By Melanee Terry
Athletic trainers across the country have helped college athletes make a comeback to sports this year and, at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, Brian Morrison has been that person. With the assistance of newly hired trainer Sydney Churchill, Brian has kept UMPI athletes healthy and ready for competition throughout the pandemic, which makes them Owl Heroes on campus.
Brian started working for UMPI in August 2020 and he is currently the Head Athletic Trainer. As the Head AT, he oversees the Sports Medicine Department for the university, manages and treats injuries, develops sports performance programs, and collaborates with the entire athletic administration at UMPI.
Sydney was recently hired as an athletic trainer, starting her position just a couple weeks ago. She follows many of the same tasks as Brian, which involves managing and treating student athlete injuries.
“I think that Sydney is gaining the respect and trust of the athletes that she is working with,” Brian said. “I believe that she is doing a good job with keeping her athletes on the field and court, working tirelessly in order to do so. She is a great addition to athletics and I am happy to have her on my team.”
The Athletic Training room in Wieden Hall is a common area on campus for student athletes and it has been a priority to keep that area safe. Brian and Sydney have advised athletes who use the AT room to follow certain guidelines. To follow social distancing guidelines, they are only allowing a specific number of athletes access to the room during a given time.
The trainers are constantly monitoring athletes’ day-to-day health with daily check-ins through an app. Brian and Sydney require all athletes who use the AT room to wear masks at all times and use hand sanitizer often. They ask students to sign in for contact tracing purposes, place their belongings in cubbies when they enter the room, and keep a proper social distance whenever possible.
“We have really tried hard to protect the safety of our athletes by ensuring that our AT Room is safe and clean,” Brian said. “A big part of my job is to make sure that athletes feel comfortable around me so that we can build relationships around trust. I try very hard to get to know as many athletes as I can, in order for them to have confidence in me as their Head AT.”
Brian took the Head Athletic Trainer position a few months ago after Patrick “Pat” Baker passed away last fall. Patrick was the Head Athletic Trainer at the time and Brian got to work with him for 3 months. Brian says that taking Pat’s position was one of the hardest things he has ever had to do in his entire personal and professional life. Pat was a personal friend and professional mentor to Brian. It was a difficult transition to Head AT, but Brian has made the move smoothly.
“My first few months were rocky to say the least in my opinion, but with the help of the Athletic Administration, and others within athletics I was able to feel more comfortable as time went on,” Brian said. “There are so many things I have yet to learn, and as much as I respect Pat for the work he did, now having to fill his shoes, I can only respect him even more knowing how much heart and soul that he put into this job and how difficult it actually is.”
Since coming on board, Brian has faced some unexpected challenges during the pandemic. He has found it hard to keep up with emerging information from the government, NCAA, and the Northern Athletic Conference regarding COVID-19 information. Brian has learned that contact tracing, testing, and travel restrictions are all very intricate and challenging to keep track of. Despite this, he pointed out that having a support system has helped.
“I would note that I have a great support system at home. With two small children, and a wife, it is hard for them and myself not to have them be a part of the UMPI community,” Brian said. “I am looking forward to when I can bring my children into my place of work when it is safe so that the coaches, athletes and other coworkers can meet them.”
Brian has learned a lot through this pandemic from both a professional and personal standpoint. He has discovered new organizational skills and how to create a system for himself so he can run an efficient Athletic Training office. Brian and Sydney have faced countless challenges this year, but through collaboration, dedication, and diligence, they have kept student athletes healthy. They continue to put every athletes’ needs first, which makes them Owl Heroes on UMPI’s campus.
“I’ve learned that being patient, kind, and humble can go a long way. I know that over the years there are many things that I have taken for granted, which this pandemic has taught me otherwise,” Brian said. “I hope that this pandemic has taught others to be patient, take the time to spend with others who need help, sit and listen to those that need to be heard, and appreciate everything that we have.”