It’s great to see the kid who fought through everything get to go back out there.Autumn Sage Parsons, Optim Healthcare's athletic trainer for South Effingham
GUYTON — Autumn Sage Parsons doesn’t have her dream job. The position she has is even better than she imagined.
Parsons, 25, is the athletic trainer at South Effingham High School, her alma mater.
“Honestly, it was never a dream because I didn’t think it was a possibility,” Parsons said. “I thought it would be awhile before this position came open so I never really thought about it.”
Longtime South Effingham athletic trainer John Burk was promoted last winter, however, opening the door for Parsons. She went to work at South Effingham on Jan. 1.
“I grew up around sports,” she said. “My brother played baseball and football so I grew up going to a lot of those games.”
Parsons was a competitive cheerleader.
“I had a lot of back and knee problems, and I spent a lot of time with the athletic trainer,” she said. “At the time, it was Chase Grant and I got to see a lot of what he had to do.”
As a senior, Parsons decided to pursue a degree in athletic training at Georgia Southern.
“Just seeing what (Grant’s) impact was here inspired me,” she said.
Parsons, a member of South Effingham’s class of 2012, isn’t an employee of the Effingham County School District. She works for Optim Healthcare, which provides athletic trainers for multiple school systems in the Coastal Empire.
“Optim provides my salary and South Effingham provides my materials,” Parsons said. “The two have a contract that if any kid gets injured we are around if they need anything.”
Parson’s stays quite busy. South Effingham’s athletic program features about 450 students and there are practices and games virtually everyday throughout the school year.
“Anyone who gets hurt comes to see me during practice and after practice,” Parsons said. “Football season and the spring are pretty long. I usually get here around lunchtime and I stay until the last kid leaves.
“I’m here for the ice baths and all of it. The kids aren’t a fan of ice baths.”
Parsons is a fan of all the Mustangs but the ones she helps rebound from injuries are special to her.
“That moment when they get to return at full health and do what they love —that’s what I love the best about my job,” she said. “It’s great to see the kid who fought through everything get to go back out there.”
Ironically, Parsons’ former sport usually accounts for the most serious injuries she encounters.
“I saw a lot of injuries in cheerleading during my time,” she said. “Thankfully, none of mine were super serious.”
In addition to taking care of the athletes’ bumps, bruises and scrapes, Parsons monitors the weather for coaches. She keeps an eye on the temperature and humidity to ensure that they don’t exceed GHSA guidelines for practices.
Eventually, Parsons plans to return to Georgia Southern to obtain a master’s degree. She got to work with the Eagles’ football team as an undergraduate.
“That was awesome on its own,” she said, “and I got to work with some amazing mentors. Still, the best thing is when a high school kid gets to return to the field after an injury.
“They are just doing this because they love it.”
Parsons admitted that some of her athletes aren’t good patients.
“Some kids will listen to what I say and some will ignore it and end up complaining about why they aren’t getting better,” she said. “Sometimes we have to deal with their hardheadedness. Most of the kids have been really respectful.
“I know I look young and look like a kid.”
Despite dealing with a few stubborn athletes, Parsons believes there is no place like home. She worked briefly at a high school in Texas before returning to South Effingham.
“I would love to stay here,” she said. “I don’t have plans to leave any time soon.”