Tara Stritch serves as one of the athletic trainers for the U.S. Women’s National Team. She is also a full-time athletic trainer with Medstar Sports Medicine, and served previously with college programs at Towson University, Sacred Heart University, and Manhattanville College.

Since March is National Athletic Training Month, I would like to share some insight into what it’s like to work as a certified athletic trainer (ATC) with the U.S. Women’s National Team.

Every four years, US Lacrosse selects its volunteer medical staff through an application and interview process. I was selected to work with the U.S. team beginning in the fall of 2013, with 12 years of experience as a collegiate athletic trainer.

I am part of an incredible medical staff for Team USA that also includes another wonderful athletic trainer and two physicians (a primary care specialist and an orthopedic surgeon). We were all present during tryouts, where we were responsible for the health care of over 100 women vying for a chance to become members of the national team.

Once the team is selected, we get together as a group several times per year, training and participating in tournaments such as the Spring Premiere and the Fall Classic. When we do train, the days are long, with multiple practice sessions, meetings, film and conditioning. As an athletic trainer, I am there through it all, treating the players for nagging injuries and assisting with recovery.  

Fortunately, most injuries to athletes are relatively minor, but in rare instances, the presence of an athletic trainer is critical for emergency situations.

Working with the U.S. Women’s National Team presents some unique challenges. Unlike a high school or collegiate athletic trainer, I don’t get to interact with the players daily. The team members are spread out all over the country, and there may be several months in between our Team USA training sessions.

Players are constantly in communication with our staff informing us of new injuries, checking in after a doctor’s appointment, or seeking advice on training and recovery. We’re often in contact with their local athletic trainers, strength coaches and physicians to make sure we are all working towards the common goal of helping them to be the best lacrosse players in the country and the world.

As an athletic trainer, I have stood for the playing of the national anthem thousands of times over the years while working with collegiate teams. However, the feeling of listening to the Star-Spangled Banner while wearing the Red, White and Blue and standing as part of Team USA is indescribable.

It hits you that you are truly representing more than yourself. We are representing our country, the countless players who have come before this current team, and the young hopefuls longing to wear the USA jersey one day in the future.

This summer, I will be traveling with our team and staff to the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Cup in Surrey, England and the World Games in Wroclaw, Poland. Being a Team USA athletic trainer has not only allowed me to travel to different parts of the world, but to meet and interact with many incredible people. I’ve gotten to know people who are from very different backgrounds, but who have come together for the common goal of making USA lacrosse the best in the world.

Being an athletic trainer has provided me with wonderful opportunities that I may otherwise never have had. Long after the final whistle blows (and we hopefully return home with the gold), I will always remember the relationships I made while a part of this experience.