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Faculty Spotlight: Chuck Carter

Sarah A. O'Neill
If you’ve been to Tilton School’s Burch Field to watch a game of football or stood behind the boards for a hockey game at the rink, chances are you’ve seen Chuck Carter diligently watching from the sidelines. Tilton School’s Head Athletic Trainer has been keeping our student-athletes safe and healthy for 18 years.
 
Our faculty and staff come from diverse backgrounds, and Chuck Carter is no exception. Read on to find out how a Lowell, Massachusetts native went from playing football at Lowell High School to working as an intern on a National Football League team to serving in the military and finally, ending up as an athletic trainer for a New England private school in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire.

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Q: Where are you from?
I’m originally from Lowell, Massachusetts, just about an hour south of here. I grew up there, went to Lowell High School and then on to Bridgewater State College. I had various Athletic Training internships there, including with the New England Patriots and Richmond Braves.

Q: How did you get into Athletic Training? What sparked your interest in the field?
You know, it’s kind of weird. I would say around junior or senior year in high school, just when you’re starting to think what you would like to do in college. I was interested in the makeup of the human body but still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I had a family friend who worked at Bridgewater State and was also a football coach. He said, “Hey, we’re looking for running backs and we have a program here that is kind of like what you’re interested in.” I went down to campus and I really liked it - it had a good vibe. So, I applied and there I was.

Q: How did you find yourself at Tilton School?
There used to be this thing called the Europa Cup. Essentially, it was prep school hockey in the summer. I was working it for some extra cash as a summer gig and Mike Walsh, who is now the boys’ varsity hockey team head coach at Proctor Academy, was one of the Tilton coaches at the time. He mentioned that Tilton was looking for an athletic trainer, but at the time I already had a job. Fate would have it that the landlord of the place I was living decided he was going to renovate it and subsequently, my rent was going to double. I had already made the decision to drive to Tilton to check it out and take a look at the training room. I came up and the first person I ran into on campus was Ken Hollingsworth… You know that guy can talk a dog off a meat truck. He was obviously very friendly and outgoing so I figured I’d give it a shot. If I got hired I’d give it a year and see how things went. 17 years later I’m still here.

Q: Where did you work before Tilton?
I worked for the Boston Cannons, a Major League Lacrosse team, for the New England Collegiate wooden bat league and a baseball team in Lowell called the All Americans… but those were all part-time gigs. I worked at Lowell High School, Tyngsborough High School, and I worked for a physical therapist who had four to five athletic trainers working underneath her and her crew.

Q: What is the best part about being an Athletic Trainer?
My favorite part of being an athletic trainer is the interactions with the kids. That’s definitely the best part. I have tons and tons of dad jokes, and I get to subject the students to my bad, corny humor, which is well-meaning. And certainly there are some kids who I have a better relationship with where I can tease them a little bit and they can tease me back, and that’s fine. The athletic training room should always be a place that’s inviting, a place you should be able to come to no matter who you are.

I like that we have a diverse population. It’s pretty cool to talk to kids from different parts of the world. I get to learn about their culture and they get to learn a bit about me and parts of American culture they didn’t hear or know about. The kids are usually upbeat for the most part. They don’t want to come to me injured, but when we do see each other in the training room we make sure they get back to where they need to be. It’s nice to be able to see them get to the other end, too. In other health professions, somebody may come in and say they’re sick and you say “All right, you’re sick. Go do this.” and then you never see them again. With athletic training, you see the initial injury, help to rehab them back to sports, and get them back out.

Q: What is your favorite sport to cover?
People are going to shake their head when I say this, but my favorite sport to work is football. I played football in high school and actually, had hoped to be working for the NFL someday. That’s part of the reason why I interned with the Patriots, which was a really good experience. I like the competition, I don’t mind the collision and crashes. I have a perspective of having been a player - I get it. It’s both challenging and rewarding.

Covering football, to be honest, is not the same as it was 16, 17 years ago. It’s a lot different. The most substantial change is the concussion awareness. A lot of the protocols that they had in the past have changed. There weren’t as many steps taken when returning a player to play. Now, that’s not to say what we’re doing now is bad, it’s just different. You know before, a kid gets hit, and then he would return the same day as long as his symptoms had not returned. Now research has come out saying that anybody who is getting hit hard to enough to display signs and symptoms should remain out of the game/practice. I think that’s hard for parents of my generation who played football and have gone through it, been banged up.

