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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Training staff collaboration helps get players back on the court

Photo by Collin Nawrocki
Marquette women’s basketball plays its home game at the Al McGuire Center.

There wasn’t much time for Leah Jankowski to adjust to her new job. She had just been named as an assistant athletic trainer for the Marquette women’s basketball team right at the start of the 2020-2021 season.

Beyond dealing with the new surroundings Jankowski was part of, by the time she had joined the team it was right in the middle of one of COVID-19’s highest points.

Between dealing with the new protocols and a new position, Jankowski described that time as a “crazy ride.”

“I was just kind of thrown into everything and obviously that’s when COVID-19 was at its highest point and dealing with all of these protocols. So, I had to basically learn pretty quick with all of these changes going on, but it’s definitely been a learning process,” Jankowski said.

In her second year with the team, Jankowski has been able to develop a relationship with Maggie Smith, the assistant director of sports performance.

“Her and I talk on a daily basis, multiple times a day, it’s really cool to be able to see what she (Smith) does, all the scientific research background and utilizing all the things that she has that I never really knew that strength and conditioning coaches use when it comes to athletes’ performance, but she has really taught me and showed me a lot,” Jankowski said.

Jankowski said that having someone to bounce ideas off of and having that support has made their relationship stronger.

“It’s been really cool because we have been able to bounce ideas off of each other and just having that support from her has made our relationship a whole lot stronger,” Jankowski said.

Smith said that having those conversations has made her relationship with Jankowski one of the best she has had with an athletic trainer in her 17 years of work.

“She’s (Jankowski) been really open to discussing, in both of our professions there is a lot of new technologies, a lot of new research and a lot better ways of doing things and she’s very open to digging into the research… so we can kind of use some data and different things to help guide us,” Smith said.

Smith said with the nature of their work, there is no black or white answer, they have been able to collaborate to do the best they can.

“I would say this is a situation where we’ve really worked together to try and find the best way with the information that we currently have,” Smith said.  

With that built up relationship, in addition to the data that Smith complies, they can create a plan to help players get back on the court.

“By her utilizing that (data) we can communicate really well, especially when it comes to an injured athlete of what is in the best interest an injured player as far as getting them back on the court or what they can do that day, so I really utilize what she tells me and we come up with a plan together,” Jankowski said.

Beyond the physical aspect of recovery, Jankowski said she also focuses on the mental health aspect as well.

“Not only do I take care of their physical injuries, but with this job and my profession there is a lot of mental health aspects that comes along with it, so just being open and communicating with them on a daily basis and listening to what they need, that’s my way of supporting the team,” Jankowski said.

Junior guard Claire Kaifes, who suffered an ACL injury last spring, said that Smith and Jankowski are great for all the work they have done in order to get her back on the court.

“I probably see them every day, if we’re not on the road,” Kaifes said. “(Just) trying to obviously get back to be the best I can be after what happened. So, with that, they’re helpful every single day, kind of always thinking what they can do to get me better.”

Kaifes said those day-to-day interactions with Smith and Jankowski have not only helped her physically, but mentally as well.

“They’re always checking in on me, they’re always making sure my head is right where it needs to be,” Kaifes said. “(It) is very nice to have as a player. I don’t think it’s been quite like that before.”

With the season winding down and the team preparing for this weekend’s BIG EAST Tournament, the goal remains the same for Jankowski and the rest of the sports medicine staff.

“It’s been a long season, so at this point the goal remains the same, just making sure that our players are 100% healthy, that they are safe to play on the court no matter what, but not only that but managing any mental health issues that anyone may have. So, it’s really just continuing what we do on a daily basis,” Jankowski said.

This article was written by Jackson Gross. He can be reached through email at [email protected] or on Twitter @JacksonGrossMU

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