Putting athletes on track for success: Kansas State University athletic trainer taking talent and skill to the Olympics
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
MANHATTAN — Phillip Vardiman won't be going for the gold at the 2016 Summer Olympics, but he is at the top of his game.
Vardiman, the director of the university's athletic training program and an associate professor in the College of Human Ecology, has been selected as an athletic trainer for the medical team that will support the U.S. track and field athletes in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the 2016 Games. Vardiman is one of six athletic trainers on this elite medical team, which also includes two doctors, two chiropractors, two sports psychologists and three massage therapists.
USA Track and Field, the national governing body for the sport, accepts applications for medical staff members, who then must be screened and approved by the U.S. Olympic Committee. All medical staff members volunteer their time, talents and professional skill.
Although it is his first trip to the Olympic Games, Vardiman has been working as an athletic trainer with USA Track and Field since 2008. He has provided medical care for athletes both in the U.S. and internationally. Each time he travels with a team, he is prepared for long hours with early mornings and late nights. Some competition days begin before the sun comes up and end long after the sun goes down.
"Being selected as an athletic trainer for the Olympics is an honor and a privilege," Vardiman said. "It has been a professional goal since becoming a certified athletic trainer. The level of skill and the amount of experience that other medical team members bring to the team is amazing — everyone is at the top of their game and we learn so much from each other while treating the best athletes in the world."
The U.S. Olympic track and field team has 120-130 athletes. The athletes and medical team will leave July 23 for a training camp in Texas and then head to Brazil. Often, the medical director on these trips will encourage his staff to experience the culture they are visiting, but all staff remain on call and dedicated to their athletes, Vardiman said.
"Everybody works together so the athletes can perform at their optimal level on a world stage," Vardiman said of the medical team's role at the Olympic Games. "There is an increased level of camaraderie and respect between medical team members, and I have made lifelong friends among them."
Vardiman is one of two educators on the medical team. He earned his athletic training certification right after finishing his undergraduate degree at Park University and has taken both an academic and practitioner path since. He received a master's degree from Oklahoma State University and a doctorate in kinesiology from the University of Arkansas while working as an athletic trainer at both schools.
"We take pride in Dr. Vardiman and his repeated contribution to the athletic training profession at the international level as well as at the upcoming Rio Olympics," said John Buckwalter, dean of the College of Human Ecology. "His service to the U.S. Olympic Team equips him with exceptional professional experiences at the highest level to better instruct athletic training students in the College of Human Ecology about their future careers."
Vardiman hopes his national and international involvement pique his students' interest in volunteering with U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Track and Field or the national governing body of another Olympic sport.
"Having a faculty member asked to represent the nation is a good reflection of the quality of work we do here at K-State. He will be able to engage students in the classroom about different methods of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of real athletic injuries," said Mark Haub, head of the food, nutrition, dietetics and health department.
"This trip would not be possible without the support and encouragement of the College of Human Ecology and its administrators, colleagues and my friends and family," Vardiman said.
Along with the 2016 Summer Olympics, Vardiman's service to USA Track and Field includes being head athletic trainer at the 2008 World Cup Race Walk in Russia, the 2009 Americas Cup Race Walk in El Salvador and the 2009 Five Nations Match in Scotland. In 2011, he was an athletic trainer at the Pan American Games in Mexico. He served as an athletic trainer at the International Association of Athletics Federations' World Championships in 2013 and 2015, and at the federations' Junior World Championships in 2014. Earlier this year, he served as head athletic trainer at the Half-Marathon World Championships in the United Kingdom.