Nicole Neal is the new head athletic trainer at Florida Gulf Coast University. After her former boss at North Carolina State University suggested the job, Nicole did some research and decided to apply for the position.
Nicole went to Wesleyan Christian Academy High School in High Point, N.C. She played almost every sport during that time, but her big club sport was soccer. At this time, she was not sure about the kind of career she wanted to have. She went to NCSU to study business management, but she hated it and transferred back home.
Neal’s mom actually talked her into studying athletic training.
“She said, ‘You love sports, you’re really into sports medicine and they have a program at High Point University,’” Neal said.
She took her mom’s advice and got her bachelor’s degree in athletic training at High Point University.
“When I went to High Point, their athletic training program was kind of like an opportunity for me to get my foot in the door,” Neal said.
When she graduated from HPU, she went into a physical training (PT) clinic to try and see if this is the proper setting for her. It was not a good fit for her, so she went to the University of Oregon to get her masters in exercise science.
She went to work at NCSU after graduate school as an athletic trainer for the track and field department. She then worked for four years with the women’s basketball team where she was promoted as an associate director of sports medicine. Being promoted was the next natural progression in her career. She became a supervisor for a lot of graduate students, and she took on the role of the scheduling and the daily operations of athletic training.
“As far as the actual care of student athletes, it didn’t change that much,” Neal said. “It was just the administrative responsibilities changed and that’s what changed the title.”
She worked there for 17 years before transferring to FGCU.
At FGCU, her job entails working closely with the strength and conditioning coaches to formulate plans in the weight room that will prevent athlete injuries.
“The thing that separates athletic trainers from PTs is our access to our patients,” Neal said.
She sees the athletes every day before and after practice. If an athlete is injured and out of the season, she sees them multiple times a day.
She has enjoyed the two weeks she has been here so far.
“I wouldn’t have chosen to leave a very comfortable place for some place I knew wasn’t a right fit for me,” Neal said.
She will be the athletic trainer for men’s basketball team.
“I want to do everything I can to keep the men healthy so they can achieve their maximum success on the court,” Neal said.
She does not plan on leaving anytime soon and she is serious about providing top of the line care for the FGCU athletes.
“I want to continue to provide first-class healthcare to every Eagle student-athlete and understand and address the medical needs of each FGCU athletic team,” Neal said.