NEW SHS FACULTY MEMBER — Sunnyside High School Athletic Trainer and Sports Medicine Teacher Tara Babcock is on the Grizzly sideline during football practice and stands ready to provide medical treatment for student athletes throughout the healthcare process.

SUNNYSIDE — The responsibility of establishing an athletic training program in all sports at Sunnyside High School and teaching students about sports medicine is the professional challenge Tara Babcock is prepared to carry out, from the sideline to the classroom in her new role as sports trainer and teacher.

While completing her Master’s degree in Athletic Training at Montana State University Billings (MSUB), Babcock learned about the Grizzlies’ program from an email job posting sent to all the program directors in the region encouraging new graduates to apply.

After discovering more details about the job and explaining her academic situation with former SHS Athletic Director Scott Paine, she enthusiastically applied last spring when COVID-19 forced campuses to close.

“That was exactly the type of job I wanted, teaching and athletic training,” Babcock described. “I liked the culture that Sunnyside presented.”

Following the successful interview, Babcock was hired in April. Since there were no sports taking place at that time due to the pandemic, her position would not begin until the fall.

From the moment she kicked the ball, the soccer sport player and enthusiast has been drawn to the pitch. Her education and career path would follow a similar route to achieving her professional goals.

She was taking prerequisite classes for nursing at community college on the westside and attending a lot of Seattle Sounders games. It was the view from the stands when the former high school soccer player who was an Ellensburg Bulldog for about a year and half, first recognized an athletic trainer’s role.

“I saw that guy running out onto the field and asked my friend who is that and he said, ‘That’s the athletic trainer. You had one of those in high school.’ And I didn’t know. I never knew about that. So, he told me what it was all about, and I was like, that’s what I wanted to do,” Babcock stated.

The determined student went on to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree in Kinesiology with a minor in sports psychology from Western Washington University and was immediately accepted into the graduate degree program at MSUB.

Another reason she decided to become an athletic trainer over a physical therapist is that she seeks to be present if and when an injury happens or involved early on and provide medical treatment management with student athletes throughout the healthcare process, she said.

Babcock’s ties to the region and sports scene runs deep. Her uncle wrestled for Sunnyside under coach George Paulus and graduated in 1980.

As a MSUB Yellowjacket grad student, she was able to return to CenturyLink Field in Seattle last year. Not as a spectator in the stands but an athletic trainer intern on the Sounders’ sideline when they won the championship.

“It was so cool to kind of come full circle not only with the sport that I love but the team that I love. The team that inspired me to become an athletic trainer in the first place.”

For the past few weeks, the Grizzly athletic trainer has been attending volunteer practices building relationships with coaches and student athletes. She stands ready on the sideline to provide a full range of treatment when needed with an overall goal of working together and doing what is best for the kids, program and the school.

“My role is to keep an eye on practices looking out for injuries. So, if someone does get hurt, the coaches don’t need to stop. They can just send the athlete to me and I can figure out what to do and then talk with coaches later about what’s going on. That way, they can keep doing their job since they’re not trained in specialty medical care like I am,” Babcock pointed out.

Athletic trainers are required to have an overseeing doctor and Babcock was able to connect with Dr. Derek Weaver, a family physician practitioner in Sunnyside with orthopedic care experience. Weaver also works closely with the wrestling program and he agreed to be her supervising doctor, she reported.

“If we have a bigger injury that I need to check out and it’s too much for them to continue practice, I let them know and their parents know being minors that their parents need to be involved in this,” Babcock indicated. “I’ll let coach know what’s going on and then educate them enough without overwhelming.”

She explained talking with a parent and athlete and a coach is different than speaking with her colleagues. Building upon sound communication and strong relationships, collaborative healthcare support and treatment plans throughout the entire sports program is her paramount goal.

“It’s been very rewarding to be here and to be a part of the school because the school really prides itself on culture,” Babcock described. “And is not only visible but feels tangible because of how close everyone is and how friendly everyone is. And not just the students with me or each other but also with my colleagues.”

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email

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