After being one of the top trainers at Castleton State College, Michael Heitkamp started to think about what else he could do with his life.
Heitkamp had always been a hard worker and this work ethic paid off last summer when he learned he had gotten a job as assistant trainer with the Colorado Rapids, a professional men’s soccer team.
“While at Castleton, I worked with some of the best athletic trainers, coaches, team physicians, and athletes. I do not ever take for granted that experience and am certain each of those relationships helped me in aspiring to this job. Go Spartans!” Heitkamp said in a recent e-mail exchange.
Heitkamp knew he had to leave because it was a chance of a lifetime. He packed up and headed to Colorado. When arriving, he had the same mind set he has always had.
“Ultimately athletes are athletes. While the different levels create new challenges and experiences, they all want to play to the best of their ability. This makes my job essentially the same at any level. Caring about an athlete’s well being is my profession, only now I have to do it in front of 20,000 judging fans,” Heitkamp said. “An injured player wants to return not only to play, but also to keep a roster spot and ultimately a contract. This is their profession; it’s something we must consider when dealing with injuries.”
Heitkamp quickly realized, however, that there were a few differences between a small division III school and a professional soccer team. One of the biggest changes was nutrition, he said.
“It is very hard to control what a college student eats. Dining hall food, late night snacking, skipping meals, the pitfalls are everywhere. At this level, our post practice and road meals are taken care of to ensure a proper diet. This is such an advantage when working to create the healthiest and optimal environments for recovery,” he said.
Another challenge that Heitkamp has is the age range.
“Our athletes can be anywhere from 16 or 17 year-old players, to young men in their 30s with families. The goal is to work together as a team, and with such a large age range, it certainly has its challenging moments,” Heitkamp said.
Players and colleagues said Heitkamp is a genuinely nice guy who cares more about others than himself although there was one thing that got him agitated.
“I’ll never forget how nice Michael was and how professional he was about his job, yet the only time he would get a little strict with us was when we called him any other name besides…Michael,” said Trevor Kotrady. “Michael tells everyone when he meets them that they can call him Michael and by that he meets call him Michael. Not mike, not Mr. Heitkamp, just Michael.”
Most of the players from the men’s soccer team who had Heitkamp as their trainer last year still stay in touch with him.
“I’m so happy for him and he is greatly missed here in campus,” said Jacob Roswell. “Once a great trainer always a great trainer.”
Heitkamp still likes to follow his old teams too.
“Keep up the great work, you lads are killing it! I have the c-state app on my phone, score updates every game! My best to the boys. I miss that Spartan sideline!” he wrote.