A lot of times you don’t know how many times a kid has had their bell rung before they got to high school, so they’re still trying to figuring out what is the magic number, if there is one, having to do with association with previous concussions, from youth football all the way up to high school. You have to keep in mind, these guys, for the most part, I mean while they are competitive, are playing for fun. They aren’t playing for millions of dollars and if they do have that potential, you want to preserve them for as long as possible...not have them get beat up in a high school football game. If you have that talent, missing a game is not going to hurt you.

Q: You teach as well. Has that always been the case?
I’ve only been teaching for the past five years. It’s rewarding when you have some students who perk up when you talk about a certain topic or see the students who move on from Tilton come back and relate back to a class they took here. I had one student who went on to become a physical therapist, and she comes in every now and then and says “Hey, Mr. Carter, you’ll never guess what we did.”

I look at our students as our future leaders or practitioners, so I’m hoping that they will learn a bit from what I’m talking about, whether it be directly from class or indirectly from talking about experiences I’ve had in my profession. It’s not all about reading and working out of the textbook. When you think about learning from a textbook, it’s two-dimensional, but if you have a clay model you can mess around with you can hold it, investigate it, and understand it better.


Q: You were in the service, can you tell us about your experience?
I was in the Army National Guard in Massachusetts. When I was growing up, my father was in the Navy and we used to go to a place in Massachusetts called Fort Devens. As a Navy family, we had access to what is called a commissary and to a supermarket. We would go there to do our grocery shopping and get our hair cut. We would drive through the gates, and as a kid, you’d see the troops running in formation and a giant tank sitting out there. I felt a connection to the military and it was a way for me to pay for college. I always felt that I wanted to give back to my country, it was a way of service.

I’m pro-service for anybody, and that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go into the military. If you don’t want to pick up a weapon, you can pick up a rake and work in forestry and help clear some timber.

Q: What valuable lessons did your time in the Army National Guard teach you, and how does that carry over to your professional life?
I was in the Army for six years, from 1990-1996. Prep, prep, prep. There’s a saying in the army, “Hurry up and wait.” You get ready then you wait. Getting ready was just a time period to make sure you had everything for your mission. I often have a lot of things in my bag that I probably won’t need, but I’d rather have it than not. If you can throw it in your pack, take it with you.

Soldiers endure a lot of hardships, and I think athletic trainers endure a lot of hardships as well. You’re standing outside in 20 degrees or it’s 95 degrees and you’re baking in the sun. You also know that you’re in a selfless profession because you’re not doing it for yourself. You’re doing it because you want to know that whoever is participating in a sport can do so without injuries or if there is an injury. That you’ll get them back to what they were doing.

Q: What would your advice be to someone looking to pursue a career in athletic training?
Try to find a mentor, somebody who’s been through it and get their opinions. Education is always very important, so keep building on that knowledge, because education doesn’t end with a degree. It’s just starting for the most part because most people go on to do internships and then navigate into the real world. Some people go into the real world and they don’t have anybody other than themselves to rely on, so building a great relationship with your mentor, being able to learn from them and then being able to call them as a resource helps.

Q: What is your favorite part of working at Tilton School?
The relationships. This school is built on the relationships between student and faculty, but also the relationships between faculty and faculty. I can tell you that a lot of the people that were my mentors are gone, which is kind of sad. But they left me in a good position, and without a lot of them there would’ve been times where I’d think “Holy cow, this is too much.” Having relationships with my mentors and the people that work here is huge, and the relationship with the students. There’s always somebody to make you smile. There’s always somebody who can break your heart too, but there’s always more people who can make you smile.

I do a reflection, usually, when I get back from break. I start thinking about all the four-year seniors I’ve known. It’s pretty amazing to see them grow up. To see them go from the goofy kid to somebody who’s now outspoken and confident. Maybe you came in and you were 5’6”, and now you’re leaving and you’re 6’ tall. I really enjoy seeing that and remarking to the students how much they’ve grown. Not just in height, but also in maturity and emotionally.

I like to think that we had something to do with that, whatever little piece that might be.

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