Stephanie “Aaliyah” Manuz could not be more excited to begin her professional career as a certified athletic trainer for Chanute High School and Royster Middle School.
Previously, CHS was thought to be the only school in the SEK Conference to not have an athletic trainer and relied upon coaches for those duties. The district revealed during its regular monthly meeting in early July that it was creating an athletic trainer position and initially budgeted $70,000 for that role.
Manuz told The Tribune on Monday that she’s thrilled for the opportunity.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “This is where I wanted to be, a small-town kind of high school.
An Arizona native, Manuz recently graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Master’s degree in Athletic Training. Prior to that, she earned her undergrad in Exercise Science in Kansas from Tabor College in Hillsboro, where she attended on a track scholarship.
Additionally, Manuz has interned with a pair of large high schools in Arizona and worked under their athletic trainers. During the first of her two years, she was on the athletic staff of a state high school basketball championship team. Manuz said after receiving that tutelage, it’s since been a goal of hers to be a head athletic trainer.
“I went to a high school that didn’t have athletic trainers,” said Manuz, who was a three-sport athlete. “Not having that athletic trainer made it more eye-opening for me. With an athletic trainer, I could have had some of my injuries taken care of in a much more efficient way than I was able to. So that’s what made me passionate about wanting to do this as a career.”
Manuz said she embraces the challenging nature of the position.
“It’s different every single day,” she said.
Some of her primary responsibilities will include overseeing general care of student-athletes, preventative care for a wide range of injuries, diagnosing injuries, practice, pre-game management and post-game treatment tasks, managing administrative responsibilities and paperwork, and assisting with offseason strength and conditioning programs.
“It’s about more than just healing injuries to me,” Manuz said. “I’m very personable and like building relationships with athletes, coaches and even parents. I can’t wait to build my program.”
Manuz has a vision for her style of running things.
“There’s definitely different ways you can run your athletic training room,” she said. “Like how you go about talking to coaches and athletes’ parents — and different ways you can do documentation. I picked up on things during my internships that I see as being the most efficient.
“What I would tell parents is that we never want to hold kids out, but that we want to put their health and safety first. And being a (former) athlete, I have a good understanding of the things I could play through and things I could not. But also coming from the medical side, there’s some injuries that even if you think you can play through you, probably shouldn’t.”
Manuz said many people have misconceptions about the differences between athletic trainers and personal trainers.
“I want to educate people about what we are and what we do — what the profession really is,” she said. “In the future, I’d like to teach sports med classes and even have a sports medicine club with the high school students.”
Assistant Superintendent Matt Koester said adding an athletic trainer to the district is important for a multitude of reasons.
“The first thing is evaluation of injuries during practices and events, and whether an injury is significant enough to seek medical attention — or if it something that can be dealt with by the trainer,” he said. “We’re also hopeful that we’ll be able to provide a service to our students of better rehab opportunities for injuries. Instead of (injured) kids attending practice and sitting on the sidelines, just attending and not helping themselves to get back to be able to play — having a trainer available will be able to provide some of those rehab opportunities.”
Koester said the hiring of Manuz will also likely facilitate better knowledge of how the body functions in relation to rehab, and that could result in student-athletes spending less time away from school due to injuries. He also said that creation of the athletic trainer position will allow the district to enter into a cooperative agreement with its competition, and that those schools will hopefully reciprocate with their own athletic trainers at the events they host. This would potentially allow Manuz to remain in Chanute if there are multiple sports events taking place on the same night on Chanute’s athletic calendar.
Manuz said her favorite sport is basketball. While she rooted for the Phoenix Suns during the recent NBA Finals run, she said she’s a die-hard Chicago Bulls fan. Her favorite player is former Bulls star point guard Derrick Rose.