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Q&A: Hall of Fame athletic trainer Paul Welliver on coronavirus concerns, what prep athletes should be doing and top memories

Paul Welliver
Paul Welliver(Courtesy Photo)

Paul Welliver helped start the athletic training program in Carroll County Public Schools in 1990, and his work as a trainer in various college, professional, and Olympic arenas has given the 1975 Westminster High School graduate his share of sports medicine knowledge and experience.

Welliver is a licensed massage therapist who has been in private practice in Westminster since 1993, and he was inducted into the Maryland Athletic Trainers’ Association’s Hall of Fame in 2009.

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The Times recently caught up with Welliver to get his thoughts on how the sports world has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and his time spent working with athletes, coaches, and teams around Carroll County.

Q: What’s your main message to people with coronavirus concerns?

A: I have always said, “Treat the patient, not the disease.” Anyone that is sick should stay home anyway. Four out of five who contract COVID-19 will be just fine, but I have been unpleasantly surprised at the persistence of this virus. Most of the deaths in Washington State are in one nursing home. Like any infection, the compromised person usually suffers the complications.

On a larger scale, the USA may suffer a depression similar to the 1930s. The Las Vegas Strip is dark. Broadway is shut down. The state of California has been told to stay home. Businesses and people will lose everything.

Testing is not as important as containing the spread. Most of the cases are in 10 counties in three states — California, New York, and Washington. The major concern is legitimate. Our health care system could get overloaded and unable to treat the high numbers of the 20% that would need hospitalization.

Please stop talking about a vaccine because that will not be available for a year. This problem is now. On a global scale, air pollution is down because of less factory output and driving now. People now have a chance to reevaluate their lives and priorities if they take advantage of this down time.

Q: How has the sports world handled the pandemic?

A: Unbelievably well. I watched the NBA and the NHL talk about playing with no fans and then no practices or games as the two leagues suspended operations. Then the NCAA canceled the winter championships, including “March Madness.”

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This move was psychologically and financially catastrophic. Then the NCAA canceled all spring championships. Major League Baseball canceled spring training and delayed the opening of the season.

The sports fan is still in shock.

ESPN is debating the NFL trades and Draft. Recreational leagues had become “wreck” leagues. Parents were worried about their children’s travel teams and not their kid’s D in English.

A shortage of officials and referees are a result of the boorish behavior of parents at the games. Now we can all calm down and reevaluate what really matters in a young person’s life.

Q: Which recent postponed or cancelled sporting event affected you the most?

A: The NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship. That tournament is the best three weeks of sports until the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Fingers crossed for the NHL to resume the season safely.

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Q: What should high school athletes be doing to stay in shape right now?

A: Athletes can still condition outside or inside via the Internet. Go for a run. Use your phone as a phone and call a teammate. Meet and keep your distance and throw the ball around. At the tennis court, let the net keep you apart as you volley.

Our weather has been perfect for outdoor rehearsal and conditioning. No water bottle sharing.

Q: Is this break from sports a good thing for those multi-sport athletes who play almost non-stop all year?

A: First of all, multi-sport athletes are becoming rare with specialization occurring. A multi-sport athlete should only play one sport per season — period.

The true one-sport-per-season athlete has a built-in cross training mechanism by using different muscle groups and body parts in each season.

Perfect, right? No.

Now coaches are pushing parents to railroad their kids into one sport 12 months of the year. This is a perfect storm for failure, injury and burnout. Otherwise this break from sports won’t necessarily be beneficial to multi-sport athletes but a real benefit to the specialized one-sport young athlete.

Q: As a former athletic trainer in Carroll County, what are your fondest sports memories during that time?

A: The Devon Lesniak shot to win the state semifinal for Winters Mill’s boys basketball team in March, 2008. The Mill would go on to win the only boys basketball state championship in Carroll County since the 1947 Westminster Owls, featuring my uncle, Paul Welliver.

The Ben Love overtime goal to complete the first perfect boys lacrosse championship in county history — Winters Mill beat Parkside at UMBC in May, 2007.

Steve Suter’s junior year at North Carroll — Carroll County football champs. And North Carroll at Liberty, a great back-and-forth NC victory in the fall of 1998.

Mackenzie Cyr’s goal to give Hall of Fame coach Courtney Vaughn her first girls lacrosse state title of many with Winters Mill, in May of 2009.

The state dual-meet wrestling title won by the great coach Dick Bauerlein and his North Carroll team on that Saturday night at Westminster High School in February, 1994.

South Carroll girls soccer finally beating Centennial in a region final to advance to the state playoffs in 1995, then girls basketball losing the first game of the season and then not losing until the regional finals at Walt Whitman.

The dedicated coaches and staff of Carroll County Public Schools provided me with a life that I will always remember fondly. The above experiences are the tip of a huge iceberg of memories. I could fill your newspaper with many more easily.

Q: What’s your best advice for everyone cooped up for the foreseeable future, on how they should stay active?

A: Limit or eliminate screen time. TV. Phone. Computer. Daily aerobic activity is a must. Go for a daily walk or jog or run.

Inactivity exacerbates feelings of anxiety and depression. Exercises trumps medications always, but both are often indicated. Daily meditation and prayer is so helpful as well.

“Doc” is my nickname, but I am not a medical doctor. However I am often helpful in areas complementary to traditional teachings.

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