Avid sports fan AJ Flemming ’17 found his passion on the sidelines as an athletic trainer. Working alongside professionals to keep student athletes in shape and ready for game time, Flemming is building hands-on experience and preparing for grad school.
AJ Flemming ’17, Sartell, Minn.
Major/Minor: exercise science with minors in biology and psychology
Why did you choose Concordia?
On my only tour of Concordia, I knew this place was something special. Immediately as I walked around campus, it felt like home.
You currently work as a student athletic trainer at Concordia. What has that experience been like?
I gained quite a bit of hands-on experiential knowledge while working with the trainers last year. First off, I learned that athletic training requires fearlessness and confidence. At the beginning of football season, I was incredibly timid and nervous to work with these huge guys. Toward the end of the season, I got more into a groove.
Second, I learned that the job is much more fun when you’re actually having fun as well. That was the greatest part about working with the hockey teams on campus. I’m an avid hockey fan, so I had a blast going to the rink after class and talking with the teams and helping out where I could.
I also learned that asking questions is absolutely crucial. Matt McManus is the trainer for the hockey teams and he really allowed me to let loose on any question, whether it was pertinent to athletic training or not. He let me learn at my own pace, and I’m grateful I was able to gain insight and useful information from such a genuine person.
What does a normal day look like for a student athletic trainer?
Football and hockey had drastically different schedules. In fall 2015, I had to move back up to school a month early in order to get ready for preseason. Once the season started, practice would run for about two hours in the afternoon. Trainers were there about an hour before practice to get water ready and help tape and stim. We stayed about an hour after practice to help with ice and wound management as well. On game days, we were at Jake Christiansen Stadium around 2.5-3 hours early to get game day set up. We were responsible for getting useful supplies (tape, first aid, water, sports drinks, etc.) ready for the Cobber bench and the away bench.
For away games, we would travel with the team. We would usually leave on Friday, have a pasta feed in Alexandria, and stay in a hotel Friday night. The trainers would eat breakfast in the hotel Saturday morning and get ready to get to the field. During the week, we were at the Jake for probably three hours a day. On game days, we were at the field for about seven hours, regardless if we were home or away.
Hockey was much different. One team would practice from 5:45-7:15 p.m., while the other would practice from 7:30-9 p.m. I was at the rink at about 4:45 p.m. and stayed until about 9:30 every night of the week. The players would come in and get taped up or get hips wrapped or stimmed or use the rollers, so my role was to just do whatever they needed me to do. During practice, my role was to help out any way I could. A lot of it was just filling up water and getting ice bags ready, but there were some pretty nasty injuries I got to help with.
Did you participate in any internships during your time at Concordia?
I did a summer internship at St. Cloud Orthopedics in 2015, which was undoubtedly the most satisfying year of my college career. The internship went from June to August. I was up at 5:30 a.m. every weekday to go help with the HEAT (High Energy Advanced Training) program the clinic used to facilitate at area high schools. We had two sessions with about 10-12 middle school athletes each. We would run them through plyometrics and speed drills on the basketball court, and we would help them with weights up in Cathedral’s weight room.
Then, I was in the actual clinic every morning working individually with high school athletes preparing for the fall season. We worked side by side with physical therapists and the head exercise physiology coordinator every day at the clinic. That internship was what really solidified my dream of doing physical therapy because I was immersed in the clinical experience every day I went to work. I loved going to the clinic because it allowed me to be creative, responsible and cooperative. The people at St. Cloud Orthopedics are practically a family, and that’s what I want to foster in my job setting wherever I go.
What advice do you have for any prospective Cobbers, especially those interested in your field of study?
The best advice I can give to prospective Cobbers is to be genuine, gracious and a grinder throughout college. Everything will work out if you are true to yourself, thankful for your opportunities, and work incredibly hard for what you believe you deserve. Be persistent in your efforts, regardless of what field you enter.
For the prospective exercise science students, know that it doesn’t take a biology or chemistry degree to become a doctor. An exercise science student is highly prepared for graduate school after Concordia. Tack on a minor or two (I recommend biology and/or psychology) to gain more insight outside of the major. Strive for an eclectic knowledge base to gain a greater understanding of the world across different fields.
Lastly, everyone should take the time to get involved and have fun during your years. I recommend Exercise Science Club, Dance Marathon, and Orientation. These three clubs foster leadership skills, as well as opportunities to connect to the major, the community, and the campus. Concordia and the Fargo-Moorhead area offer so many fun things to do that it’s nearly impossible to be bored when you have free time. Whatever you choose to do, put your heart into it.
What are your plans for next year?
I applied to physical therapy schools this past summer with hopes of going right back to school as a graduate student this fall. If I had to choose today, I’d want to potentially specialize in pediatrics or sports. I’m beyond excited to have the chance to go to school for three more years and learn everything about a field I’m extremely passionate about. It’s been quite the journey, and I’m very thankful for Concordia and the opportunities and experiences I’ve had during my four years.
Cole Christensen '18 is a business marketing major and member of the Cobber baseball team.