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BOGACZYK: Pike, Herd Trainers Expand Their Domain

July 28, 2015 By JACK BOGACZYK
– Marshall’s athletic trainers are accustomed to treating.

As to being treated? Not so much.

These days, that’s changed significantly. That’s because the full-time staff roster has more than doubled in recent weeks, and also because the athletic training staff is able to work in – and in conjunction with -- the new Marshall University Sports Medicine Institute.

The SMI is the final piece of the new Herd facilities funded by the Vision Campaign for Athletics. And for Marshall sports teams, the 20,000-square foot Sports Medicine Institute provides new space and new opportunity for a staff that still has training rooms in the Shewey Building (football) and Henderson Center.

When Tom Belmaggio, Marshall’s head trainer for seven years, became director of sports medicine for MU Athletics in conjunction with the opening of the new facility, the Herd hired Tim Pike as its new head trainer. Pike is the primary football trainer, too.

Pike, who has degrees from Kentucky and North Carolina, started his second year at Marshall on July 17. And in concert with the expanded and enhanced facilities in the Sports Medicine Institute, Marshall has expanded the full-time training staff from four to 10 individuals.

“At first it’s going to be a honeymoon effect,” Pike said of the addition of the Sports Medicine Institute. “We’re going to have to figure everything out. The thing that will be interesting … We’ve got a lot of new nests going into this fall.

“I’m going from having eight graduate assistants to just full-time staff. We’ve got 10 now. We did have four, plus eight GAs. Throw on top of that the new facility, and trying to run this for a (Conference USA) football championship again. Needless to say, it’s a little bit daunting, but we’re going to benefit, no question.

“Mr. (Mike) Hamrick (Marshall athletic director) has been very, very good and supportive of us in what we’re trying to do, and they’ve given us the funds to outfit it and get the things I think we need to take care of our athletes’ needs.

“The facility is going to provide a bit of a ‘wow factor,’ too. There are going to be some bells and whistles that are going to help us. There are things we’re getting that are really going to help with our concussion management, diagnosing, moving forward. And that’s a good thing, something that’s very positive.”

The SMI is home to five doctors’ offices, nine exam rooms, a waiting area, check-in desk, a conference room, a physical therapy area with an open floor plan, weight equipment for therapy, cardio equipment, and a hydrotherapy area including a polar-plunge pool, a thermal plunge pool and a HydroWorx underwater treadmill.

There’s an X-ray room with plans to add an MRI in the future. For the Herd training staff, there are offices for four, with taping tables and stations related to therapy.

“We’re going to put a lot into that,” said Pike, 38, who came to Marshall after six years at Eastern Kentucky. “We have a lot of good equipment coming that will help us in treating injuries and things of that nature. And as a recruit, when you’re coming in, you look at us, it will be like, ‘Wow!’

“At Marshall, I’d like to think we’re going to be on the cutting edge of the technology that’s out there. There are some things we’ll have that maybe only Alabama, Wisconsin and one or two other schools have, and Marshall will be kind of in that class now.

“And with the new building, the facility created that because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get some of these things. So, I’m kind of capitalizing on the opportunity to have a little bit of money. It’s not splurging. Obviously, we’ve survived without it, but if you had the ability to get it, you need to get it.”

Pike used as examples the Trazer, “with an X-box-like console and you connect it to IT and is has a TV screen where the image mimics your movement. You can monitor progress in someone’s recovery and it has software for concussion protocol testing. It records functional movement and spits out data. You get back to your baseline, you get back on the field.

“We’ll also have a Biodex, which has a platform an athlete stands on to check balance. It’s used for concussion testing, but not solely that. There are other functional applications. Those are nice things, the type of things we now have that without the new facility, we wouldn’t have been able to get.

“I personally want to set the standard in our conference. Everywhere I’ve been, that’s been the standard for me. We set the standard. You don’t want to limit it to the conference, but you’ve got to start somewhere. You build on that, move forward, and we are.”

So, will the Sports Medicine Institute make the Herd trainers’ jobs easier?

