Jennifer Raybern gets paid to watch sports all day, she joked.
While there’s truth behind that statement, there’s much more to Raybern’s profession, and she proved to have the skills and experience to be a leader among athletic trainers in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Raybern, heading into her 20th year as Ottawa University’s head athletic trainer, was recently named the KCAC Athletic Trainer of the Year. She will be recognized Aug. 8 at the Sports Management Conference at York College in York, Nebraska, according to a news release.
“It’s nice to have your peers vote for you, and to be selected that way,” Raybern said. “I think what has helped me a lot is just being a person, since I am one of the [longest tenured] in the KCAC, that a lot of the new and young people look to help explain things, and how we take charge of helping our administration to increase staff size and budget.”
Raybern is responsible for the prevention, care and rehabilitation of injuries for OU’s now 25 varsity athletic programs. She coordinates the sports medicine staff and supervises student athletic trainers in caring for the sports medicine needs of Braves’ athletics. Raybern works closely with the men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s Bbasketball, men’s and women’s wrestling and softball teams, the release said.
Because of her leadership among athletic trainers in the conference, Raybern’s responsibilities reach farther than the OU campus. Raenn Bromert, University of Saint Mary head athletic trainer, said Raybern is, “the voice of reason among the KCAC athletic trainers.”
“Jen has taken over as the KCAC Athletic Training president and brought different insights than the leadership that was in place before,” Bromert said in the release. “Other athletic trainers in the conference look to her for guidance and reflections. Jen has committed herself to being the best she can within the profession and within her institution.”
When she first started at Ottawa University, Raybern said she was the Braves’ first full-time athletic trainer at a time when many KCAC schools only had one person, or were just getting their first person.
“It was a stressful thing for me because I had come from big schools, so I was used to having a large staff,” Raybern said. “To think of trying to maintain that level of care that I learned as a student with a staff of one was pretty crazy, but within two years we expanded to two athletic trainers. This upcoming year we have three full-time, and three certified graduate assistants, so we’ll have six people who are certified athletic trainers.
“That is huge, and that goes right alongside with having a supportive administrations. Every time Arabie [Conner, OU athletic director] calls me in the office and says, ‘Hey we’re looking at adding these sports,’ I say, ‘Ok, this is how it is going to affect budget, and this is how it is going to affect staffing.’ She’s been really good at listening to that.”
Conner had kind words for Raybern as well, noting her ability to provide high-level health care to all of the university’s athletic programs since the number of teams has expanded from 14 to 25 over the years.
“She is a lifelong learner, never settling on past knowledge or ways of doing things,” Conner said in the release. “Jen is passionate about what she does with unwavering dedication and ensures that our athletes are receiving the very latest in care methods and techniques as she stays professionally engaged in seeking out the newest practices. Additionally, Jen is highly regarded and respected by her peers and the many professionals she interacts with daily including coaches, administrators and those in the medical field. At OU, we know our athletes are being taken care of by a top-notch sports medicine team reflective of Jen’s vast knowledge and commitment to the field.”
Raybern graduated from the University of Kansas in 1996 with a bachelor of science in exercise science with athletic training emphasis. She worked for two years as a student trainer at KU working primarily with the Jayhawk softball, football, women’s tennis and swimming and diving teams. While getting her master’s degree in kinesiology and sports sychology at KU, she served as a graduate assistant athletic trainer at Baker University, the release said.
In addition to being a certified and licensed athletic trainer, she is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and performance enhancement specialist. She works with individuals and teams on performance enhancement programs. Raybern is trained and certified in active release technique, Graston technique and Kinesio taping.
“I like to think of that we aren’t treating our athletes like they’re small college, we are trying to treat them as close to what DI colleges get as possible, obviously with limitations and restrictions, but that is kind of my goal to give them the best care we can regardless of budget or staff size,” Raybern said.