Steve Sedlak’s hands almost blur as they wrap tape around the rugby players’ wrists and ankles. He makes it look easy — rip a piece of tape, wrap it a few times, smooth it out, grab another piece — but that’s because he does it with the confident speed of practice. It’s definitely a skill that requires mastering, said John Minor, who volunteers with the team and who recently attended one of Sedlak’s classes on taping.
“His taping class was actually pretty hard,” Minor said with a surprised laugh. Having Sedlak around is invaluable, he added. “I think Steve has a pretty special bond with the coaches and so we enjoy that. Job one — keep everyone safe and sound. He works a lot with the (rugby) girls on injury prevention, too.”
Sedlak smiles as he continues to tape. He’s still in his wool hat and jacket, having recently come in out of a blustery Saturday morning wind, where he was pushing shovelfuls of snow off the football field, prepping it for the upcoming rugby match.
This is a normal weekend morning for Sedlak, who is the Summit High School athletic trainer. He deals with all of the high school’s sports teams and athletic clubs and teaches two athletic training courses. His position is supported by Vail Summit Orthopedics and Avalanche Physical Therapy, which essentially donate him to the high school.
The job is perfect for Sedlak, a transplant from Pennsylvania and major sports enthusiast. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in kinesiology, with an option in athletic training, then earned his master’s from East Stroudsburg University, a small Pennsylvania college.
He came to Colorado on a whim after seeing the job opening online. He was particularly drawn to the teaching component, though he said he enjoys all aspects of the position, including connecting with the students.
“I like dealing with the athlete as a whole. A lot of time it’s not even the injury I’m dealing with. It might be, you know, ‘I’m having trouble in school,’ ‘I’m having trouble with a coach,’” he said. “It’s something I really enjoy. I like working with high school kids. I think high school athletics, it’s still like a really pure fun form of athletics, where they’re just playing for the fun of it, they’re just playing to get better, playing to win, you know. I’ve worked colleges — obviously I haven’t worked professionals — but I think at that level you almost lose sight of why you’re still playing. You’re playing just because like, ‘Oh, I’m good at this sport,’ not because (you) really enjoy it.”
Sedlak’s rapport with the student athletes is obvious as he chats with them during his taping sessions. Most he knows by sight — not only their names but which body parts need looking to and what their past problems have been. If someone appears tired or down, he’ll ask, “What’s wrong? You all right?” He meets those who come in excited with the same level of energy, eagerly discussing anything from the upcoming game to the challenges of driving in the snow.
“Steve is really good for if you need anything taped, if you’re hurt. He’ll always be at all the games for all the sports. You can always find him in the training room before practice, whenever you need him,” said Maddy Hunt-Snyder, a senior rugby player. “I feel like he lives at the school,” she added with a laugh. “He’s always here for people and he’s really good with telling you what’s wrong if you don’t know and he is really fun to talk to and hang out with and just gives you advice. If you’re spending lot of time in the training room for rehab or because you have an injury, he makes it fun. It’s not like a miserable experience.”
He’s also an important presence during the game, she continued. “He’s good if you’re on the field, you’re injured, you’re freaking out, he can calm you down and make the situation not scary. He’s good at that.”
Maddy’s rugby teammates were also quick to sing Sedlak’s praises, as well as share their cheer for him whenever he comes out onto the field.
“Steeeeeeeve,” they chanted together in low, deep voices. “Steeeeeve, Steeeeeve.”
When he’s not taping up ankles or glued to the sidelines, Sedlak is out and about. He enjoys all of the outdoors fun that Summit County has to offer, with his black lab Chester by his side.
“That’s why I like this area, too, it’s a very active, fun place to live,” he said. “It fits my personality, definitely, being here. I feel like I’m always doing something.”
Still, it’s hard for Sedlak to decide when he’s having the most fun — during work or during his time off.
“I’m just a sports guy. I like being around sports and that’s why I like this position so much, you know. My job is to watch sports,” he said. As for working with the high school students, “They definitely keep me young and youthful, on my toes. I mean, they’re hilarious, which is awesome. They remind me of me in high school. … I really like being around them, it’s a joy. Sometimes I feel like I’m not even working a job, I’m just hanging out with kids.”