AT Spotlight: Dan Wright, Head Athletic Trainer for the Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers Stadium

Today, for National Athletic Training Month, we are highlighting Head Athletic Trainer Dan Wright, MS, ATC/L, CSCS from the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club and original co-founder of FITLIFE Health Systems. Dan has over 32 years of experience in the field of Athletic Training with 19 of those being in MLB. There is a ton to learn from this Q&A and a lot of excellent advice.

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Name: Dan Wright MS, ATC/L, CSCS

Employer: Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club, Head Athletic Trainer.

Years of Experience: Total 32 years; 19 years in MLB.

FITLIFE: What’s your educational background? 

Dan: I received my BS in Physical Education 1984 from the Univ. of Oregon, MS in Clinical Health and Sports Medicine 1987 from the Univ. of Oregon.

FITLIFE: What made you want to become an Athletic Trainer (AT)?

Dan: Like most people involved in sports related careers I was an athlete growing up and had some experience with injury. However, I think that the driving force for me was that I realized early that in order to realize my initial goal of being a P.E. teacher and track coach many things had to come together.  For example, finding a school that needed to fill a P.E. position in building, has a track coach opening and that is also in a district that support those programs in the long term. Back then there was a lot of uncertainty with the direction of public education. Hmm, I guess some things haven’t changed much. After getting my Associates degree from my home town junior college I enrolled into the Univ. of Oregon I discovered the graduate level AT program and my interest spiked.  I went through the application process and was given acceptance as an undergraduate in the second half of my junior year.  From that point, the rest is history.

FITLIFE: What’s your favorite daily AT duty?

Dan: This may not be a specific duty, but I think my favorite thing every day is engaging in the comradery of my staff, the coaching staff, front office personnel and our player personnel.  There are so many daily tasks that we do and I enjoy the vast majority of those but the interpersonal relationships are what jazz me up from day to day.  And remember, tasks are over when the day is over, but professional friendships and relationships can last a lifetime. BE CONNECTED.

FITLIFE: In what/ways do you feel you’ve grown over the years?

Dan: For me, “over the years” covers a lot of ground.  I have tried my best to be open minded regarding trying new techniques and theories related to our practice. My career has spanned 32 years to date and there has been so much progress within our profession. In that time many concepts have come full circle in that they had fallen out of favor only to resurface with a slightly different application or focus in the profession. The experiences that I had with John Neel in starting FITLIFE back in 1997 and being involved with the passing of our Arizona licensure bill in 2000 were among some of the more rewarding and impactful experiences that I have had in my career.  Over the decades I have been blessed to experience so many different angles and settings within our profession that it has given me a wide sense of what it is to be an athletic trainer.  Embrace the opportunities that come before you as you journey through the profession.  BE PASSIONATE.

FITLIFE: If I was a brand-new AT or just thinking about joining the profession, what’s some advice you’d want to share?

Dan: So much could be shared here….. To start with, I would encourage students to approach this career with the mindset of being in service to others.  Everything that we do as ATs revolves around service to others (athletes, parents, coaches, administrators, to name a few) and it’s important to understand this.  We must have a balance of compassion, selflessness, humility and internal drive.  In addition, we must be the calm in the storm of chaos that can occur from day to day. With that said, we must also work with a level of authority and confidence. The quickest way to lose control of a situation with athletes, coaches, parents or administrators is to lose control of a situation.  Stay within yourself and know the limits of your knowledge and experience, but command your strengths and let those attributes be your guide.  DON’T WORK IN FEAR.

FITLIFE: What’s your philosophy as an AT?

Dan: My philosophy has always been in a constant state of evolution.  Even though my core thought process revolves around hands on manual related concepts, I allow myself the latitude to think out of the box.  Through my career I have always had a little bit of a maverick attitude which has served me well on many levels.  BE OPEN MINDED.

FITLIFE: How has your treatment philosophy developed throughout your career?

Dan: The simple answer is that out of school I applied what I learned. Very soon after I was in the professional world I learned how to apply what I know.  Another way of stating this is that I learned to sharpen my ability to adapt and modify to the situation.  Every experience can involve working with a different person, facility, protocol and so many other various factors that can influence the course of your decision process. BE ADAPTABLE.

FITLIFE: What’s your favorite treatment technique? Why?

Dan: Not really related to a specific technique but I have always preferred to use my hands.  Modalities and various techniques have their place, but you can’t underestimate the value of the information that can be gleaned when you use your hands.  You get real time assessment of tissue integrity, texture, pain level, strength and ROM.  In addition we cannot underappreciate the connection we get because of the personal contact and conversation.  BE PERSEPTIVE AND AWARE.

FITLIFE: State one quote that has had a profound impact on you personally or professionally.

Dan: This is more of a motto or phrase but one that has been with me since I was in school; “Be aggressively patient”.  What that means is this: You can only control what is in your power to control. So much that occurs in our lives is far beyond our ability to control. One thing you can control is your level of preparedness.  On the other hand, opportunity can come and go in the blink of an eye. Therefore, prepare yourself as aggressively as you can and maintain a level of alert patience.  When that opportunity door opens, you will be in a better position to seize the opportunity before the door closes.  BE PREPARED AND BE HUMBLE.

FITLIFE: If you could have any super power what would it be? Why?

Dan: There are two that I would love to master.

  1. The ability to speak and comprehend all languages of the people on earth. Why, because what better way is there to take down barriers than communication and understanding.
  2. The ability to play any musical instrument like a master. Why, just because it would be really cool!

Dan: In closing, I would also advise students to remember that balance in work and in life is the foundation of success.  When you think about being of service to others, don’t forget those at home who love you and support you.  This includes your spouse or significant other, your children, your parents, brothers and sisters, your close friends and anyone else that has been there to lift you up.  And finally, be good to yourself.  If you don’t love and respect yourself it’s very difficult to do the things I have listed above.

“HAVE FUN IN YOUR PROFESSION AND IN LIFE.” – Dan Wright, MS, ATC/L, CSCS

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