Athletic Trainer Skills: Definition, Examples And Tips

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Athletic trainers play an essential role in keeping athletes and physically active people healthy. As an important part of the healthcare team in whatever setting they work in, athletic trainers require specific skills to succeed in their role. If you learn about these skills, you may self-assess and develop them even further to enhance your techniques to train individuals and maintain your clients' fitness levels. In this article, we discuss invaluable athletic trainer skills, guide you on how to improve them, provide practical tips and show you how to highlight them in essential job documents.

What Are Athletic Trainer Skills?

Athletic trainer skills are abilities that help professionals diagnose and treat athletes who have experienced injuries to their muscles and bones. Athletic trainers are health care professionals who specialise in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of athletic injuries and illnesses. They require a varied set of soft skills, along with their medical knowledge, to deliver the care that the patient or client needs.

Athletic trainers often work under the direction of a physician in a hands-on practical setting like a sports field or a private or public gym. Interacting with the client and working on the spot are the prime requirements. As such, athletic trainers are usually capable of certain special skills that enable them to fill the unique requirements of both a medic and a trainer.

Related: 10 Non-Athletic Careers In Sports (With Duties And Salaries)

6 Important Skills For An Athletic Trainer

Here are the crucial abilities required to become an outstanding athletic trainer, along with explanations of how they can help in your career:

1. Communication

Athletic trainers understand what patients and co-workers tell them and in exchange convey information to them with clarity. They can skillfully interact with parents, athletes, medical professionals, support staff and a layperson with authority and conviction. Communication skills enable them to understand a patient's needs fully, describe the treatment plan and compare notes with colleagues when designing an appropriate intervention. Strong written communication skills are also necessary to perform the charting and documentation functions of this job.

2. Compassion

Athletic trainers often interact with people who are in pain. It is important that they display empathy with their clients' situations. With a compassionate attitude, they can support patients who are experiencing the physical and emotional pain of an injury. This might mean acknowledging that it is a challenging experience and offering encouraging advice or sharing success stories. Good athletic trainers are able to understand the individual and how an injury or a powerful workout can affect them.

Related: Empathic Skills: Definition And Examples (With Tips)

3. Social perceptiveness

Athletic trainers are aware of their patients' reactions and sensitive to why they may behave as they do. They can read patients' nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and body language. With the skill of social perceptiveness, athletic trainers can recognise the degree of the client's pain and its effect on their mind, interpret complex situations in the given work environment and respond accordingly.

Related: Social Skills: Definition, Examples And Why They Are Important

4. Attention to detail

Athletic trainers monitor athletic events and team practices, assist with maintaining medical records and assess injuries. They are extremely accurate when recording information and evaluating athletes' health. Being observant about minute details can help athletic trainers notice when a client may be in physical pain and help them avoid unnecessary fatigue or injury. With a detail-oriented approach, they can observe the unique features of an injury, note the patient's medical history and develop individually customised treatment plans.

5. Critical thinking

Athletic trainers solve complex problems through innovation and reasoning and make potentially life-altering decisions quickly. Sometimes clients present challenges that an athletic trainer might not know how to overcome right away. In these instances, it can be helpful for athletic trainers to use their critical thinking abilities to find creative solutions to a client's problems. With critical thinking abilities, athletic trainers can use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions before choosing the best available option.

Related: Critical Thinking Skills: Definitions And Examples

6. Fitness

Athletic trainers may not perform all exercises alongside patients, but it is helpful if they can model the techniques and support patients through specific exercises. This is especially true for care immediately following an injury, during which patients may struggle to maintain their balance and perform the assigned tasks independently. Being physically fit as an athletic trainer can help them provide a healthy, inspiring example for patients to follow.

How To Improve Athletic Trainer Skills

Follow these steps to improve your existing skills and become a better athletic trainer:

1. Speak mindfully

It can be challenging for both patients and caregivers to know and process the details of an injury. To address this, athletic trainers can tailor their communications based on the patients' and caregivers' emotional states. For example, a patient may only be ready to process the next steps in their recovery and prefer to focus on the immediate plan rather than knowing all the acute risks and associated risks for 10 years' time. As an athletic trainer, you can assess how much information is necessary to share with caregivers.

2. Develop a rapport with your clients

Try to meet with the patient and caregivers in person. Pay close attention to get a sense of their interpersonal dynamics besides gaining a solid understanding of a patient's personality. This can determine how much information you gain about their medical history and habits, as many patients may not provide all the necessary information straight away. This information can help you make critical decisions.

Building a rapport with the patients and their family is also essential to provide a more empathetic approach to patient care. As you get to know more about the person and their family, you can share understanding and empathy with the emotions of those near the patient, ranging from confusion and sadness to concern and anxiety.

3. Be honest

For straightforward communication, it is better not to create a false sense of security or positive outlook if all assessment signs point to a serious injury. A realistic attitude can help you build trust with a patient. Be honest with assessment findings and test results. Review suspected and differential diagnoses to ensure the patient and caregivers understand the severity of the condition.

Athletic Trainer Skills In The Workplace

Here are some practical tips you can follow for a successful career as an athletic trainer:

  • Be positive and motivating. While treating both major and minor injuries, it is necessary to say positive words of affirmation, albeit with practicality, to reassure the client.

  • Deliver bad news with kindness. As physical fitness is of utmost importance to athletes, you can communicate information about their health in a clear but sensitive manner.

  • Control your emotions and reactions. It is necessary to remain calm and controlled in stressful situations to manage emergencies effectively.

  • Coach your clients about injury prevention. Take the initiative to avoid athletic injuries through education and intervention.

  • Learn about the client's medical history. Being well-versed in their existing medical conditions can help you provide more precise and effective treatment.

  • Get certified. Some employers only hire athletic trainers who have undergone specific training and received certification. It is a good idea to always strive for new and relevant certifications in the field.

  • Keep updating your knowledge. Make sure your medical knowledge is up to date with recent developments so that you can use the most effective and advanced procedures on your clients.

Related: Top Careers In Physiotherapy (Job Opportunities And Salary)

How To highlight Your Athletic Trainer Skills

To ensure you get through each stage of the application and selection process, here are some examples of how to highlight your skills as an athletic trainer in your resume, cover letter and interview answers:

Athletic trainer skills for a resume

Here is a sample resume skill section for an athletic trainer:

Communication: Active listening, straightforward talking, non-verbal communication
Decision making: Problem-solving, time management, critical thinking

Athletic trainer skills for a cover letter

Here is a segment of a sample cover letter for an athletic trainer:

I know how to evaluate an athlete's fitness and health to determine whether they are suitable for sporting events. While working as an athletic trainer for over six years, I have constantly used my perceptiveness and critical thinking to treat sports field injuries. With my attention to detail abilities, I can detect and diagnose potential problems at an early stage. I am also fully trained in all first aid measures and know how to make critical decisions quickly.

Athletic trainer skills for a job interview

Here is a sample answer to an interview question regarding your skills as an athletic trainer:

"As an athletic trainer, I am confident in my evaluation skills and my ability to perform in high-stress situations. My compassionate attitude and sharp communication abilities help me explain the gravity of the injury to the respective athlete while my social perceptiveness lets me understand their point of view. I pay great attention to detail to assess injuries and the general health condition of athletes. I exercise my decision-making abilities to reach the best solution to the problem while remaining patient throughout."

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