Shanice Cheatham - Oxley College of Health & Natural Sciences

Shanice Cheatham

Full immersion: Athletic training students take to the field for their final semester

Gaining practical, hands-on experience in evaluating, treating and rehabilitating musculoskeletal and athletic injuries is an essential component of The University of Tulsa’s Master of Athletic Training (MAT) program. Students complete four semesters of structured and progressively challenging hands-on clinical rotations that prepare them to engage in professional practice upon graduation. The final semester is a fully immersive experience under the supervision of a certified and licensed clinical preceptor.

The immersive experience allows students to put into practice the expertise and knowledge they have acquired and sets the stage for rewarding careers. Students have the opportunity to travel to nearly anywhere in the country to complete this immersive experience in a setting that matches their career goals. In previous years, students have completed immersive experiences with WWE, NFL and MLB teams, and Power 5 conference schools.

“This unique experience allows us to listen to student’s future desires on work settings and tailor their educational experiences to meet those goals” stated Associate Professor of Athletic Training Rachel Hildebrand.

During spring 2022, four MAT students completed their immersive opportunity with organizations in Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Here are their stories.

Sierra Harmon

Sierra Harmon spent her immersive semester with the University of Missouri Wrestling Team in Columbia, Missouri. According to Harmon, the experience strongly reinforced her desire to pursue a career in the world of wrestling.

Three people in a gym at a wrestling match smiling for the camera
Sierra Harmon with team physician Dr. Bus Tarbox (left) and Mitch Swee (right)

Going into the second year of the MAT program, Harmon established a list of areas in which she intended to improve: “I knew which areas I wanted to focus on and my professors worked incredibly hard in making sure that I was placed in the right program that would help me achieve my goals.” Chapman Clinical Assistant Professor of Athletic Training Nicole Wilkins found the perfect location for Harmon’s immersion semester: “Missouri checked every box,” said Harmon.

Under the supervision of Mizzou’s wrestling team’s certified athletic trainer, Mitch Swee, Harmon provided treatment for injuries, developed rehabilitation programs and evaluated athletes with dermatological conditions typically associated with wrestling.

Harmon underscores the success of the Big XII Conference tournament held in Tulsa in March as one of the many highlights of her experience: “Being able to join the team in celebrating their big win and then watching one of our athletes become a national champion was an experience I’ll never forget.”

This experience with the wrestling team answered all of Harmon’s questions about life after graduation. “I debated between a tactical or collegiate setting,” she reported, “but Mizzou solidified my decision to pursue collegiate, wrestling-specific positions.”

Erin Gage

Woman in a gray polo shirt smiling in front of a brick wall
Erin Gage

Erin Gage’s immersive athletic training experience allowed her to gain experience with the professional sports league Athletes Unlimited and its volleyball team at Fair Park Coliseum in Dallas, Texas. The majority of this experience was devoted to learning more about athletic healthcare, focusing on providing manual therapy to the athletes, as well as adjunct therapies such as electrical stimulation, heat therapy, cold therapy, taping, and stretching. Gage also provided emergency care and performed concussion evaluations when necessary.

Gage credits the immersive experience with enabling her to improve her manual therapy skills She notes that the MAT coursework prior to heading to Dallas provided her with the know-how to carry out the best care possible for her patients. “I learned to not let the fear of making mistakes interfere with my judgment,” she said. “I know I can trust my own instincts and if I make mistakes, it’s okay, because everyone makes mistakes.”

According to Gage, a major benefit of her immersive experience was all the diverse opportunities: “I experienced professional volleyball, a national high school hockey tournament, international high school soccer and I’m hoping to work with USA gymnasts soon. The people I’ve met have been fantastic and they’ve made every minute worth it. They remind me why I’m going into this profession.” After graduation, Gage hopes to work in an outpatient therapy clinic or in a physician extender role.

Meredith Galloway

Woman in gloves and longsleeves administering rehab therapy on a patients calves
Meredith Galloway

Meredith Galloway spent her final semester in the MAT program with athletic trainer Shanice Cheatham for the University of Minnesota Women’s Gymnastics in Minneapolis. “It’s been a neat experience to work with such a talented, smart and welcoming team,” said Galloway, who felt part of a “family” and celebrated every success, broken record and program high right alongside the teammates for whom she provided care.

As part of her duties, Galloway aided in and completed injury evaluations, daily injury rehabilitation, athletic healthcare at practice, post-practice treatments, soft-tissue treatments and injury progress documentation.

Galloway believes she was well prepared for this immersive experience because of the independence and responsibility expected of her throughout her coursework and previous clinical sites in Tulsa. “I’ve been challenged to pick up information quickly both in my MAT coursework and at other clinical sites,” she noted, “which has aided my ability to jump in and contribute to the health care of this team as soon as I arrived.”

As she looks to life after graduation, Galloway hopes to continue down the gymnastics path. “I have excellent knowledge regarding how a highly successful team — top 8 in the nation — goes about achieving such high rankings,” she commented. “If I stay in the gymnastics realm, I’m confident my familiarity will help me excel in future athletic training positions.”

Mercedes Phegley

Woman holding a trophey in front of an "Oklahoma State" sign
Mercedes Phegley

The Oklahoma State University Cowboy baseball team welcomed MAT student Mercedes Phegley, who will remain there until the end of the current season.

Under the supervision of certified athletic trainer Eli Williams, Phegley would assist with pre-practice rehabilitation and manual therapy. “Treatments typically involved some soft tissue work and rehab exercises, as well as wound cleaning and bandaging,” she explained. After administering those treatments, Phegley would move to the dugout or the stands with Williams and watch for any accidents resulting in injury. “Sometimes guys would get hit by a pitch or line drives during practice, so it was important to be vigilant,” said Phegley.

On game days, Phegley helped administer treatments around four hours before the game began until it was time for the team to warm up. After treatments were administered, Phegley observed warm-ups closely, as injuries were not uncommon during this time.

Of the many highlights to come out of her immersive experience, Phegley says the Bedlam series was at the top: “It was intense and exciting getting to see the guys come back to win the series after suffering a loss during the first game. The guys were thrilled to have won the series on their own turf. I was too!”

Like her peers who also completed immersive experiences during spring 2022, Phegley credits her TU coursework and clinical rotations with underpinning her success: “I came into my last clinical rotation with a good foundation. I felt prepared to be able to handle most anything that was thrown my way.”

In July, Phegley will begin a position at Altus High School, a 5A school in Southwest Oklahoma, as one of two athletic trainers for the school. In this position, she will teach two athletic training classes, mentor high school athletic training aides and provide athletic health care to the student-athletes. “I will carry the knowledge I gained from my Cowboys Baseball rotation into my new job,” she said, “and I am confident it will help me to be successful.”

If contributing to the health, wellness and success of athletes and physically active individuals sounds like a meaningful career path to you, check out TU’s Master of Athletic Training program today!