Small in size, big in heart

Small in size, big in heart

You can find her laughing in the gym at a wrestling meet, running water out to football players on Friday nights, or cheering in the dugout for the softball team, ready to help when needed. Junior student athletic trainer Hannah Ayers does it all, and does it while overcoming what some may say is an obstacle.

Junior Hannah Ayers is an athletic trainer for the football and softball teams.
Junior Hannah Ayers is an athletic trainer for the football and softball teams.

Ayers is a little person.

While many people may see this as presenting challenges, Ayers doesn’t see it this way.

“There’s more advantages than disadvantages,” Ayers said. “Certain tape jobs are easier for me than other trainers because of my height and I can do almost everything an average person height can do. There are certain disadvantages like reaching things in the training room that are tall or carrying heavy objects but the rest of the training staff help out with that.”

Ayers’ parents agree that she is great at overcoming obstacles.

“When you grow up having a difference you learn how to adapt quickly when obstacles come in your path,” mom Kimberly Ayers said. “And that is exactly what Hannah has done – I can’t remember a time when she ran up against an obstacle that kept her from achieving her goals even though she may have do things a little different than her taller peers. She has the same heart and drive as her peers to achieve what she sets her sights on.”

However when there are little things that she needs help with, the rest of the training staff is there.

“One of my friends was in training and recommended I join,” Ayers said. “It has been a great decision.”

Many people see athletic trainers as nothing more than somebody running out with water or taping up sweaty players, but that’s not what it’s about for Ayers. She sees it an opportunity to be a part of a team.

Last year, Ayers was a part of the team in a different way as she was on the JV softball team.

Ayers was a vital part of the JV softball team last year before deciding to focus on athletic training.
Ayers was a vital part of the JV softball team last year before deciding to focus on athletic training.

“When she was asked to be on the softball team last year by Coach Douglas and Forman, I think I can safely say she was shocked, scared and excited all in one,” Kimberly Ayers said.

“No one had ever asked her to play a team sport before especially one in which she really did not have much experience in.  She surprised both her Dad and I by taking up the challenge set forth to her and joining the JV team, working her butt off at practices, coming home sore and bruised but returning to it each day but loving it because of her teammates.  So when the season ended she really thought about how was she going to continue having that team “spirit”  that was now a part of her.  Since some of her friends were trainers she saw an opening that would allow her to still be a part of the team but not as the player anymore, however the team “spirit” was still there in “Coach Smiley’s team” and this fall the Lovejoy football program from players to coaches embrace her and the other trainers as part of the team.  So when softball season started again I really don’t think it was a hard decision for Hannah to know that her new role for the team would be different but was just as vital and fun as playing right field.” Kimberly Ayers said.

There are many aspects to being an athletic trainer, but being able to help others is what Ayers enjoys the most.

“My favorite part of training is being able to help people,” Ayers said. “Being able to make new friends and feeling a part of the team are great too, along with being so close to the games and players.”

Head trainer Susan Smiley believes that Ayers has very good trainer qualities.

“Hannah is smart and calm under pressure,” Smiley said.

Like other Leopard trainers, Ayers does multiple sports throughout the year, but there are ones that stand out to her.

“I’d say football or softball are my favorite,” Ayers said. “The teams make you feel like you’re a part of a family. Football games are always so energetic and the coaches and boys make it a fun experience.”
“I’d say football or softball are my favorite,” Ayers said. “The teams make you feel like you’re a part of a family. Football games are always so energetic and the coaches and boys make it a fun experience.”

“I’d say football or softball are my favorite,” Ayers said. “The teams make you feel like you’re a part of a family. Football games are always so energetic and the coaches and boys make it a fun experience.”

There is much more to training than most people realize as a day in the life of a trainer has many aspects to it.

“For softball games the SATs (Student Assistant Trainers) will help with game set up; water, ice for injuries, medical kit, bottles, etc,” Smiley said. “We usually have several games and practices at the same time, so we get the supplies ready in the morning and haul them out during 4th or 8th period. We do most of our treatments in the morning and tape right before the game or practice. The SATs will be with their team for warm ups, game and then help with ice and clean up after the game.”

Ayers shines as a trainer in spite of being a little person and those around her notice this.

“Hannah is comfortable with making things work for her, so in a lot of ways she is more flexible than most people,” Smiley said. “If something does not look like it will work, she can figure out a way to make it work. We added a few step stools to the athletic training room. When we travel, Hannah is able to tape off of a bench easier than most of us. I think Hannah is more adaptable to situations than most people and that is a huge help in athletic training.”