By Sophia Giovaniello
With over 800 student athletes and 26 varsity sports, Walpole High School has a significant and overwhelming amount of athletic needs. To help with these needs, Head Athletic Trainer Antigone “Tigs” Matsakis applied to the National Athletic Training Association (NATA) for a $50,000 grant to help increase coverage in athletic training services.
Walpole High was the only school in Massachusetts to win the grand prize of $50,000 out of 15 total schools that applied.
The $50,000 grant, funded by NATA with additional sponsorship from Gatorade and the NFL, must be used to help better the school’s access to athletic trainers and to help increase the presence of athletic services at Walpole High School. The money cannot be used for supplies or new technology. Along with the $50,000 grant, Walpole High School received $600 worth of Gatorade products.
“I believe that both the Walpole student athletes and the Walpole community deserve the best possible health care, and unfortunately, what they are getting is the best possible care that a part-time person can provide,” Matsakis said. “Increasing the presence of athletic training services at Walpole would have a profound effect on many objectives that the athletes and the community value, such as decreasing injury rates, increasing athlete safety and education and improving proper diagnosis and triage.”
Similarly, as a frequent visitor of Matsakis’ office, senior Kyra Arsenault shared her support of the grant.
“To keep our program where it is and have minimal long term injuries and kids missing out, we would really benefit from and essentially require more consistent and available services,” said Arsenault.
Currently, the athletic trainer role at Walpole High School is a part-time job. On a daily basis, Matsakis is available in her office each day after school, comes to each home game or meet and also provides service to athletes before or after practices. In addition to her work as a trainer, she shares her musical abilities with the school, singing the national anthem at a few home games.
The grant will be used to hire a full-time or an additional part-time trainer.
As a Boston University graduate, Matsakis has her bachelor’s degree in athletic training and her doctorate degree in physical therapy. Matsakis came to Walpole High School last year in replacement of athletic trainer Mike Belanger.
“Her commitment to the WHS family has been tremendous,” said Athletic Director Ron Dowd. “She cares about the students and it shows in her work.”
After two years at Walpole High School, Matsakis will not be working here next year. She is moving back to Chicago and has been accepted into the University of Illinois at Chicago’s manual therapy fellowship program. This is a one year physical therapy program that will allow her to specialize in manual therapy. This program will also help her to study for the sports specialist exam to officially become a sports specialist in physical therapy.
Matsakis’ departure will have a big impact on the rest of Walpole High’s athletic programs.
“She will be a great loss to the school and to me personally. Although I knew her before taking this job, I have come to know her and count on her more. [She] will be tough to replace,” said Dowd.
When asked what she will miss the most about Walpole High School, Matsakis immediately replied, “The people, for sure. [The athletes] are fun to work with, passionate about sports and always eager to get better and to learn.”