The Athletic Training Program has been a cornerstone for Athletico Physical Therapy since Mark Kaufman founded the company 22 years ago. Affiliations now include all of the major professional teams in Chicago, as well as thirteen colleges, seventy nine high schools, the US Soccer Federation and multiple elite affiliates. The most senior of Athletico’s 200+ athletic trainers (ATs) is Tony Garofalo, ATC, who has 43 years of experience including his service as the Chicago Cubs Head Athletic Trainer from 1977 though 1986. During his illustrious career Tony has worked in the high school, college, professional, elite, and clinical settings and is a member of the Illinois Athletic Trainers Association (IATA), St. Benedict University, and St. Louis University Halls of Fame. He is also a founding partner of the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS). We caught up with Tony and asked him about the highlights of his career.
How did you get your start in athletic training?
I started as a high school athletic trainer in St. Louis and then went on to graduate from Benedictine University in Atchison, Kansas. I began my professional career working as an AT with the St. Louis Stars soccer organization in the NASL and was then hired as a minor league AT for the St. Louis Cardinals. Bob Kennedy, the former GM of the Cubs, hired me to be the Head Athletic Trainer for the Cubs in 1977, at a time when being one of the 24 Major League Baseball (MLB) ATs was the pinnacle position for the profession. I also worked with the legendary AT Bob Bauman at St. Louis University in the off season.
How has the AT profession evolved over your career?
Athletic Training is much more professional and science based. Our numbers and diversity have grown tremendously, including certification of women, which now make up the majority of our National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) membership. In helping to create PBATs, Major League Baseball (MLB) recognizes this group as a important partner that provides an invaluable service to its players, and we have a seat at the table for all medical related issues.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction in performing your job as an AT?
I am not in the profession to gain recognition beyond the appreciation of my athletes, coaches and organizations although it does come to surface from time to time. Bruce Sutter, former MLB pitcher, gave me the highest praise when he was inducted into the Baseball’s Hall of Fame and credited me with prolonging his career. I appreciate the many expressions of gratitude for my assistance and care from the former players, coaches, teams and physicians I have been associated with over the years. It is always very humbling, and I am most thankful for their acknowledgement.
What are your current responsibilities with Athletico?
I am a Regional Athletic Training Coordinator and oversee a region with 22 ATs and 17 affiliate high schools and colleges. I work with our ATs, our AT management, and the school’s athletic directors and coaches to provide services to their athletes. I cover multiple events, work with scheduling patients who contact Athletico through our Injury Hotline, and assist with the Overhead Athlete Video Throwing Analysis program.
Any closing comments?
I have been very satisfied with my AT career and the opportunities that I have been given. I am indebted to so many mentors and fellow ATs. I am very grateful for the strong support of athletic training by Mark Kaufman and Athletico. I believe we are the largest employer of ATs in the country and have more staff than some entire states. Everyday I seek to learn something new and look forward to finishing my career with Athletico on a high note.