Ms. Kathy Hoover
CTE Sports Medicine Teacher
Kofa High School / Yuma Union High School District
Quick! What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Yuma, Arizona? Is it the scorching, record-breaking heat in the summers? An empty stretch of desert you whiz by on your way to California’s oceanfront beaches? Or, is it the image of a slow-paced town popular with seniors and snowbirds?
While some of those thoughts may be partially correct, you might be surprised to know that Yuma is one the fastest-growing areas for educating youth in the emergent, cutting-edge field of sports medicine.
Ask Kathy Hoover, and she’s more than happy to share the remarkable background about this academic trend that’s on the rise in this not-so-sleepy little town. Hoover is a CTE (Career and Technical Education) sports medicine teacher at Kofa High School in the Yuma Union High School District. When asked if her role at the school encompasses more than physical education and health instruction, be prepared to sit back for awhile to understand the depth and breadth of what she does on a daily basis.
“When I got to Kofa 12 years ago, I had three students in my sports medicine class,” Hoover explains. “Now, I have 120 students in three different classes. Of the five high schools in our district, four of them have sports medicine programs.”
Why the popularity? Hoover says sports medicine combines the fitness industry with the healthcare and rehabilitation industry. Students who take the program for the full two years in high school can earn up to eight college credits toward a degree in sports medicine.
“Sports medicine is still a relatively young industry—only about 60 years old,” Hoover says. “In the past, when you had sports injuries or rehab, the coaches or a team doctor handled it. We’re discovering with the rise in the level of sports participation and the increasing number of different sports, there’s a need for experts trained in the nuances and specifics of sports medicine and athletic training.”
Hoover’s interest in the field piqued in high school when she took a sports medicine class in Utah. From that moment, she was hooked and pursued the field of study at Utah State University, and later did her graduate assistantship with the University of Utah and its athletic teams. She was fortunate to have a NATA Hall of Fame Athletic Trainer and one of the pioneers in the industry as her mentor and supervisor of her internship.
“My mentor at Utah State was pretty forward-thinking and advised me to get a teaching certificate as a complement to sports medicine,” she says. “I got my teaching certificate in English and health.”
Hoover also continued her education at the University of Utah, where she served a grad assistant certified athletic trainer for the Utes and was mentored by another NATA Hall of Fame athletic trainer.
Hoover hopes she’s the kind of encouraging and trusted advisor to her current high school students as she experienced in her past. She sees a real need for the sports medicine program because there is limited access to medical professionals in these specific modalities in the greater Yuma community. Much of the medical focus is on geriatrics or primary healthcare.
“I can’t really explain why the program is so popular with the kids and their parents,” Hoover says. “It’s almost like a passion project—the kids come to school and get through courses like math, science or English, and then take the sports medicine course. They know they have to be in good academic standing with these other subjects to stay in my class. It serves as an incentive for them to do well.”
The other pleasant surprise Hoover has discovered in teaching sports medicine for the past 12 years is that her students have increased confidence in themselves and their abilities to compete against the larger schools and districts. In fact, Kofa’s sports medicine students have competed nationally in HOSA (formerly Health Occupations Students of America) Future Health Professionals Competitive Events and held their own against other bigger, top-notch schools.
“Sometimes in smaller schools like those in Yuma, we have this attitude where we think we’re inferior to the big city schools,” Hoover says. “The more I get the kids out to compete and experience this field of study in the real world, the better they do. They realize they’re just as smart and just as capable as anybody in the state and the country. They begin to believe in themselves.”
In addition to working with her kids in the sports medicine classes, Hoover also serves as an athletic trainer and healthcare provider to Kofa’s student-athletes, working on injury prevention, emergency care, injury evaluation and rehabilitation to support the school’s 20 different sports teams. Between the course schedule, the sports schedule and her ongoing training schedule, she sometimes feels as if the school is her second home.
“I’m not gonna lie,” she says. “I’m here a lot. I get into school around 7:45 a.m. and usually don’t get out until 6 p.m. If there are home sporting events that could stretch to 9 p.m.”
Why does Hoover put herself through such a grueling schedule day in and day out?
“The kids—I see so much potential in them. They’re adaptable; they’re flexible; they’re enthusiastic. They are what I like best about teaching.”
Kathy Hoover is a 2017 Arizona Teacher of the Year Semifinalist by the Arizona Educational Foundation.