I’ve said I wanted to be a doctor, but I’m learning there are so many more options than becoming an M.D.,” she said.
Ariel Guldstrand was among Farrell’s very first team members, joining when an injury sidelined her from Venice High’s basketball and volleyball teams. Farrell was a strong role model, Guldstrand said, launching her on a career path that led to her current job as the certified athletic trainer for UCLA’s women’s basketball and beach volleyball teams.
“Athletic training in a unique profession,” she said. “It’s very relevant and there is always something to learn.”
With strong demand for the program, and the District’s sharpened focus on preparing students for 21st century careers, Venice High this year opened a Sports Medicine Academy to the school’s four other small learning communities.
The inaugural group of 60 freshmen is learning medical terminology, anatomy and how tissue responds to injury and next year will tackle Farrell’s sports medicine course. As juniors, the kids will take athletic training with basics of kinesiology rounding out the course work in their senior year.
Venice High has applied to have those courses approved by the University of California as part of the A-G curriculum, allowing them to count toward the credit requirements that students need to graduate from L.A. Unified.
Farrell also has created and fostered a strong relationship between the school and the nonprofit West Coast Sports Medicine Foundation, which provides scholarships, mentoring programs other support.
With March designed as National Athletic Training Month, Farrell is spotlighting the accomplishments of her Sports Medicine Team and the promising opportunities available to the students enrolled in the new academy.
“The kids feel a tremendous reward when they are at the site of an emergency and are able to use their skills,” she said. “They know that they’ve done something good and that they are part of something bigger than themselves.”