To some, Rick Guinan is simply the pioneer of certified athletic trainers in York County.
To others, he’s a well-respected mentor who’s always eager to lend a hand.
To Guinan, he’s just a huge hockey fan who came to the York area more than 30 years ago to become the area’s first full-time certified athletic trainer.
“I’ve been an athlete my whole life,” said Guinan, who is now in his mid-50s. “And I’ve now been able to have a great career because of sports. I feel like I’ve been able to give back and make a difference and I’m still doing it to this day.”
Guinan clearly continues to love what he’s doing. Now a full-time teacher at Central York High School, as well as an athletic trainer for the Central York Middle School, Guinan has, according to his peers, been a real asset to his profession and his fellow ATs ever since he came from Massachusetts back in 1987 to become the first athletic trainer ever at York High.
“He loves his job and he loves the kids and it shows,” Northeastern head athletic trainer Zach Noel said. “He puts in a lot more time than people would probably think.”
Love of hockey: Noel, who is in his sixth year at Northeastern, has learned a lot from Guinan since they met more than four years ago. While the two share a love for the athletic training profession, it was the love of something else that brought them closer together.
“I’m a huge fan of hockey,” Noel said. “And Rick is kind of the one that brought me in with the (Bob) Hartley Hockey Camp, which I think he’s been involved with for a lot of years.”
Noel’s involvement with the hockey camp came as a direct result of his relationship with Guinan, who is also the volunteer head coach for the York College men’s hockey team.
“I’ve always wanted to get involved with hockey, but I just never had an in,” said Noel, who is a passionate Philadelphia Flyers fan. “But Rick was kind enough to get me involved.”
Guinan, a big Boston Bruins fan, found his way into the camp run by former Colorado Avalanche and Hershey Bears head coach Bob Hartley, thanks in part to his kids as well as his profession. This year’s Hartley camp, in its 23rd year, takes place at the York City Ice Arena this July.
“My kids were playing hockey and they wanted to attend the hockey camp,” Guinan said. “And (Bob) and I had a discussion and I said, ‘hey, I’m an athletic trainer so I can take care of your kids at the hockey camp.’ And it’s not like he would even have to pay me. Just maybe my kids could come to the camp. So my kids came to camp and I didn’t get paid for the first year, but then Bob found out everything that I was doing and he said ‘your kids can still come out, but you’re getting paid.’”
An asset at Central York: Guinan has also been a big asset for Central’s full-time certified athletic trainer, Krysta Sensbach-Gassert. At a school district as big as Central, it sometimes is nearly impossible for one person to oversee all of the different sports.
“I help out Krysta when needed,” Guinan said. “Especially like a few weeks ago when we had the Koller Classic for boys’ volleyball. We had a whole bunch of teams there, so Krysta could stay inside and deal with that. But then at the same time we had a baseball game, a softball game, a boys’ lacrosse game as well as some track athletes practicing and the girls’ lacrosse team practicing. So how is she going to do all of those things at one time? So when the need arises I can go over there and give assistance.”
Sensbach-Gassert, who has been at Central since 2013, certainly appreciates everything that Guinan does for her and the students in the district.
“Rick is a good resource for athletic trainers that are new to the profession,” she said. “Since he has been in York County for most of his career, he knows a lot of physicians, all of the other ATs and numerous people that are involved with athletics. Rick is always there to help others outside of normal quote-unquote business hours.”
Creating the job in York County: People such as Noel, Sensbach-Gassert and other ATs at local schools can thank Guinan for helping to create the positions they now hold. Full-time certified athletic trainers were not a thing in York before Guinan came to the area back in 1987.
“When I came to York High, no other schools in York had this,” Guinan said. “And we (at York High) were fortunate. So I would go around and speak to school boards and give presentations and have meetings with superintendents and show them the virtues of what having these positions full-time could do for their students. And thankfully a lot of them listened.”
Role of technology: Technology, meanwhile, has helped shape the way the profession is performed in the 21st century.
“Take a sport like wrestling for instance,” Guinan said. “Today, how we determine a safe weight for a student to be wrestling at is very calculated. But back in the day it wasn’t all that scientific. It was kind of just get on the scale, get weighed and tell us what you want to wrestle at and the doctor and I would look at each other and either go, ‘OK’ or ‘no.’ Now we have hydration testing, percent body fat and we use skin folds. It’s all highly technical formulas.”
Middle school vs. high school: Guinan also said that dealing with high school kids is a lot different than dealing with middle school athletes.
“It takes a different set of skills to work with children at that age,” he said. “They have different injuries than the high school population has. In middle school, many of them are skeletally immature. They have an increased risks of fractures over sprains and strains. And they’re also at that age where they’re still learning their bodies. They have all these hormones going on and some are further ahead than others.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.