(Feature Photo): Ludington Athletic Trainer Jenn Mroz tapes an athlete’s ankle (Photo/Kim Mesyar)
By Ben Buursma
LUDINGTON–For many, a passion for sports and a desire to help others is what draws them to the athletic training profession. That certainly was the case for Jenn Mroz, who now serves in that capacity through Corewell Health at Ludington High School.
An athlete in high school herself, Mroz remembers that not many schools in her area had an athletic trainer. So when she injured her knee in a summer softball tournament, and there was someone there to tend to her right away, it was like a light bulb came on.
“I was like, ‘is this something I can actually do?’” Mroz said of her interaction with the trainer. “I can work in sports, with athletic teams, help people, and still be involved in that competitive environment I was used to… I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Now the 27-year veteran of the trade has experience at every amateur level of athletics. Mroz, a Pennsylvania native, picked Lock Haven University (Penn.) based on its stellar reputation for athletic training and was able to assist with local college and high school programs while obtaining her undergraduate degree. From there, Mroz attended Michigan State University and earned a Master’s.
“There was still not a great market for athletic trainers in high schools when I graduated, so I went for the Master’s right away,” Mroz said. “It was a way to make myself more marketable, and it would allow me to teach in a college setting if I ever got that opportunity.”
At MSU as a Graduate Assistant, she was assigned to East Lansing High School. From there, it was back to Pennsylvania for Mroz, as she was an athletic trainer for the University of Scranton (DIII) for 4 years before moving on to Western Carolina (DI) for 3 years.
The long hours and constant travel in the college game led Mroz to move to high school athletics and she hasn’t looked back. After 10 years at Tuscola High School in North Carolina, Mroz was vacationing in Michigan and venturing up the western coast on a lighthouse tour when she fell in love with Ludington.
“When I got back to North Carolina from that trip, I started looking at job postings in Michigan,” Mroz said. “I hadn’t been back in 20 years, but when I saw there was an opening in Ludington, it had to be fate.”
The Ludington opportunity proved to be a great fit. Mroz is in her seventh year at the school now.
“I felt really welcomed into the school community here,” Mroz said. “To be able to start a program from scratch has been fun and a great challenge. I love the variety in this work. Of course, the schedule changes all the time with the different seasons and sports and the hours can be crazy, but there’s a much better balance in high school versus college.”
Spending all those hours on the sidelines has its perks, too. At Scranton, she got to go to a Division III Women’s basketball final four. At Western Carolina, she was able to meet legendary coach and women’s basketball icon Pat Summit. But there are some more local experiences that mean just as much.
“I’ve been to The Breslin three times,” Mroz said, citing two MHSAA Final Four trips for boys basketball and one for girls. “Those are fantastic experiences. Of course, when we won on a buzzer-beater over River Rouge in 2017, that was probably the most memorable experience ever.”
Championships on the line or not, Mroz loves what she does.
“I love working with athletes, I guess because I’ve always been competitive myself,” Mroz said. “I can understand that drive and I do my best to keep them playing. It’s great to be able to feel like I have a hand in getting them back in the game.”
Here you go! The ankle taping photo credit goes to Kim Mesyar. The one on the football sidelines, credit goes to Mr. Rasmussen.