As a certified athletic trainer of Oakton High School, Paul Rupp is responsible for the well-being of the school’s 54 teams in 34 sports. That makes for quite the number of finger sprains, twisted ankles and shoulder injuries he sees in a given year.
For his hard work and dedication to his student athletes, Rupp has been recognized as the Secondary School Athletic Trainer of the Year by the Virginia Athletic Trainers Association. On Jan. 15, Rupp will be presented with the award at the VATA annual meeting in Richmond.
“I don’t do this for any recognition, I do it because I love being an athletic trainer,” Rupp said. “One of my peers recognized something in me and nominated me for it. That’s what’s so great about it.”
A sports enthusiast his entire life, Rupp wanted to pursue a career that would keep him close to the action.
“When I was in high school we didn’t have an athletic trainer,” Rupp said. “I was going to go to college for physical therapy and a professor saw my interest in sports and explained to me what an athletic trainer was, and it sounded really good to me.”
After graduating from college, Rupp worked at Lafayette College and then served as a graduate assistant at Syracuse University while he earned his master’s degree. He followed that up with five years at St. John’s.
In 2000, Rupp moved to Virginia with his wife and began working at Oakton High as an athletic trainer. In his 11 years on the job, Rupp is credited with helping 30-year athletic training vet Andy Cowdery in transforming the Oakton High athletic training program into one of the flagship programs in Fairfax County Public Schools.
“When I interviewed, Andy told me ‘I’ve been doing this a long time and I need someone who can be long term here. He wanted to take a step back, and I was young, dumb and full of energy and I ran with it,” Rupp said. “I’m not someone who does things half-heartedly and if I’m going to do something I always do my best, and he let me do that.”
Each day Rupp makes sure to follow up with the athletes and focuses on all the little things that can help the players compete in a healthy and safe environment.
“I try to be proactive and try to prevent a lot of injuries,” he said. “I encourage the kids to come in and do the rehab before things become a big deal.”
He also stays up to date on injury maintenance, concussion research and all things related to injuries in the high school athlete.
“We cover all home games, football practice and we travel with football because the injury rate is so high,” he said. “There are so many unique injuries that I see in a given season."
Rupp was nominated for the award by FCPS colleague John Reynolds, a certified athletic trainer at Marshall High School.
“His demeanor with student athletes exemplifies a caring individual regardless of the severity of the illness or injury,” Reynolds said in a statement. “The commitment to excellence and thoroughness of each care plan is a testament to his overall professional commitment to the profession of athletic training. Paul is a can-do person who is also the go-to person for fellow colleagues.”
Rupp has also been involved in the statewide Virginia High School League’s Wrestling Weight Control program and has served as a statewide instructor for the certified measurer’s workshop. In addition, he is a past member of the VATA Secondary School Athletic Trainer’s Committee, and former liaison to the VHSL Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.