CAMPUS Closeup: Jim Winkler
With the football, soccer and volleyball teams all playing at NMU this Homecoming weekend, one might be inclined to think it will be an especially busy time for Jim Winkler’s (Intercollegiate Athletics) crew. But the head athletic trainer and his staff deal with injured athletes regularly and he says it will be just another day at the office.
“Games are actually a small component of what goes on here, but they do amount to 12-14 hour work days,” said Winkler. “People usually don’t see the effort our department puts in behind the scenes. The coaches, staff and administration show up early to set things up and stay late to treat the athletes, clean up and get ready for the next day.”
Winkler will experience his 16th NMU Homecoming this weekend. Most have been as head athletic trainer; the remainder were from his years as an undergraduate student (1994-98) and graduate assistant (1998-2000). He left briefly for jobs with Greater Flint Sports Medicine and Wayne State University, but returned to NMU as an assistant before being promoted to head athletic trainer.
He has dealt with a variety of injuries and rehabilitations over his career, especially in collision sports such as football and hockey. Most of them tend to run together in his mind, but he vividly recalls one incident when an athletic training student, not an athlete, was hit in the eye with a hockey puck. The impact caused a “blow-out fracture” that Winkler compared to a glass bowl shattering. “You forget about a lot of them … but not the puck in the eye,” he said.
Much of Winkler’s work is hands-on, such as injury evaluations and rehabilitation. There is also an administrative component to his job, which includes balancing the budget and insurance claims. He primarily supervises golf and hockey; two other staff members split the remaining sports.
“A typical work day consists of seven to eight hours of practice coverage, rehabilitation sessions with student athletes, injury evaluations and maintaining a fairly in-depth database of injuries,” he said.
Though finding enough hours in the day and saying “no” is challenging for Winkler, his favorite part of the job is the students. “The best part is the interaction with the athletes. The relationships you build with some of them last over a long period of time.”
Winkler played football and hockey through high school, but his decision to pursue an athletic training career was motivated by a chance encounter.
“I think when I was in high school, I was leaning toward a pre-med field. But I had an opportunity to speak with the athletic trainer of the Detroit Red Wings at the time and that got the ball rolling for me. I looked at NMU and CMU and realized this is what I wanted to do.”
Winkler describes himself as a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy. In his spare time, he likes to stay active, particularly in the summer. He enjoys golfing, fishing, walking and working on the house he shares with his wife, Leslie, who holds degrees from both Michigan State and NMU. “It makes for interesting hockey weekends,” Winlker said.
The couple have a Siberian husky named Bella and are busy preparing for the arrival of their first child in February.