This fall Chapin Wehde joined Illinois Tech as head athletic trainer, a role she has prepared for since she first discovered athletic training was a “perfect fit” as a high school student who sustained some significant injuries from playing soccer. As head AT, Wehde is part of a select group. In the most recent (2014) national longitudinal study that tracked women's participation in intercollegiate sports, only 32.4 percent of women held head AT positions across all three divisions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Read an Online Exclusive Q&A with Wehde at magazine.iit.edu, where she shares information about mentorship, career challenges, and the personal attributes that make for a strong sports leader.
- Orthopedic surgery and sports medicine athletic trainer resident at Hinsdale Orthopedic Associates, assisting in various surgical procedures pertaining to athletic injuries, while also carrying out clinical care and presenting at sports medicine conferences
- Director of sports medicine and head AT for Millsaps College, where she developed emergency action plans, a concussion management policy, hydration recommendations, and team physician contracts; also, transitioned Millsaps to an electronic medical records system
- Assistant AT for Benedictine University, Aurora University, and Lincoln-Way North High School; athletic training intern for the Chicago Bandits professional fastpitch softball team
- M.S. in rehabilitative sciences, California University of Pennsylvania; B.S. in athletic training (minor in physiology), Aurora University
Where did you grow up and are any members of your family involved professionally in sports or health care?
I grew up in Illinois in a small town called Ingleside, a little lake town in northern Illinois. I also grew up with two brothers. My younger brother followed me in the health care industry and graduated from pharmacy school this past June.
Did you play sports in either grade school, high school, or college?
I did play sports growing up. My best friend in grade school actually took me to a soccer practice with her were we were about 6 years old. From that point forward I played soccer through college. I tried several other sports growing up as well, including volleyball, basketball, and running. Sports have always been a big part of my life and taught me determination and discipline.
It seems that you were on a direct path to your current position from your time as an undergraduate at Aurora University. Who or what inspired you to pursue athletic training?
I was very much on a direct path into athletic training when I started at Aurora University for my undergraduate degree. I chose Aurora University based on a few things, but the most important points for me were its strong nationally accredited athletic training program and the opportunity to play collegiate soccer.
I decided while in high school that I wanted to pursue a career in the medical field, but was not sure I could afford the time and financial investments of medical school. After personally sustaining a few significant sports injuries I was exposed to athletic training and thought it was a perfect blend of medicine and sports. Athletic training seemed like a perfect fit—I could combine it with sports, which was an important part of my life, and with medicine.
Did you have a mentor along the way?
I have had many mentors along the way. I believe surrounding myself with strong mentors has helped me become successful. Most significant in my professional development were two athletic trainers I had the privilege of working with as a student and as a professional, Nicki Pieart and Jen Robbins. Both of these individuals have been a constant positive influence in my life, professionally and personally.
Nicki made me recognize the importance of constantly improving my knowledge base all around and particularly in athletic training and collegiate athletics. She possesses a strength, intelligence, and competitiveness for athletic training and professionalism that I have always admired. She is often the person I rely on for professional questions and guidance. Jen has also been a strong influence in my life. Her strengths are in her ability to never give up on a task and her knowledge of the business side of any profession. She has always provided me direction in personal and professional planning and decision making.
What personal attributes do you see yourself as possessing that have helped you to attain your leadership roles? Has it been difficult for you to achieve work-life balance?
I carry a lot of determination, intelligence, compassion, and competitiveness that have helped me advance in many aspects of my life and career. I work hard for my success and learn from my failures, much like the athletes I work with every day. I have always put myself into leadership roles through athletics, academics, and now, in my career. I appreciate the end result of reaching goals as an individual and as a team. I think this is why I have always strived to lead.
I will admit at times I do struggle to balance work and life, but I love what I do. I work with athletes that have a like-minded drive to succeed and I get to be around sports all of the time. Many days it does not feel like work. I do prioritize time with friends, family, and travel. I think spending time enjoying the people I care about and the activities I enjoy is an important balance. Working hard is necessary but appreciating life is also a top priority.
Have you faced a challenge or two along your career path?
I have faced many challenges along the way. I think one of the most significant is a challenge many athletic trainers face: having to deliver unwelcome news regarding an athlete’s playing status. Some coaches take that news as an obstacle they need to adapt to and some have a difficult time processing that the star athlete may not be able to play in the next game. In these situations, as the person responsible for the student-athlete’s health and well-being, it is my job to stand up for the athlete and make a difficult decision to protect their safety.
Have you encountered much gender stereotyping as you've advanced?
I think we all experience stereotyping in one way or another. I believe that I have been lucky enough that there have been a lot of very successful and admirable women that have preceded me and laid a foundation to minimize gender stereotyping. I realize I work in a field that had previously been male dominant and still is in some areas; however, I feel my co-workers and students have respected me as a colleague who has worked hard for my achievements.
Is there a predominant injury you've treated at the Division III level or do you encounter a variety of injuries?
I have worked with many different sports and athletes. I have seen a wide array of injuries in my career from fractures to ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] and other ligament tears to heat illnesses, nagging tendonitis, and stress reactions. My education and experience has equipped me to handle a large variety of injuries and health related issues. I cannot say that one particular thing has been especially predominant or that any particular condition is isolated to Division III athletics.
Now that you're working in Chicago, have you declared a favorite sports team?
I grew up about 45 minutes outside of Chicago. I’ve always been a Bears fan!