“I hope it makes things more efficient,” Pike said. “For example, during August (football) camp, if you come in here (the Shewey training room, just behind the north end zone) after a practice, this place is a zoo. So, my hope is during camp -- it may work this way, I don’t know – ‘Hey veterans, see me at the new facility. Newcomers, come into Shewey.’ And now we can maximize our space. Before there was me, a staff person and two GAs. Now on football, there’s me and two staffers.”

Pike does figure the proximity of the SMI – next door to Edwards Stadium as part of the Chris Cline Athletic Complex – may make a world of difference in getting a football player to treatment.

“That’s going to be pretty special for us,” the Marshall head trainer said. “Let’s use an example I used with recruits in here. Let’s say we’re in a bowl practice in December, in the indoor facility. Say a player does something pretty nasty to an ankle. We can, quite literally, while practice is going on, take that kid into a training room and I can still have a visual out onto the field from that training room.

“I can get him started on whatever treatment-wise, run through the back halls to the doctors’ offices, ‘Hey, we’ve got this and this,’ do an order, he gets seen by a doctor, goes and gets an X-ray, and you take him right back to the treatment room. So, everything will be a little more immediate, not such a lag in timing as we have had. I would dare to say not many, if any, schools would have that type of setup, to be able to go from their indoor practice facility and pretty much have the accessibility we will have. And that will evolve with MRIs as well.

“Take a player that has injured a knee in a Saturday game. On Sunday, you get a technician over, get MRI going and get it done and have answer on what’s going on Sunday afternoon. I think it’s a very possible thing that can happen – unique.

“The pools we have – different kinds of aquatic therapy – that’s not necessarily unique because other schools have that, but the niceness and the way they’re able to do it with the different tubs is. There may be a couple of teams in our conference that have something that well, but most likely not right next door. And we’re not just going to service the football team, but all athletics. Our other training rooms in Shewey and the Henderson Center will be functional as well.”

Pike credited Belmaggio for making his introduction to Marshall and transition easier.

“Last year, it really helped out quite a bit, with Tom having been in the job (for seven years),” Pike said. “There are two sides to this coin, too. I’m coming in; I don’t know Marshall. I know Tim Pike and I know my past, so what I was able to bring to the table was that. What I didn’t know was all the ins and outs and how you get things done here at Marshall.

“So, Tom was very paramount in helping me get my best foot forward with taking this over. Like everything, there was a big honeymoon effect with that, and football camp was starting about two weeks after I got here. I needed him to help me. I’d get pulled quite a bit due to football, and Tom was there. He was someone I could depend on. And as we went into the spring semester, I didn’t have to lean on him as much, and then, he was so busy with his new job.”

Once Pike was hired, he went out and brought in former Morehead State head trainer Chris Lapole as the Herd’s associate head trainer. Lapole takes the lead with men’s basketball. Brandi Anders, the staff veteran at only two years, primarily works with women’s basketball. The other returning full-timer, Bryan Gray, works football with Pike. Mallory Gomes, a Marshall GA in the past, has joined the full-time staff, and Pike hired five newcomers.

“We’ve gone from four and eight to 10 and zero,” Pike said of the staff transition to bring in more full-timers. “There are two factors. We’ve got two fewer hands, but the other side of the coin is I may have two fewer hands, but I don’t have to account for anybody (GAs) going to class. We’re in the upper tier of the conference with a staff that large. It’s good.

“It’s been a crazy summer. I had my regular supply list to do, bid list, all the tape, everything we’ll use, then had to do a new bid list for the new facility. Two bid lists, then hiring six new staff. One challenge we had last year was everyone was new, or new to one another. The most-seasoned Marshall person was Brandi, who was here as a GA and then a full-timer for a year.

“Hiring Chris was important, since he was a head trainer at Morehead. I wanted somebody in here who had been through that, who had made those bigger decisions.”

So, it’s new faces and a new place for Marshall’s athletic training staff.

“You might say it’s a whole new world in Marshall Sports Medicine,” Pike said. “It’s a lot of difference from where it was to what it is now.”