East Coast trainer finds a home with Kansas hospitality

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
When people are unfamiliar with their surroundings, they sometimes feel like they stick out like a sore thumb.

Jennifer Livingston, a Pennsylvania native, probably felt that way when she interviewed for the job of head athletic trainer and director of athletic training at Tabor College in small-town Kansas.

Now that she has the job, “sore thumbs” should be less of a problem not only for herself, but for Bluejay athletes.

Livingston will take over for Dave Suprak, who has been granted a three-year leave to complete his doctoral program in Washington state.

She’s quickly becoming used to Kansas hospitality.

“I said it would take a lot to get me to move from the East Coast to the Midwest,” Livingston said. “Hillsboro is totally not what I was used to, but it’s something I think I’ll enjoy.”

Livingston said a job listing on a national Web site caught her attention. Ironically, it wasn’t for a job at Tabor College, but at KCAC rival Sterling College.

“It really got my attention about how straight forward they were about being a Christian school and involving God in every part of their academics,” she said

But before Livingston had a chance to interview for the opening, Sterling hired someone else.

“The gentleman asked me if they could send my resume to another area school,” Livingston said. “I told him unless the school he had in mind was a small Christian school that was committed to their mission to serve God, I’d rather he not.”

A couple weeks later, Livingston was contacted via e-mail by Karol Hunt, chair of the physical education department at Tabor.

“They told me there was a position, and I called for information and I sent my resume,” Livingston said. “Before I knew it, I was flying down here.”

Besides her belongings, Livingston, 25, brought some impressive credentials to Hillsboro.

She earned a bachelor of science degree from Waynesburg (Pa.) College, and a master’s in sports medicine from the University of Pittsburgh.

“My undergraduate degree was from a small Christian college, and I like the way people interact and show their faith,” she said. “I actually never wanted to go into a large university setting. The small Christian school appealed to me.”

Livingston also brings practical experience to the job, having worked in private and public school systems, a spine and sports injury rehabilitation center, and a health center.

While working in the Pittsburgh (Pa.) school system, Livingston was in charge of two of the largest and nicest athletic training programs in the city.

“They were huge,” she said. “One class of students there is the size of the entire college here.”

Until sometime in November, Livingston’s husband, B.J., remains in Pennsylvania, where he is completing his master’s in New Testament studies at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

“He hopes to find a job here, either working with youth in a church, or teaching,” Livingston said.

She said her experience with athletes from middle school to college will be an advantage in her new role.

“Some of the younger athletes get a little bit different injuries than older athletes, but high school and college kids aren’t much different from each other,” she said. “I really don’t specialize in any one area, and I think I understand the broad range of athletic training.”

In addition to being a trainer, Livingston also will teach physiology, kinesiology, and care and prevention of athletic injuries.

“I don’t really have any specific style of teaching, but I do like to get the students involved and not just lecture,” she said.

She said her time spent at the University of Pittsburgh, a school known as a research institution, gives her a sense for at least one thing students need to learn.

“As an undergraduate student, I didn’t have a lot of experience in research,” she said. “Initially, I was just totally floored (at Pitt). I didn’t understand a thing that was going on. It was humbling for me to sit there and not have a clue about what was being said.

“If I have students who are intending to go into a master’s program, there are some things I would like to share with them,” she said.

Livingston also said she wants her students to promote the profession because it’s growing and not everyone knows about the available opportunities.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about what we really do,” she said.

Livingston also is dedicated to getting Tabor’s athletic training program accredited.

“We need to get accredited,” she said. “From what I’ve seen, Dave (Suprak) has done a lot with this program.”

Livingston said her favorite sport is ice hockey, but having experienced the searing Kansas summer, she knows she’s not in Pennsylvania anymore.

“Most of the things that throw me here are weather related,” she said. “It’s terribly hot, and Kansas is a lot flatter than what I’m used to.”

She said she remembers a tornado touching down in Pittsburgh a few years ago, and actually took pictures of it. But Wednesday’s storms here in central Kansas gave her a different perspective.

“I’m kind of thinking maybe just seeing them on TV is good enough,” she said.

Weather aside, Livingston isn’t complaining about the reception she’s received so far in Hillsboro.

“The people back in Pittsburgh are friendly, but nothing like here,” she said. “People are waving at me and I’m thinking, ‘Do they know me?’

“It’s very community oriented here and you interact with your neighbors,” she added. “The second night I was here, I was at a block party for our neighborhood.”

Livingston is busy trying to settle into her new job, and feels comfortable with her decision to join the Tabor team.

“Right now, this is great,” she said. “Coming in and getting great experience in a college setting and having such a great position, I think this is ideal for me.”

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