By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
He’s fought off cancer into remission, started his own foundation benefiting cancer patients in his community and can even talk male teenage athletes into donning women’s formal wear for a good cause.
What Scott Lochridge can’t do, however, is be in more than one place — or five — at the same time.
That super power sure would come in handy for the certified athletic trainer tasked with covering all of Cullman High’s sports programs, especially during the spring, when it’s not uncommon for baseball, softball, soccer, tennis, track and field, golf and football events to be taking place simultaneously on any given day.
Luckily for Lochridge, he’s had a bit of help fulfilling all his duties on the expansive Bearcat campus over the past eight years. In conjunction with the local hospital, Lochridge, the lead athletic trainer at ONE Rehab, has had the pleasure of coordinating a student-training program at Cullman High. It’s been so successful at the city school that ONE has also implemented it at West Point and Fairview, the county’s two biggest high schools.
One student trainer Lochridge has been able to count on for a little more than a year is Paul Motzkus. As a seventh-grader, the now-freshman tried out for football, quickly realized it wasn’t for him and decided to talk to Lochridge about joining the program instead.
Now that he’s had more than enough time to get his feet wet in his chosen profession, Motzkus doesn’t regret the decision one bit.
“I found out I liked this a lot more,” he said with a wry smile.
Lochridge appreciates Motkus’ change of heart, too. He’s benefitted from the switch by adding a reliable, eager-to-learn worker to his team of student trainers. Unless there’s an injury, Lochridge said the younguns can handle most any issue that pops up.
“I don’t have to worry about the minor things going on,” Lochridge said. “If somebody needs a Band-Aid, needs to be taped or needs an ice bag, I know Paul is going to be there and take care of it. It’s a lifesaver.”
Motzkus was — and still can be — an extremely quiet kid when he started learning the ins and outs of athletic training. Still, Lochridge was drawn to the teenager’s sense of humor, his ability to take jokes and his dedication to being the best student possible.
Once Motzkus graduates in 2016, he’d like to leave the state to earn his degree and become a certified athletic trainer, though he’d be content staying in Alabama and enrolling at an institution with his desired program. Motzkus said if he then can’t get a job at Cullman High, he’d prefer to work for a professional sports team or an SEC school like Alabama or LSU.
Those are some lofty goals, but Lochridge firmly believes Motzkus can reach them.
“I thought early on he was going to be a keeper, and it turned out that we were correct,” Lochridge said. “I think he’s going to do a great job for the four years he’s going to be at Cullman and then do a great job further down the road.”
When asked whether he’s nervous Motzkus will try to steal Lochridge’s job once he becomes certified, the professional only laughed.
“In eight or 10 years, if he wants my job, he can have it,” Lochridge said. “I’ll give it up in 10 years if he wants it.”
In Motzkus’ relatively short time on the job, he’s already run into a pair of informative opportunities by coming across his first student-athletes who have either had a concussion or suffered a broken arm.
More important than anything athletic-training related, though, Motzkus has made a friend in Lochridge, who he considers more like family than his boss.
“I never really grew up with a father that was around the house a lot, so I see Scott as sort of my third father,” Motzkus said. “Of course there’s God, and then there’s my grandpa and Scott.”
Unsurprisingly, Motzkus said he’d recommend the student-training program to any fellow classmates or kids interested in pursuing the field. Lochridge shared the same sentiments, saying many of his former students have been successful at the college level because of the experience they gained during their time with the Black and Gold.
“They don’t have to learn the basics,” he said. “They already know that stuff, so they can concentrate more on the stuff they’re going to learn in their actual athletic training classes. Athletic trainers there realize they know what they’re doing and give them more responsibility quicker than they would a run-of-the-mill freshman whose never done anything.”
Anyone believing the student-training program will be an easy elective should think again. Lochridge said he runs his kids through the mill because he wants them to be positive about what they want before college, not two or three years into it.
With the long hours and lack of appreciation athletic trainers often deal with, Lochridge knows the profession isn’t for everyone. He started football season with 10 students and has watched that number dwindle down to six for the spring.
Those six trainees should be glad they’ve stuck around because they get to be a part of National Athletic Training Month. Lochridge said he’d like to enjoy it, too — if only he had the time.
“It’s just so busy. I haven’t had a spring break since I was 15. I don’t even know what spring break is,” he said. “Teams practice, they play, there’s never a holiday for athletic trainers.”
Don’t mistake those comments for legitimate complaints, though. Despite all the unglamorous aspects of his job, Lochridge is unmistakably happy with the career path he’s chosen to take.
“I wouldn’t change what I do for the world,” he said. “I love it.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at email@example.com.