SE: K-State Athletic Training Program Opens Professional Doors for Students

In less than a month, Drew Yoder will begin his second season as head athletic trainer for the Golden State Warriors. His journey to such a prestigious position included many stops, but it was jumpstarted at K-State. 

Yoder started his college career at a small school in Iowa, where he became involved in athletic training. After working a few summer camps at K-State, where his brother, Brandon Yoder, was an assistant athletic trainer for nine years, Drew decided to make the move to Manhattan. 

“Looking back, it was one of the best moves I ever made for my career,” he said, eventually spending time at the University of Missouri, Southern Methodist University and with the Dallas Mavericks, before landing with the Warriors. 

“I learned a lot from the (K-State) staff,” Yoder continued. “You’re trying to gain experience, you’re learning what you would do if you were in charge and what you wouldn’t do. Ultimately, I picked up a lot of things of what I would do, especially now that I am in charge. 

“It’s definitely helped me get to where I’m at now.”

Yoder is one of many examples of how students benefit from working within K-State’s Athletic Training program. 

Laura Schnettgoecke is another. 

Schnettgoecke works for the San Francisco 49ers as an assistant athletic trainer. She said her time at K-State (2002-04) certainly prepared her for the professional world. 

“I really felt like I was prepared in the classroom. I studied what I needed to know in there, but then I also got an education on things you can’t learn in the books,” she said of working with K-State Athletics. “I didn’t see how important that was at the time, but looking back, I think it was an advantage, and I’m really appreciative that they were able to get me through to that next step.” 

The advantages of being groomed in athletic training at K-State, Yoder said, start with its size. 

“I’ve talked to people in the business that when they’re looking at resumes of younger candidates, they don’t even necessarily look at people from smaller schools,” he said, adding that with size comes a large networking pool. “I was able to build a lot of great relationships when I was at K-State.” 

The Wildcats’ Athletic Training program, which works with about 30 students each year, also offers experience in more than 10 different sports. This allows students to work with a rotation of teams during their time at K-State to gain a well-rounded experience. 

Cody Derby, a current K-State student, has worked with rowing, football and baseball as an athletic trainer. Each experience, he said, increased his readiness for an internship with the Atlanta Braves earlier this year. 

“All three of those prepared me,” he said. “I think every day you learned more.”

Derby didn’t realize how far he had progressed at K-State until working with the Braves in spring training. 

“I didn’t think I knew a lot, but when I got to Florida, I was able to go, ‘Wow, I actually do know more than I think,’” he said. “That’s all because of K-State.” 

The partnership between K-State Athletics and the university reinforces the K-State 2025 visionary plan by strengthening the connection between the two entities for the benefit of students. K-State Head Athletic Trainer Matt Thomason and Shawna Jordan, the Athletic Training Education Program Director on campus, head up this relationship that is beneficial for both sides. 

“The partnership with K-State Athletics has allowed our students a unique opportunity during their undergraduate careers. The students are able to appreciate the commitment of working with Division I athletes and coaches while providing for the overall well-being of the student-athlete,” Jordan said. “These opportunities have enabled our students to advance in the profession of athletic training. I am extremely proud of the all the students in our program and grateful for the opportunities that K-State Athletics continues to provide for them.”

“While we have a partnership, we view our AT program as part of the K-State Family,” Thomason added. “I feel it is an extremely strong relationship in which both entities see the value and benefits that are provided.”

The skills and the amount of knowledge Thomason said he wants students to takeaway from their experiences with K-State Athletics are vast. 

These range from injury prevention and rehabilitation of athletic injuries, learning and mastering all clinical skills, aquatic therapy, baseline testing, management of head injuries, assessing general illnesses and much more.  

In short, Schnettgoecke said, the health and safety of the student-athletes is priority number one. 

“That was really important, to take good care of them and see the job all the way through — pay attention to the details,” she said. “Their health and safety came first at K-State, and I carried that through to when I started working on my own.”

Not every student trainer will go on to reach the level of Yoder or Schnettgoecke, but Derby said the opportunity is there for all.  

“With the sports that I’ve been with, they’ll do anything they can to help you get to where you want to go,” Derby said. “If you show that you’re driven and show that you care about this profession, they’ll do everything they can to help you.”

For Thomason and the rest of the Sports Medicine staff, seeing former students become successful trainers at any level is satisfying. 

“While we never know where someone’s future may take them, it is really great to see how our young professionals have succeeded since leaving,” he said. “There is a great sense of pride in being able to say they graduated from our Athletic Training Program.”