Within the hallowed singular hall of the garden level of the Keohane Sports Center, you’ll find the place where the magic happens- the Athletic Training Room. The Athletic Training Room, known to locals as the ATR, is staffed by the Director of Sports Medicine and Wellbeing, Niki Rybko, and Assistant Athletic Trainers, Sarah Jean Paul and Autumn Overhiser. The ATR is a space for student athletes to find salvation from injuries of all varieties that they receive during play; it is also an environment for loitering, due to the caring and loving nature of the ATR staff.
Few students outside of the athletic community are aware of the ATR. The most senior member of the ATR staff is Niki Rybko. Rybko, who prior to Wellesley worked with the men’s crew team at Harvard, is in her fifth year with the Blue. As Director of Sports Medicine and Wellbeing, Rybko works collaboratively with the strength and conditioning staff as well as the nutrition team to care for the overall wellbeing of student athletes. Rybko said in an interview with the Wellesley News that being able to collaborate with so many different colleagues is one of the greatests strengths of Wellesley Athletics. “The department represents a family and community where everyone knows each other, ” said Rybko.
Another aspect of Wellesley she enjoys is getting to interact with a diverse student athlete population. Rybko said that “the student athletes are incredible. Not only on the field, or court, or water, but they’re constantly challenging us and helping us learn about the world and the cool things they’re going to do with their lives.”
The feeling of appreciation and admiration is mutual from the student athletes. “I always feel welcomed with nothing but smiles from Niki, she makes the ATR a better place, which is helpful since having an injury can be stressful in the first place,” said Lauren Park, a junior on the Fencing team. Rybko also has 19 month old twins who are a hit in the ATR whenever they visit.
The newest addition to ATR is Autumn Overhiser. She joined Blue Nation this year following a stint at Harvard, where she worked with the Water Polo team. Overhiser was drawn to Wellesley for its focused student athletes, “I feel like student athletes at an academically rigorous institution like this one ask the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ more. They are more actively involved in their care and have perspective.”
Overhiser also described what the transition was like for her coming from a Division I institution to a Division III institution like Wellesley, citing the greatest challenge being access. An example of this is at her previous institution the X-ray machine was right next to her office, so student athletes could know the severity of their injuries immediately. At Wellesley and other DIII schools alike, advanced care is commonly outsourced and it can take time to get results. Despite the differences between DI and DIII institutions, Overhiser has found her stride and has been a fast favorite in the ATR. “She’s always willing to be asked questions to as she’s taping someone and is great at multitasking. [She] is very supportive and laughs at my jokes,” said Lauren Dines `20 from the Track and Field team.
Sarah Jean Paul could not be reached for comment at this time due to travel with the NCAA tournament bound volleyball team, but Swimming and Diving junior Hannah May had nothing but high praise for Paul saying “Sarah Paul is incredible at fixing people and she always makes me smile, laugh, and also cry just because it hurts in a good way.” Paul, who most recently worked at Florida and Team USA Diving, is in her second year at Wellesley.
If you’re a club or varsity student athlete, stop by the garden level and pay the ATR a visit. You are sure to leave with a smile on your face and your ankles taped.