PETALUMA - As the words came out of his mouth on the 25th of June, as the decision was announced, Steve Bolman, superintendent of Petaluma City Schools, didn't need to wonder about the public's reaction.
The kids and the parents at the school board's office on Douglas Street rose to their feet to give Bolman and the five-member school board a standing ovation.
"Steve told me that never happened before," Petaluma parent Ann Reed said of the school board receiving a standing ovation. "It was a huge victory for the kids."
It was a huge victory for common sense. No longer would coaches at Petaluma's two high schools have to guess if one of their athletes had received a concussion either in practice or a game. No longer would coaches be subject to a conflict of interest, feeling the pressure to keep a kid in the game. No longer would the word "concussion" feel like some abstract phraseology applicable only to NFL players.
On June 25, the school board approved a certified athletic trainer at both Casa Grande and Petaluma. Each trainer would be paid, Bolman said, a $15,000 stipend to attend varsity practices and games during the school year. The trainers primarily would be supplied from the master's in kinesiology program at Sonoma State. And their participation would include the monitoring and treatment of all types of athletic injuries, not just concussions.
While there had been a move afoot for more than a year in Petaluma to make paid certified athletic trainers at the two high schools a reality, a presentation to the school board May 28 made it quite obvious to the school board that the issue needed to be dealt now, not later.
Four members of the city's athletic community rose to speak.
First was Heather Campbell, a non-paid athletic trainer at Casa. A teacher in athletic training for the past 20 years at the school, Campbell has been volunteering her services for the football team and other sports. Campbell opened mouths when she said 75 percent of the football injuries she treats occur during practice.
Next was Rick Krist, the head football coach at Petaluma. Among other things, Krist said valuable time was being taken away from him by his performing injury prevention — for example, taping ankles.
The third speaker was Trent Herzog, Casa's head football coach. Herzog testified there were fewer injuries and a quicker response and diagnosis with Campbell on the sidelines. He no longer had to be faced with deciding whether a player should be removed permanently from a game.
The fourth speaker was Reed, the Petaluma mom who informed the school board of the SSU program run by kinesiology department chair Dr. Steven Winter. Graduate students, already certified trainers, could advance their careers while being paid a modest stipend.
"We hit (the school board) with facts, not emotion," Reed said.
An emotional component, however, exists, one that every parent faces when a child plays sports. To keep a child safe is a mantra every parent repeats from the day of birth, increasing as the risks increase as the child gets older.
"Joey has a lot to do with me being so involved in this issue," said Reed, co-owner with her husband of a Petaluma recreational vehicle sales company and at the forefront of the push for the hiring of two athletic trainers.