Ripley High School athletic director and trainer works with student assistants
RIPLEY — It’s a Friday morning for Steve Lough at Ripley High School. His watch says 7:15 a.m. By the time he leaves, it’s anywhere from 16 to 18 hours later.
It’s game night; Ripley hosts Riverside this night. As athletic director, Lough sees to it the athletic facilities are ready for the Warriors. He wears the AD cap from 3 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. That’s when the Ripley football team makes its way into his office to begin taping for the game. AD cap off, trainer cap on.
The letters following Lough’s last name are more letters than his last name. Officially, he is Steve Lough, MS, ATC/R, AR. That indicates a master’s degree in athletic training, athletic trainer certified and registered and athletic director.
Lough arrived in Ripley in 1997. He has served as the athletic trainer since and has been in the profession since 1994.
Around the room are plaques designating him as West Virginia Athletic Trainer of the Year for 2012 and 2015. The Mountain State Athletic Conference Athletic Director of the Year for 2015 and Jackson County Teacher of the Year for 2016. There is an article from Training and Conditioning Magazine featuring a story where Lough and staff had car washes and used the money to purchase athletic training equipment for Herbert Hoover, Richwood and Clay County high schools.
Three schools which lost literally everything in the 2016 flooding.
Ripley has also received the National Athletic Trainers Association Safer Sports School Award, which is valid from 2017-2020. The school also had the award for 2014-2017. That banner hangs on a set of cabinets.
Lough’s athletic director’s office is unlike most. His office is also the training room. Students in his athletic training classes took the assignment of turning his office into a training room. The football locker room had been previously used for the players. There are two taping tables and three training tables in the room, along with supplies.
“They did quite a nice job with it actually,” he said. “It’s very functional.”
The students had incentive as well.
“The locker room smelled, well, like a locker room. It didn’t have air conditioning either. My office,” he started to laugh, “it’s clean, doesn’t smell like a locker room and has air conditioning.”
There are 28 students in the athletic training I class he teaches. Juniors get classes I and II while III is for seniors only. In his white, bright and clean training room sits Lexi Price, a junior at the University of Charleston who is spending a semester working with the Ripley athletes.
She is from Ravenswood. She assists Lough in the pregame wrap jobs.
There are five high school assistants on hand, four females and one male who are assigned by Price to different duties throughout the game. They’re not hard to spot. They wear shirts which say “I like to run with scissors. It make me feel dangerous.” They really don’t run with scissors. They don’t carry scissors. Only Lough and Price carry scissors.
The students are: Kristen Yost, Anna Kimble, Kiersten Templin, Jami Crawford and Griffin Durst.
The assistants receive polos, sweat shirts and t-shirts to wear on the sidelines. Not so much for them to be well dressed “but it makes them stand out to the coaches and easily identifiable,” Lough said. “Before the game, we all meet with the other team’s medical staff so they can recognize what we’re wearing that night.
“From 5:15 p.m. until after the game, I’m the trainer,” Lough said. “After I check on the injuries and getting things cleaned up, then I become the athletic director again. I have to make sure the soccer goals are in place and ready for Saturday when the football field becomes the soccer field.”
Riverside arrives shortly before 5 p.m. and the Warriors begin taping. A Riverside assistant coach walks to the office to inform Lough of a problem in the locker room. Trainer hat off; AD hat on. Lough takes care of the problem. Riverside coaches are happy and Lough comes back to his office. AD hat off and trainer hat on.
He waits for the Ripley players. A time schedule for Ripley players and pregame activities is written on the board so all know. His assistants check supplies. The players begin to trickle in. Most are needing ankles wrapped. Some are talking, some bouncing their heads to the tunes playing in their ears.
“We’ll tape about 700 ankles over the course of the school year in all sports,” Lough says. “We’ll go through 20-25 cases of tape a year, 32 rolls per case.”
That’s somewhere between 5.45 to 6.81 miles of athletic tape. That’s a lot of taping and tearing. Lough said Ripley supports 19 teams in 12 sports. The tape is blue and white in Ripley colors.
Two Ripley players enter the room with casts. Cast wrap is not on the supply list for Lough. Stadium seats are plentiful. Lough pulls a pair of scissors from the back of his pants. In a matter of seconds, he pulls the seat’s foam interior out of the casing. Now he has cast wrap.
“Part of the job is adapting to what is available to you,” he said as he wraps the player’s cast in the foam. Some white tape holds the wrap in place and blue tape goes over that. The player is good to go.
The night’s officials are informed of the players with the casts; so is Riverside. They will meet with local EMS workers and Riverside’s medical team. The players’ cast wraps are approved.
The staff gathers water bottles and other supplies and begin their walk to Memorial Stadium, otherwise known as “Death Valley.” Their main function during pre-game is to hydrate players. It’s a warm night in Death Valley. Muscle cramps are preventable with lots of water. The shout of “water” during a timeout will have staff scrambling to provide water bottles for the players. Right now, they are scanning warmups for players gesturing for a drink.
Lough walks towards the field as well. He walks past the band boosters concession stand, where the smell of the hamburgers would make a lot of people stop, across the running track and takes a look at the Riverside bleachers. The Warriors have a 1-1 record coming to Ripley. The Riverside bleachers are nearly full. Lough, the AD, smiles a bit as he sees it will be almost a full house by kickoff. The smile fades as he resumes the role of athletic trainer.
“I love working with kids,” he says. “The health of the kids are important. It’s vital they receive proper care with concussions and injuries coming under the microscope. The student assistants are trained with backboards and they are part of the emergency action plan.
“They work hard. They’ll put in 240-250 hours from August to the end of football season,” he added.
The training program is in its eighth year. Lough states four graduates have gone on to athletic training careers.
It’s 7:30 p.m.; game time. It’s time to listen to the pads pop and helmets collide. Time to make sure everyone stands up after every play.
The night has its usual bumps and bruises although one first half Ripley injury sends Lough and Price to the middle of the field. The player is taken from the field on a stretcher and leaves in an ambulance with a leg injury. Lough is not happy with the expected outcome and declines to talk about the injury.
Riverside would hang Ripley’s first loss on the Vikings. It was a 33-28 decision in which Ripley closed late on a halfback option 52-yard scoring pass from J.T. Kemp to Brayden Campbell with 3:36 to play.
Ripley rode to St. Albans Friday, Lough and crew made the journey.
“I go everywhere the football team does,” Lough says. “I’m the trainer. That overrides the AD job if something is left to do here for Saturday. There are times you delegate.”
“It takes a lot people to make this program work right,” Lough said. “A lot of people giving a lot of hours. We’re making it work and it keeps the kids safe. That’s what this is all about.”