Gordon College News Service
December 10, 2013
(This story is a part of a package of stories on college athletes written for the Boston Globe North.)
NORTH ANDOVER—While many college students can take a break from the books this holiday season, Nicole Curtis will still be studying.
As a senior studying athletic training at Merrimack College in North Andover, Curtis, 22, of Billerica needs to take the Athletic Trainer’s Board of Certification exam in the spring to become a licensed trainer, something she has wanted to do since high school. She will then be one step closer to achieving her goal of going to graduate school, part of a growing trend for today’s college athletes.
Curtis played soccer, basketball and lacrosse at Billerica Memorial High School where she acquired a serious shoulder injury, requiring surgery. After spending much of her time with an athletic trainer in rehabilitation, she was inspired.
“I saw so many athletes come in with injuries during that time and my athletic trainer was able to diagnose them, treat them and get them back on the playing field,” she said. “I knew then that I wanted to do that.”
Now, Curtis is living her dream. Because the Merrimack athletic training program requires students to be an athletic trainer for a sports team each semester, she has been currently working with the men’s basketball team, helping players with injuries and providing support at their games.
When she graduates next May, Curtis hopes to work towards a master’s degree in sports medicine. For now, she has been using the National Athletic Trainers Career website to look for schools with graduate programs in sports medicine and working with her adviser and the sports medicine department to create a resume and get reference letters.
“Nicole is in a grueling major that has both an academic and clinical component,” said Curtis’ preceptor for her clinical rotation Heather Carr, 28, of Methuen. “Most collegiate athletic training jobs require a master’s. In professional athletics, you will see dual credentials.”
But Curtis did not only choose Merrimack College for its athletic training program. With a significant athletic scholarship, she has also been the goalkeeper for the women’s soccer team.
She started playing soccer at six years old and continued through high school. She said she has always loved the competition and being part of a team, so when college scouts saw her play, she knew she wanted to continue at a higher level. With pre-season beginning in August and the season running until November, she practiced each summer to prepare. The most exciting day of the year, she said, was the day of the first game.
“Nicole's contributions to the team are numerous,” said head women’s soccer coach Gabe Mejail, 59, of Reading. “As a goalkeeper she had the unique position of being our last line of defense and came through for us time after time. She is calm, collected and has the trust of her teammates, which in turn added to her role as team leader as well.”
As the last season of her college career ended, Curtis said she couldn’t imagine not having soccer in her life. After graduating, she hopes to play in competitive adult leagues or even coach a high school team. While juggling academics, athletic training and preparing for graduate school has kept her busy, Curtis wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I have been an athlete my whole life, so working with athletes is an ideal job for me,” she said. “The feeling you get when you return an athlete to play after a debilitating injury is one of the best in the world, and if I can do that every day I will be blessed.”