GLASSBORO, NJ – Two of Rowan’s student-athletes Jesse DeDomenico, a former pitcher/outfielder for the softball team, and Dominique Peters, a member of the women’s track & field team, have their future planned to help the next generation of student-athletes as they head into their final year as Athletic Training majors.
DeDomenico and Peters are students in the five-year combined degree program within the School of Health Professions. While both student-athletes are in the same major, they have different stories on what made them decide to be an athletic trainer. In Peters’ case, her path was pretty straight forward. “I was always hurt in high school,” says Peters. “So, I was always in there (athletic training room), but my freshman or sophomore year I realized I liked the connection with the athletes more than just because I was hurt.”
For DeDomenico, her journey is a longer story. “It’s funny, going to college – going through the recruitment process – everyone asks you what you want to do, and I was a junior and I would tell coaches “I have no idea. That’s kind of something you need to have figured out,” says DeDomenico. However, she had the guidance of her older brother, who’s also an athletic trainer, as well as a memorable shadowing experience with her high school athletic trainer, which made DeDomenico realize that athletic training was the career for her. “I was with her everyday a year and a half, two years, and I think that’s kind of what made me want to be an athletic trainer because I got to see the good, bad, the ugly. She showed me everything, [she] taught me everything.”
During their time in the Athletic Training program, DeDomenico and Peters have excelled as athletes while being in a program that they’re passionate about. DeDomenico’s senior season was cut short because of COVID-19. She finished her career with a 57-22 pitching record, 1.47 earned run average and 430 strikeouts. DeDomenico had a .331 career batting average. She was selected to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-America, East All-Region and New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) teams.
Peters was the conference’s indoor champion in the high jump with a school record 5’ 5.75” (1.67 m) and she was named the 2020 NJAC Rookie of the Year. She was a member of the U.S. Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association All-Atlantic Region Team. Peters qualified for the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships on the 4x400 meter relay. She was a member of the winning 4x400 meter relay (3:55.98) that year at the conference championships and earned NJAC first team honors.
They have been getting clinical experience by working with athletes at local high schools. Peters completed a residency at Delsea Regional High School in Franklinville, NJ, where she enjoyed forming connections with the student-athletes. DeDomenico finished a residency at Kingsway Regional High School in Woolwich Township, NJ, which she positively reflects on. “It was probably the best experience of my entire life. It’s that first time where you’re like going to play athletic trainers.”
As a result of DeDomenico and Peters having been student-athletes, they both provide a unique perspective to a career in Athletic Training. In fact, for Doug Mann, the Clinical Education Coordinator for the Athletic Training program, that perspective is why he would encourage student-athletes to consider a career in athletic training. “I’ll say this at Open Houses, as an athlete you have a unique perspective to offer that you know what they’re going through. You may have had that injury before that you’re going to be dealing with. So, I think that adds some value into their profession,” says Mann.
That being said, he also believes that having been student-athletes can lead to better learning environments for students currently in the Athletic Training program. “They can tie into some of their past experiences and past injuries. There will be some times that we may bring something up that they can lend some discussion to, whether it would be an injury or something about being an athlete.”
Students and faculty in the Athletic Training program had to adapt as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With most classes now in either a remote or hybrid format and the future of sports up in the air, so many changes are made daily. Some may view the COVID-19 pandemic as a unique learning experience. “I think it is definitely providing us all with a learning opportunity on not only how to handle everything ourselves, but when we get into the professional world,” says DeDomenico. “Obviously, with things shut down and now opening back up, Athletic Trainers across the country have had to work to ensure the safety of their patient population, which is something we have been able to see first-hand as students.”
While some Athletic Training classes have been allowed to meet in person as a result of Rowan University’s reopening plan, coordinating clinical education experiences for the students has become a more difficult process. With some schools opting not to participate in fall sports this year and the fact that some Athletic Training students are completing their clinical experience hours virtually, Mann still believes that the students are handling this change well. “I will say that they can appreciate the effort that’s being made by all to make it as best of an experience as we can do,” says Mann. “They do understand that they can’t go in everyday because we need to make sure everyone gets a good experience [and] that we have to provide things this way.”
Nonetheless, the Athletic Training program has still managed to adapt and provide a quality-education for their students. “I have to give the professors within my program an immense amount of credit for everything they have done for us. I think they have done everything they can to ensure not only the smoothest transition to remote learning, but also ensuring that our education is not being compromised,” says DeDomenico. “Even amongst the pandemic, our professors have always made sure we know if we need anything or have any concerns they would bend over backwards for us. As a student, that means the world to hear.”
While it was and still is, never completely easy for DeDomenico and Peters to handle being a student-athlete and an Athletic Training major, both believe that their experiences as athletes give them a unique perspective in their future careers. “It’s many ways. One, because I experienced injuries that I learned about firsthand a lot of the times,” says Peters. “If I’m not learning about it, I’m downstairs taped up before practice,” says Peters.
Peters and DeDomenico can provide new insights to the career of athletic training by being a resource for other athletes based on their own experiences. “So, whether it’s high school or college, I think being a student-athlete I know what it’s like to play a sport and juggle everything,” says DeDomenico. “I think it’s definitely beneficial.”