“I get to serve athletes”: Missouri Southern athletic trainer goes above and beyond for those in his care

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JOPLIN, Mo. — Whether we’re there in person or watching on television, we see athletes playing their game- on the court. What we don’t see is what goes on behind the scenes- especially in the training room.

Stephen Kim, Missouri Southern athletic trainer, says, “My profession is more behind the scenes work. A lot of people don’t recognize or know what goes on in athletic training or sports medicine in general.”

A lot goes on in Kim’s job. He serves as the athletic trainer for Missouri Southern State University’s volleyball and men’s basketball teams, and with that, comes a high number of responsibilities.

Kim says, “[I handle] first responder things, so first aid, CPR. If anything happens during practice, during workouts, and an athlete goes down in an emergency situation, I’d be the first person there to take care of that athlete and figure out what needs to be done at that point. Then pretty much anything else non-traumatic.”

“Pretty much anything non-traumatic” includes rehabbing injured athletes and treating nagging injuries. Kim sees multiple athletes a day for different treatment sessions. Almost as important as the treatment itself is getting to know the athletes and building strong relationships with them.

Kim says, “If you genuinely care about your athletes, they’ll listen to you. For me, I had a passion to win games and help these athletes and help them reach their goals and succeed, and I think just showing that to them helped them buy into what I wanted to do.”

Those things- Kim’s genuine interest in his athletes, and his passion to win games, couldn’t be more clear to the head coaches he works with.

Kalie Mader, Missouri Southern head volleyball coach, says, “To find [an athletic trainer] that’s invested in our athletes despite all the hours they have to put in, but to not only invest in the athletes but in the mission of the team, it’s so special and that’s something that Stephen’s been able to bring to us.”

Jeff Boschee, Missouri Southern head men’s basketball coach, says, “When we lost to [Northwest Missouri State University] and [Cam Martin] hurt his foot at their place last year, [Stephen] was down in the locker-room almost to the point of tears because he felt like he let the team down with not getting Cam’s foot right. So when you have that kind of buy-in, that kind of dedication, anytime in your program, I think that’s just a big asset. He’s been the best since I’ve been here. He’s been the best trainer we’ve had.”

He doesn’t routinely put in 10-hour days, however, for the recognition. It’s all about leading by example, and in turn, serving others.

Kim says, “I think it’s more about how well I serve, and that to me is good leadership, like a servant leadership kind of attitude. And that’s something that I love about my job: I get to serve athletes, I get to serve coaches and serve the people around me and to me that’s being a good leader. I think that attitude comes from my faith and all the work I do and all the things I achieve, I can’t take credit for that.”

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