As a coach, Amsterdam’s John Homich knows strange things can happen when it seems like victory is assured.
The varsity football head coach, however, knows that Amsterdam athletic trainer Carla Pasquarelli certainly deserved the award she recently received. Athlete Intelligence, which performs head-impact monitoring and performance tracking solutions, named Pasquarelli the 2022 Athletic Trainer Appreciation Award winner.
“It was a no-brainer to nominate her,” Homich said. “I did the writeup, and we knew she was more than worthy of winning.”
“We never thought we’d win, but it is nice,” Pasquarelli said.
Pasquarelli was a two-sport athlete at Amsterdam, and knew she wanted to return to the area after college to work as a trainer for the district. She started there, per diem on a contract with St. Mary’s Healthcare in 2009. The following year it became the school she had a contract with through St. Mary’s, and just in June, the school district named her a full-time athletic trainer.
“My heart has always been here, always with this community,” Pasquarelli said. “I’ve had other opportunities, [but] this just feels like home. They’re very supportive of each other.”
Perhaps no one more so than Pasquarelli. Whether it’s before, during or after practices and games, anyone will notice her talking to student-athletes. And she talks with them, not to them.
“Every single athletic program, she builds a relationship with every single student-athlete. She goes above and beyond her job description. She’s basically on-call 24/7,” Homich said.
“It’s definitely an extension of my personality,” Pasquarelli said of her natural rapport with the students. “I’ve had parents say to me that I can talk to any athlete of any age. I feel they respond more when they trust you.
“It’s a very reciprocal relationship I have with them, and being able to talk with them helps,” she added. “Every now and then I throw in one of their words.”
There are about 900 athletes between the middle and high school levels, so Pasquarelli has never been bored at work. But what motivates her is knowing each child is different and finding a way to communicate with each one.
“And sometimes I’m talking to them even after they graduate,” Pasquarelli said. “A few of them might call or text me, ‘Hey, what should I do about such-and-such an injury?’ ”
Pasquarelli said that her profession is always evolving, noting that as part of her continuing education, she has learned about such things as cupping, instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization, compression bands and the advancements in concussion-related injuries.
What no one could have predicted was how much mental health spilled over into athletic training due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of the Amsterdam coaches will attest to how invaluable Pasquarelli has been.
“The kids feel comfortable talking to me about losing a family member or what’s going on in their home,” she said. “They feel it’s a safe space. Sometimes we’ll talk 15 to 30 minutes. A lot of times I’m a listener. Clearly, the mental health side of it has made our relationship even closer.”