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Davis, California

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Women in athletics: Tina Tubbs


Tina Tubbs describes her job best: “I wear a number of different hats.”

Aside from her role as the director of sports medicine at UC Davis, Tubbs is the athletic trainer for the gymnastics team, part of the athletic training team for the football team and manages the Sports Medicine Internship Program, formerly known as the Student Athletic Internship Program.

Her prominent role in UC Davis athletics is the result of a passion for sports medicine that began at Humboldt State University, where she played soccer for the Loggers. Starting out as a physical therapy major, she was introduced to athletic training by her teammate who recommended an introductory sports medicine class. After taking that class, Tubbs knew she had found her career.

“I fell in love with it,” Tubbs said. “What motivated me was dealing with a healthy population like the one here at [UC] Davis […] These athletes want to get back fast.”

She found that the athletes were more focused on their recovery than physical therapy patients, many of whom were pediatric or geriatric. Fueled by their desire to play, the athletes would proactively do the rehab exercises prescribed to them and had a high rate of recovery.

After graduating from Humboldt State with a degree in kinesiology, Tubbs was accepted into the master’s degree program for sports medicine at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. She then went to work as an athletic trainer at several colleges around the nation, including top schools such as UC Santa Barbara, University of South Carolina and UCLA. In 2012, she accepted an offer to work in an orthopedics clinic at the University of California, San Francisco. Although working at a clinic meant that she would no longer be treating athletes, she wanted to be closer to her family who lived in Northern California.

However, she quickly realized that clinical work was not her cup of tea.

“My goal all along [had been] to be in athletic training […] to work in Division I [because] I love that pressure, I love that need to keep excelling,” Tubbs said. “I explored [clinical work] and it was super boring. It made me have a bigger passion for what I do here at [UC] Davis […] As bad as any day can ever be, it can never be as bad as the clinic.”

The perfect opportunity for Tubbs came in 2013 when she was given the opportunity to become the director of sports medicine at UC Davis. Not only was the job in Northern California, but it would involve Division I athletes. She brought her years of experience working in top facilities to the Aggies.

“I set the vision for what our sports medicine apartment should look like,” Tubbs said. “Practicing the best practice of sports medicine is the standard of care. We should never be hitting below that.”

As director of sports medicine, she is involved in everything from writing policy and procedure to risk and liability, budgeting, hiring, conducting evaluations of staff, navigating medical hardships and taking care of high-risk athletes. As director, Tubbs fields concerns from parents, addresses input from coaches and works closely with the UC Davis administration to maintain the best quality care for student athletes. On top of it all, she oversees the 11 certified athletic trainers and 35 sports medicine interns who are responsible for 23 intercollegiate Division I teams.

“I think the biggest thing when I go home at night, when decisions are being made or things are being changed […] are two things,” Tubbs said. “One is […] the student athlete’s needs being met and [the second] is the needs of the university being met. And if I can do those two things, and say ‘yes’ and ‘yes’, then I feel like I am doing my job.”

Another aspect of Tubbs’ job is setting the goals for the Sports Medicine Internship Program, which allows UC Davis students to gain experience in that field and exposes them to the inner workings of athletic training. The interns are assigned to one sports team that they work with throughout the school year for 15 hours a week. They learn how to take a medical history for an injured athlete and watch athletic trainers perform various taping, icing and rehab treatments. They also receive observation hours from watching surgeries at the UC Davis Medical Center.

Since Tubbs took over in 2013, the program has undergone significant changes. Before, it was designed specifically for future athletic trainers, but with the variety of work that goes on in the athletic training room, including evaluation and rehabilitation of injuries, treatment for nutritional and psychological concerns and keeping of medical records, Tubbs has made it a goal for the program to include any student pursuing a career in health.

“We’re trying to open this up for people who are pre-physical therapy, pre-health and pre-med, pretty much any health occupation,” said Connie Luong, a fourth-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major.

Another change in the program has been the emphasis on professionalism, which is reflected in the specific uniforms for each type of sport and the training room.

“There are different times for different uniforms and I really like how [Tubbs] set the professionality of that,” Luong said.

Having worked with Tubbs since 2013, Luong also brought perspective on Tubbs’ commitment to improving the internship program.

“No one really thinks about the management, the operations of the [athletic training] program, all the backstage, undercover, behind-the-scenes work. [Tubbs is] doing all of that and half the time we wouldn’t even know,” Luong said. “It amazes me how she can do so much and still make these types of changes to the [Sports Medicine Internship] Program.”

The director of sports medicine is an all-encompassing role, and is one that can make a difference in the lives of not just student athletes but also students aspiring to work in the sports medicine field.

Written by Julia Wu – sports@theaggie.org


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