The University of Florida is well known for its elite athletic programs as the college hosts 21 Division I sports teams. However, with sports comes injury, trials and tribulations and that's where students like Jacquelyn Pacheco earn their time on the field, court and mat.
The students who don't parade their last name on their back come into view. The students who don't display a number on the back of a Florida Gators' uniform. The team behind the teams.
Pacheco is a student athletic training intern at Florida. The position is a unique one, because while 90,000 fans are screaming at the top of their lungs in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, she's there to work.
So, just what does she do and what is it like in The Swamp?
Life as an Athletic Training Intern at Florida
The day-to-day life of a student athletic trainer includes individual treatments, attending practices and workouts, and helping the trainers in any way possible, Pacheco said. This consisted of cleaning, inventory, paperwork and errands.
"In the fall, I would work home football games," she said. "I did go to one away game which was against Georgia in Jacksonville which was an amazing opportunity to travel to a different stadium and assist our team."
As a student athletic trainer, she works day in and day out with the student-athletes. According to the Sports Health Performance Department, the position is a full-time one requiring interns to work approximately 40 hours a week.
"I constantly ask them questions about their health, do treatment plans with them and observe them during practices and workouts," she said.
Pacheco said the student athletic trainers are thrown into the mix in order to learn firsthand.
"They never make you do anything that they aren't certain you're capable of doing or something that would injure the athlete," she said. "They're always there to supervise you and make sure you are doing it correctly, so when you get to the point where you no longer need supervision for a treatment plan, it's a really big accomplishment."
Pacheco found the position through an announcement posted by the College of Health and Human Performance. The 22-year-old sports management senior said the position was looking for interns in the Sports Health Performance Department for football in the fall of 2021. She works directly for the University Athletic Association.
According to the UAA Sports Health Performance Department, the internship spans all academic semesters including the summer terms. The internship gives students the opportunity to work hands on alongside certified athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches and sports dietitians. The association states it accepts students from numerous academic programs and Santa Fe College.
To apply, students submit a completed application, a resume and a list of three references.
She said the process is full circle because it shows the growth the interns had since the beginning of the internship when they knew little to none about the field.
During football games, Pacheco and her coworkers could be found assisting the trainers and providing the players and referees with ample hydration.
"We even had an opportunity to run on the field during breaks to make sure our referees and other on-field staff were hydrated as well," she said.
Interns are easily recognized on the sideline and field wearing blue polos and khakis.
Pacheco said the experience taught her how to think on her feet.
"You have to be able to not get overwhelmed when multitasking, which was something I found very difficult when I first started out," she said. "It's a very fast [paced] industry and you have to adjust and be flexible."
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Though thankfully, Pacheco and her coworkers follow the athletic trainer's lead — the trick is to not get caught in the crossfire.
"You're there to assist them, not hinder the process of them trying to do their job," she said. "You let them assess the injury and follow the instructions they give you quickly and efficiently."
But Pacheco's supervisor would describe her as "energetic and eager," she said.
"I'm always excited to do or learn something new and to be a part of the amazing sports program that we have at the University of Florida," Pacheco said.
The position fits the 22-year-old as the UAA Sports Health and Performance Team looked for interns who have a positive attitude, great work ethic and the ability to collaborate.
Pacheco's "energetic and eager" nature landed her a position with the trainers at Lemerand Athletic Center, Florida's multi-million dollar athletic facility, as a student athletic trainer for UF's volleyball and spirit squads (cheerleaders, dazzlers, Albert and Alberta).
What She Loves Most About Her Position
Last one best one! We are ready for the #GasparillaBowl ! Thanks to our great team of students for working hard this season for the @GatorsFB team. #GoGators pic.twitter.com/LPljhzyxnn
— GatorsSportsHealth (@UFSportsHealth) December 23, 2021
Seeing all the hard work put into action is Pacheco's favorite part.
"What I love about my job is the opportunity to see the hard work that goes behind our team before they hit the field on Saturday (for football) and on the court (for volleyball)."
She credited the entire staff's all-out effort, stressing the behind-the-scenes doesn't go unnoticed.
"We have so many talented and dedicated staff members at UF and to be able to see them work behind the scenes is a really amazing opportunity," Pacheco said. "A lot of people just see the performance on game day, but I get to see the day-to-day hard work that's put in from the players, coaches and other staff members."
This isn't the senior's first rodeo, though. Pacheco broke the athletic training ice in high school, where she assisted her high school football team.
As a UF student, the senior said she still enjoys sports outside of work. Before she acquired positions with the UAA and the Lemerand Athletic Center, Pacheco served as a marketing intern and was able to attend all sporting events as a student.
"I love to go to baseball games, gymnastics meets and volleyball matches," she said. "When I'm not working on the field I will be in the stands of the football games cheering the players on."
The student athletic trainer is an athlete herself. Pacheco is a member of the UF Club Cheerleading team. The squad competes in the National Cheerleading Associations Intermediate D1A and Spirit Rally divisions.
The senior isn't sold on a career path, but she knows her current positions continue to guide her in the right direction.
"I definitely know that I do want to work in sports," she said. "I've known that since I was in high school but what exactly I want to do is still uncertain."
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