TEUTOPOLIS — Suzy Wendt once was a protégé.
Now, she can call herself a teacher.
When Wendt was first learning the nuances of becoming an athletic trainer in 2016, Effingham athletic trainer Troy VanBlaricum was the person who taught her.
Seven years later and Wendt’s role is reversed, as she is now doing the same for now-graduated Teutopolis senior and former golfer and cheerleader Abigail Wortman.
Wendt believes that she is perfect for the position, too.
“I think Abigail would be perfect. She’s sports-oriented, dedicated, hard-working, organized and good with communication,” Wendt said. “She’s got all of those good traits that you look for in an athletic trainer and the characteristics that would make a great athletic trainer.”
Wortman said she has always been intrigued with the field.
That interest peaked during her freshman year at Teutopolis when she continually rode home with her cousin.
“My freshman year, I rode home with my cousin all the time and she had started seeing Suzy for some of her injuries, so I got a glimpse into what athletic training was from that aspect and seeing Suzy work with athletes,” Wortman said. “I realized that I love watching sports, anything to do with sports and the body. The passion just grew from there because I was so sports-oriented and I knew I wanted to continue doing stuff with sports and learning about the body.”
The yearning for more knowledge on athletic training has only sparked over time, too, culminating in her shadowing Wendt for four weeks as a member of Teutopolis Health Occupations.
Wendt said those four weeks have also been a bright spot for her.
“It’s been so much fun,” Wendt said. “She’s great. I’ve always really liked Abigail and enjoyed working with Abigail from an athlete and athletic trainer perspective, so it’s been really fun to work with her now as more of a mentor and getting to know her and watch our relationship grow.”
Those relationships will only grow beyond just the one that Wendt and Wortman share, though.
Wendt said that her favorite part of the job is the bonds she forges with everyone she encounters on a daily basis.
“My favorite part of this job is the relationships you get and the friendships you build, not just with the athletes but their families, as well,” Wendt said. “I look at these kids as my brothers and sisters most of the time; I spend more time with them than with my family and they spend more time with me than with their family. Building those relationships and friendships is super important in athletic training.”
Wendt added that trust comes with those relationships, too.
She and Wortman are no exception to that.
Wendt noted that Wortman came to her as a freshman with a couple of injuries and with that, over time, came the trust that Wendt would handle the injuries correctly and get her healthy.
Wortman described those injuries and what she learned from Wendt during her recovery.
“I came to her with wrist pain my freshman year from tumbling. She showed me exercises, strengthening and stretching to help relieve that pain and that helped me enjoy my sport again, which was awesome,” Wortman said. “It felt really good not to have to worry about pain or anything and I knew from there that I could do (athletic training).”
The four weeks that Wortman spent with Wendt only furthered that assurance.
What that time also told Wortman, though, was she has to be ready for anything to happen and be prepared for the worst.
“These past four weeks, I can tell my senses are a lot more alert from watching games,” Wortman said. “You have to be prepared and you just have to know and have a plan. These past few weeks have shown me how demanding the job is. Your hours will be weird and wacky, but any healthcare job will have weird and wacky hours, so when I wanted to go into healthcare, I knew that it would be demanding, but I knew I was prepared and ready for it because it’s my passion.”
Wortman’s passion for the industry will continue when she attends Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in the fall. She said she is majoring in exercise science there.
Once Wortman completes her bachelor’s degree, she then hopes to transfer to the University of Indiana Bloomington, where she is aiming to work with their athletic training program.
Being that far away from home and the travel itself doesn’t bother Wortman, though.
Instead, she welcomes it.
“I know you always have to start somewhere. I love to travel and wouldn’t mind traveling with the team; that’s my goal,” she said.
Wendt hopes to be that guiding light for Wortman as that journey continues, too, just as VanBlaricum was to her.
“Troy was wonderful for me. He was a lot of help, not just through my schooling, but when I started my job here at T-Town, he helped me tremendously and still does,” Wendt said. “I still have questions about things that I haven’t dealt with and he has, so I hope I can be that for Abigail. We’ve started very well and I hope she’s enjoyed her time here with me and that I can continue to work with her and help her with whatever she needs with school and as she starts her career.
“It was always great to have a helping hand and I hope to be that for her, too.”
Wortman couldn’t describe Wendt any better, either.
“I’m so glad she’s my mentor,” Wortman said.
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