By Nate Thompson

MONTAGUE–As an athlete at Mona Shores High School, Jess DeBruin joked she was always in the training room, dealing with some kind of injury.

Playing basketball, soccer and golf for the Sailors, she saw first hand the benefit an athletic trainer can have on a student-athlete’s recovery or future performance. So DeBruin decided to stick with the profession herself.

After graduating from Mona Shores in 2008, DeBruin continued her athletic career on the basketball court at Muskegon Community College, and later at Alma College, where she earned her undergraduate degree in Athletic Training.  

Now a licensed athletic trainer with Trinity Health in Muskegon, DeBruin has been contracted full-time as Montague High School’s athletic trainer for the past two years. It’s a job she calls “extremely rewarding,” knowing she plays a key role in helping athletes bounce back from minor or serious injuries, as well as assisting in injury prevention. Right now, she can list a few Wildcats who are in the process of coming back from torn ACLs or injuries such as a forearm fracture.  

“It’s really rewarding having that responsibility of taking care of athletes on a long road of recovery,” she said. “It’s not only physical, but mental, too. Seeing a kid who just had their season ended with a knee injury or some other serious injury like that, they sometimes need a shoulder to cry on.”

That rebuilding process and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is her favorite part of the job, DeBruin said.

“You’re definitely building a lot of relationships with athletes, because many times, you’re working with them every day,” she said.

Montague Athletic Trainer Jes DeBruin at work during a recent soccer game (Photo/Leo Valdez)

DeBruin said high school athletic trainers often start their days around 1 p.m. at the schools, where she’ll tape ankles or complete other tasks to get an athlete ready for practice or games. Flexibility is a key asset, she said, because during busy days like a jam-packed spring schedule, she’ll venture between baseball and softball diamonds and the track on school grounds at Montague, or get a call that she’s needed a mile up the road at the soccer complex. There’s some evenings when her job isn’t done until 9 p.m.  

“It’s not really stressful, but the most challenging part is never knowing what’s coming,” she said. “It’s a lot of wait and react.”

DeBruin, 32, who also has coached basketball at Farwell High School and as a volunteer assistant at Muskegon Community, said she feels like a part of a team as a trainer.

“Each team brings their own personality,” she said. “They’re definitely comfortable talking to us and communication is key to really diagnose what’s wrong.”

While athletic trainers from Trinity Healthy like DeBruin and Fruitport’s Pam Simot get somewhat of a break during the off-season in the summer months, there’s only a period of about three weeks before trainers start to assist in school’s sports camps or off-season training sessions. And the sports seasons get back in full swing again in late August.

“I’m lucky to be at a place like Montague,” she said. “The community has been great.”

Montague Athletic Trainer Jess DeBruin (Photo/Leo Valdez)