'Keeping them on the mountain'

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'Keeping them on the mountain'

The mountains are all different, the trips radical, the payoff might be Olympic gold.

The journey to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, for athletic trainer Jason Switzer started in Lisbon, N.D., and coursed through the University of North Dakota Sports Medicine program.

"I was kind of a jock in high school; I excelled in several sports," said Switzer, who normally works as a certified athletic trainer for St. Luke's Health System in Boise, Idaho, but who's now on leave with the U.S. Olympic Slopestyle Snowboard Team. "I knew I wanted to work in the sports field, and I had an amazing experience at UND in the Sports Medicine program with Steve Westereng and all the folks there."

Westereng, director, Division of Sports Medicine in the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences, says Switzer follows in a strong tradition of excellence.

"It was neat from my position because Jason took the place of another graduate of ours who moved up the ranks in the Dallas Stars organization," Westereng said. "It is great from an educational program perspective to see when an employer hires one of your graduates and then hires another right away to fill that same position. It is easy to see why Jason would fit in as he is knowledgeable, professional, hard-working and always has a positive attitude."

Positive is the working principle.

"I've worked with professional hockey teams, and I was the lead athletic trainer for the (ECHL hockey team) Idaho Steelheads," Switzer said. "It's (all about) watching the athletes, assessing and treating injuries quickly and effectively, making a plan of treatment, and staying focused on keeping them healthy and in the game."

Getting to work in the Olympics as an athletic trainer is a long and hard journey to follow.

You have to have an employer that supports you so you can do this kind of activity since many of the positions are not full time jobs," Westereng said. "You have to have the right skill set, be willing to work in unfamiliar settings, possibly work with various athletes in various sports, and have the flexibility in life to be away for weeks to months leading up to the games."

For his work with the Olympic snowboarders, Switzer notes, "it's all about keeping them on the mountain. I'm there to help facilitate their success at Sochi."

Juan Miguel Pedraza University & Public Affairs writer

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