The Austintown Fitch Athletic Department has announced the hiring of Todd Burkey to its athletic training staff. Burkey will assist Anne Marenkovic who has been the full time trainer since July 2021. This makes Austintown the only school district in the area to have two certified athletic trainers on staff and both Marenkovic and Burkey recognize the benefits that come with it. “Having a second athletic trainer will help the entire Fitch athletic program,” Marenkovic said. “Another pair of eyes, ears and hands will only raise the level of care we are able to provide to our student-athletes. There are many days when Austintown hosts multiple athletic events at multiple venues on the campus and having two athletic trainers means that we can better cover those events in the case of any injury or emergency.” Burkey echoed the sentiment. “Austintown Fitch is the largest school district in the area. The number of student-athletes is impressive but could become overwhelming for a single person,” he said. “That is a lot of responsibility. Can you imagine trying to evaluate injuries, taping & bandaging, and maybe then injury rehabilitation for 600 student athletes? That’s tough. That’s where I can help.”
Marenkovic also points out another major advantage that a second certified athletic trainer gives the students, citing the fact that it will enable them to better serve the student-athletes through the implementation of more intensive injury prevention and injury rehabilitation programs. The goals of which will be reducing time lost to injuries and improving their outcomes after they return to play in a way that wasn’t possible with a single athletic trainer due to the number of athletes in the school district. “The ability to focus on rehabilitation and post-injury therapy will be one of the biggest benefits to the athletic program and the athletes, and one I think everyone will notice pretty quickly,” she said.
Burkey comes to Austintown after what some might call living out an Olympic dream. During his nearly two decades at Youngstown State where he worked with multiple teams in a variety of roles as either a strength and conditioning coach or athletic trainer, he befriended a graduate student who was a Chinese National working in the sports medicine program. “He had some struggles that I was able to help him with and we became very close. So close that he was pretty much part of my family,” Burkey explained. “When he graduated and returned home he promised that he would bring me to China. I didn’t realize that with his connections that would culminate to the Olympics.” Burkey was hired in 2021 by the Chinese Winter Sports Federation as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Chinese Women’s National Hockey Team. Although the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on the Olympics and the traditional pomp and circumstance of the event, Burkey says it’s still something that he won’t soon forget. “The entire experience was surreal,” he said. “Walking into the arena the first time was an awing moment.”
Having worked with athletes of all ages starting at the high school level and moving on to the collegiate, professional, and now Olympic levels, Burkey admits it is a great benefit. “I think the overall combination of these experiences sheds a unique perspective on the progression and development of athletes with some of the top sports medicine techniques,” he said. He also mentioned being able to adapt to the needs of the athletes based on his experience. “Traveling around Europe and Asia with the Olympic Team, we did not have complete access to some of the advanced equipment we had at the Olympic Training Center in Beijing, so we had to be creative and adaptable.”
Marenkovic says she is looking forward to working with Burkey and learning from his combined experience. “I am really excited to be able to benefit from the knowledge Todd gained working with Olympic athletes as well as all of the techniques, skills and wisdom he has learned throughout his career. His experience at that elite level will definitely help us to continue to build and raise up the sports medicine program in Austintown,” she said. “Austintown is one of the largest districts in the area and we have amazing athletes, who will only benefit from the additional knowledge and care of a second experienced athletic trainer.”
“Being the only school in the area to have two athletic trainers demonstrates the commitment of the school district and the athletic department to the health, safety, and success of the student athletes,” Marenkovic said. Burkey agreed and admitted that it was one of the things that drew him to the position. “Austintown Fitch has a vision for progressing their facilities and athletic programs. I feel like I have enough experience to be part of that. So I am excited to see where we can go together.” He also noted the standard that is being set by the school’s athletic department. “The decision to have two full time athletic trainers shows that Austintown Fitch is making a commitment to the student-athletes of Austintown. There are few schools in Ohio that have taken that initiative.”
The sports medicine staff has been busy this offseason and things will only get busier as the fall sports season is upon us. But with a second certified athletic trainer now on hand to take on some of the responsibilities, the student-athletes at Fitch will benefit greatly from the expanded program.
*Contributed By Chris Lewis at austintownathletics.com