A staple of the Wabash sidelines and training room will be noticeable absent in 2006. Head athletics trainer Jack Mansfield has taken a new position at Lincoln Memorial University.
Mansfield spent the past 22 years taking care of Little Giant athletes and their injuries. He leaves to begin a new job as the program director of the athletic training education program at LMU beginning January 3.
"I never thought I would leave Wabash," Mansfield said. "When I interviewed with Dean McKinney years ago, I told him I wanted to retire from Wabash. Even in my initial conversations with LMU, I had no real plans to leave. But the opportunities presented by the school to teach in an administrative position made me make a tough decision."
Mansfield had served the past two years as a member of the Allied Health Advisory Board for LMU. When the school’s program director announced she had been accepted to medical school and would be leaving in January of 2006, the board initially developed a plan to fill the administrative position by utilizing Mansfield’s expertise. The plan called for Mansfield to file paperwork by computer with an occasional trip to Harrogate, Tennessee, as needed.
The more the school and the board talked about Mansfield’s role as an advisor, the more the group realized he was exactly what they were looking for in someone to take over the director’s position permanently.
"It sounds like a line, but they really made me an offer I couldn’t refuse," said Mansfield said.
"Trainer Jack," as every athlete that’s ever had an ankle taped has called him, takes a wealth of experience and memories to his new job. During his time at Wabash, Mansfield has served as the president of the Indiana Athletic Trainers Association, where he initiated the licensing act for Indiana high school athletics trainers that eventual was passed into state law. He served as a representative to the Great Lakes Athletic Training regional board, and has worked as an athletics trainer at the Olympic Training Center and the Olympic Trials. Mansfield was named as a local co-chair of the National Athletic Trainers Association convention in Indianapolis in 1990, helping to develop a format that became a benchmark for the annual event.
Mansfield also worked as one of only five trainers at the White River Park State Games before eventually being named the medical director. Under his guidance, the training program increased to 243 athletic training volunteers and incorporated an educational seminar as part of a continuing education program for those trainer.
He has also been inducted into the Indiana Athletic Trainers Hall of Fame, the Ball State University Ring of Honor, and was named a Distinguished Hoosier by the late Indiana Governor Frank O’Bannon.
"Wabash opened a lot of doors for me. It’s really a tribute and a credit to what Wabash is."
"There are so many special friendships and memories I’ll take with me," Mansfield added. "While it would be tough to separate them and come up with one special moment, I do remember my first year at the Polar Bear track meet. It was cold with freezing rain, and when I showed up at the track, Coach Rob Johnson looked at me with disbelief and said, ‘What are you doing here?’ I took that as a huge compliment. I’ve always tried to provide the same care and attention for every student-athlete. It’s been one of the greatest challenges. I’ve tried to do my best to provide consistent care throughout my time at Wabash."
While new challenges await, including work with a new center for osteopathic medicine at LMU in the fall of 2007, Mansfield will be ready to meet those challenges with the support he’s always received from his family.
"You can’t do this job without support from your family," Mansfield said. "Gayle and my kids have been behind me 100 percent. There’s no way I could accomplish any of the things I set out to do without their help and understanding.
"Students come here because they know the type of liberal arts education Wabash will provide them. I want the athletic training program at Lincoln to be the same type of program for students who want to enter the field of athletic training. I want to develop the same kind of reputation in that field."
Photos: "Trainer Jack" gets a break to watch the Little Giant football team during the 2005 season.
Mansfield looks at Don Juan Brown's shoulder.
Wabash Dean of Students Tom Bambrey and Director of Athletics Vernon Mummert recognize Mansfield and his wife, Gayle, for their years of service at a reception held in mid-December at the Allen Center.