Ready on the sidelines

·5 min read

Aug. 29—Lindsey Walker is a West Point Warrior by birth. But on the sidelines and at practices all year 'round, she's all about the purple and gold.

If you've been to almost any athletic event where the Fairview Aggies have fielded a team over the past seven years, you've likely seen Walker from a distance whether you know it or not. As the high school's certified athletic trainer, she goes wherever the school's athletes go — whether it's the football field, the basketball court, the track, or anywhere else.

What does a certified athletic trainer do? "I cover all athletic events, and I am there in case anyone happens to get hurt," she explains. "It's always a good day if they don't. We do injury prevention and treatment, and I am kind of a liaison, if someone does get hurt, referring them to a medical doctor to get checked out further. I'm kind of behind the scenes, trying to help keep everyone healthy.

"We're there every day and we get to know our athletes," she adds. "If someone does get hurt, we already know that person's tendencies; their physical strengths and weaknesses, and have a baseline for identifying the best way to help them."

A lot of education and training goes into preparing trainers like Walker to assess players and make crucial on-the-spot decisions, just as it does for each of the trainers scattered across the rest of Cullman County's public schools. After graduating high school in 2007, she got her Bachelor of Science degree in Athletic Training from the University of Alabama, then went on to UNA to obtain her master's degree. Now beginning her eighth year at Fairview, she's been an Aggie ever since.

But before all that; back when she was a local high school student herself, Walker was a multi-sport athlete and West Point. Now that she's representing the east side in one of the area's biggest cross-county rivalries, she says there's plenty of good-natured antagonism from her Fairview squad whenever game time rolls around.

"What colors am I wearing? Purple and gold!" she jokes. "I love my alma mater, but I've always gotta root for my Fairview folks. You're really a part of the team, except that it's not just one sport — it's all of them. I always tell the kids, 'Hey — I'm your biggest fan!' Last year, one of our guys saw a video recording from one of the football games, and he came up to me later and was like, 'Hey! I saw you jumping up and down on the sidelines on the replay!' You really get into the spirit. You're with these kids just about every day, and it's hard not to cheer them on."

As it's done in nearly all parts of social life, the COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with athletic event planning, and Walker has been at ground zero for all the precautionary changes that've come along over the past year. Games can get postponed or canceled, she says, but the practices still go on — even if that means getting creative with new ways to keep athletes and staff safe.

"It's sports; some of it is contact sports, and it's just been one of those things were sometimes there's lot of grey area and you do the best you can," she says. "When this started last year, we did a really good job of adapting to the changes; the way we administered water during the games, keeping everyone spread out practices. You've got to be able to adapt to new information and be ready for whatever's thrown at you.

"If our kids get to play, then great: that's the goal at the end of the day. But you're really just trying to keep everyone as healthy as possible, while making sure that they get to participate in the whole process. I tell our kids: If all we have to do is be smart; make adjustments and learn to adapt, it's worth it for what we get in return. Our team and our coaches and staff do a great job getting in players' heads and getting them to take those little steps that you have to do to be smart and stay safe."

Pandemic or not, being present at every athletic event — including practice — can make for a hectic schedule. Depending on the time of year, Walker's job can make the school (and the away-game road) feel like a home away from home.

"It's a case of getting into a job where you're doing what you love," she confesses. "I kind of always joke around, especially during the summer when so much happens at once, that I feel like I live at the school.

"Just this week, with it being football and volleyball season, I can end football practice and go right up to the gym and have to hang around for volleyball games. And too, cross country will be picking up soon. Basketball season is kind of my 'down' time, because it's the only sport going on, at least for a while. But then in the spring, everything gets super hectic again, because you have tons of sports starting up again."

Sure, it's hard work. But it's also teamwork — something Walker and the rest of her Fairview family thrive on. Get her talking about that cross-county rivalry, and it takes almost no time for Walker to stage an on-the-spot pep rally for her Fairview Aggies.

"I'm always a fan," she says. "I mean, we've got the Brandin' Iron Bowl! For West Point and for us, it's a big head-to-head rivalry, and it's a lot of fun. It's really kind of its own tradition. I mean, the winner even gets a steak dinner! How can you not love that?"