Two high schools honored for athletic training programs

Nuggets athletic trainer Jim Gillen also recognizes Hotchkiss senior for perseverance
by Aaron Lopez

Nuggets athletic trainer Jim Gillen celebrated a special anniversary on Saturday night.

Ten years after creating the Excellence In Athletic Training awards, Gillen continued the tradition of recognizing outstanding work by high school athletic trainers throughout Colorado.

Matt Hertz of Columbine High School and Lisa Smith of Denver East High School were honored as the 2013 recipients before Denver’s game against the Sacramento Kings. They each received $2,000 for their athletic training programs, along with an Automated External Defibrillator.

“It’s a phenomenal thing to see someone at the professional level supporting high schools the way (Gillen) does,” Smith said.

Gillen also recognized Hotchkiss High School senior Conner Beard as the Comeback Athlete of the Year. Beard, a multi-sport standout in baseball, football, track and wresting, is recovering from his second reconstructive shoulder surgery in less than two years.

Beard, who was unable to attend Saturday’s game, will receive $1,500 in college scholarship money, while another $1,000 will be donated to Hotchkiss’ athletic training program.

Gillen, now in his 22nd season with the Nuggets, established the Excellence In Athletic Training awards in 2003 to help provide supplies, education and training for high schools in Colorado and Wyoming. Before starting his career in professional sports, Gillen spent 12 years as a Certified Athletic Trainer at high schools in Texas and Colorado.

“High school athletic trainers have the same qualifications as I did,” Gillen said. “They are invaluable to helping young athletes and don’t often get the credit they deserve.

“Most high school athletic trainers are responsible for 400 or 500 kids. I’m responsible for 15 players. This is a way to recognize the outstanding programs and help their programs at the same time.”

Smith, in her 13th year at Denver East, said she wasn’t sure what she would do with the money for her program, while Hertz said it would likely be used to purchase new equipment.
Hertz added that the $2,000 represented about a quarter of his annual budget.

“It’s great,” he said of Gillen’s involvement with high school programs. “He knows what it’s all about.”