For the first time in school history, Melissa High School has more than 20 students participating in the sports medicine program. These students prioritize the safety of their fellow student-athletes as they assist licensed athletic trainers Nichola “Doc” St. James and Jose Mendez during athletic practices and sporting events.

The program serves every sport that is offered at Melissa High School, with each student assigned to assist with specific in-season sports. Freshman Leighton Gutierrez and sophomore Mikayla Hailey, for example, currently assist with the football program.

“I’m thinking about going into physical therapy when I grow up, and majoring in it in college,” Gutierrez said of how she became interested in sports medicine. “I thought athletic training would be a good preset to see if I like it, and if I do, to learn a couple of things before I go to college.”

The primary skills of a student athletic trainer include taping ankles, wrists and thumbs, wound care for first aid management, and understanding injury evaluation techniques and emergency action plans.

“If you’re injured, we go out and help you,” Hailey said. “If you have a sprained ankle or if you have weak ankles, we tape your ankles so they don’t end up having a worse injury. We give out water because we don’t want [the athletes] to be dehydrated. If they get overheated, we have to put them in the ice bath.”

Student athletic trainers also have the opportunity to earn an industry certification in administering first aid, CPR and AED. Hailey earned her certification last year, as a freshman.

“There is a misconception that student athletic trainers are just ‘water boys’ or ‘water girls,’ but these students are working hard to prove otherwise,” Jose Mendez, who joined Team Melissa as a licensed athletic trainer in 2018, said. “We are very thankful for their commitment to the sports medicine program and know that they’ll be difference makers.”

To learn more about the sports medicine program, visit the Melissa Athletics website at