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Joanie Tennant
November 1, 2022

Whether on the court or in the classroom, students in the sports medicine pathway at Irvine Valley College are scoring when it comes to gaining skills. With a supportive team of faculty, and ample amounts of hands-on learning, these Lasers are gearing up for success at IVC and beyond.

The fundamental principles in sports medicine begin in IVC’s School of Kinesiology, Health and Athletics (KHA). The curriculum’s roster includes topics such as an introduction to athletic training, movement anatomy, exercise physiology, and principles of strength and conditioning. The pathway also requires one to three semesters of a sports medicine internship.

“The opportunity to apply the practical knowledge gained in lecture and practicums to student-athletes preparing for practice — as well as the fullest game day experience while under the watchful eye of our ATC (certified athletic trainers) and faculty members — allows students to truly ‘test drive’ the career early in their higher ed studies,” explains Dean and Athletic Director at IVC, Keith Shackleford.

And sports medicine students stay winning. Shackleford says alumni continuously move into high-powered positions in programs across the country. Some students go on to work in roles for the National Football League, National Hockey League, and college athletic programs as athletic trainers, doctors, and other allied health professionals. 

“IVC’s School of KHA has offered an introductory experience for Allied Health students for almost 25 years,” explains Shackleford. “The program is a benchmark for others at the community college level. To the point that IVC is among the rarest to offer a dual enrollment experience at Beckman High School in Irvine.”

This golden opportunity offers high school students a valuable head start within the field. The intro course in Kinesiology 85 covers the basics, while Kinesiology 215 introduces students to real-world internship opportunities. This hands-on experience allows high school students to get on the field with trainers and watch as they respond and prevent athletic injuries.

“Students are exposed to the fundamental aspects of day-to-day activities as they explore the broadest array of career choices,” says Shackleford.

According to ONET Online, the job growth for athletic trainers in California is projected to jump up to 25 percent between 2018 and 2028. IVC’s program opens a world of opportunity for students, where they can move forward into flourishing careers as sports medicine physicians, exercise physiologists, physical therapists, and more.

Two of IVC’s athletic trainers are products of the program. Devin Adams and Joanie Tennant both attended IVC as student athletes before completing the athletic training pathway at the college. “Some of the staff have known me since I was 17,” beams Laser-alum, Joanie Tennant. “And I’m 43 now!”

As a basketball player, Tennant says she spent countless hours with IVC’s recently retired athletic trainer, Janet Olsen. By watching her techniques, Tennant began learning the ins and outs of basic remedies, building a foundation of knowledge for her career down the road. 

“I got hurt a lot as an athlete, so I was in the training room all the time,” explains Tennant. “One time, [Olsen] asked me if I could tape a turf toe for her, and I taped it … I asked her to come to check and make sure it’s right and she looked and said it was perfect. 

“When she asked me when she taught me to tape a turf toe, I said ‘You didn’t! I just watched’ … That’s when [Olsen] was like, ‘Ok, this is your major now.’” 

After graduating from Irvine Valley College, Tennant sent an application to Cal State Fullerton’s athletic training program in 2000. When she didn’t get in, she earned a degree in child development before returning to IVC’s athletic training pathway. The Laser-focused student says Olsen’s guidance was paramount as she made her way through the program.

“If we needed to talk to an athlete, [Olsen] would stand there and help us deliver news,” explains Tennant. “The foundation in the future to be able to communicate and explain what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it, and develop those relationships … that has been huge.”

Tennant says the comradery at Irvine Valley College has been something special from the start. And the feeling is mutual among the rest of IVC’s staff. This year, Irvine Valley College was recognized as one of the nation's best colleges to work for in 2022.

“What we have at IVC is very different than other places, especially in our athletic department,” explains Tennant. “The culture is different than a lot of places. Everybody cares about everybody.”

Ready to get your head in the game? You can learn more about IVC’s sports medicine pathway and the School of Kinesiology, Health and Athletics on their program page