By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Missouri Southern’s sports medicine program has come a long way since it began 35 years ago.
“We had absolutely nothing,” said Kevin Lampe, the school’s first athletic trainer. “We were truly innovative with what we did.
“For example we didn’t have money to buy ice scoops to get ice out of the ice machine. So we took gallon jugs of milk, cut them in half, and the half with the handle became our scoop. Every week I was cutting a new milk jug because the other one would wear out.
“We didn’t have enough tape for everybody. So I bought 400 yards of material that was two inches wide and real thin like a cotton belt that would not stretch. I cut them into strips about 80 inches long and used them to wrap ankles.
“We had to wash those every time after a kid wore one. Wendy (his wife) and I spent evenings at home on the living room floor wrapping those strips by hand so they would be ready for the next day. We washed them over and over again. We used them all year long for a cost of $7. It was not nearly as good as taping the ankle, but it’s how we got started. And we grew from there.”
Lampe, now the corporate vice president for Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, S.D., was hired as MSSU’s athletic trainer in 1978.
“I was finishing up graduate school (at Northern Iowa),” he said. “It was getting down to late April, and I was graduating in June and I didn’t have a job — didn’t even have an offer. All of a sudden three offers came in two days — Kearney State, Colorado School of Mines and Missouri Southern. I went to Southern specifically because I could start a program. The other two had respectable programs already, and I wanted to do my own thing and start my own program.
“Jim (Frazier, athletics director) let me develop my own program. Dr. Clarence Martin was the team doctor when I got there. I got Dr. Martin as a general surgeon and two orthopedic surgeons, Bruce Burleigh and John Esch, to work with me.
“I started developing a student athletic trainer curriculum, and over the course of the years, I think we had probably well over 25 of my students go on and get certified and several of them are still working in athletic training today. I’m proud of that.”
Lampe’s first four students were Jimmy Wright, Marty Conklin, Brenda Sneed and Frank Eitemiller.
“They knew I had an interest in medical-type stuff,” Sneed said. “Sallie Beard was the women’s athletics director. She asked me if I’d be interested in working with Kevin, and I said yes. ... I was able to combine my love for sports and athletics and the medical side of it.
“I was the first student to come out of the program who got certified. At that time we had only one class for athletic training. It was a general athletic training class that all the PE majors took. I took an EMT class my senior year, then Kevin helped me study and pass the certification exam.”
“We were stuck in a room in the men’s locker room,” Conklin said. “It was a very small space. We were packed in there like sardines. We didn’t know any better. We worked hard, but we still had a good time. We got the job done.
“Kevin was very organized, of course. He did a great job of preparing us to be entering into the profession. It was an apprenticeship to certification. Not only were we providing services for the athlete, he created a very good education proponent for us who wanted to become certified athletic trainers.”
“I remember we didn’t even wear gloves at the beginning,” Sneed said. “There are so many things that have changed. You didn’t have all the precautionary things. Back then you didn’t hear of HIV and hepatitis. You just did it.”
After graduating from Missouri Southern, Conklin went to Tulsa for graduate school, and he returned to Missouri Southern in 1988 when he was hired as the school’s first assistant trainer.
Three years later Lampe left Missouri Southern to launch the Sports Medicine Center at Freeman Hospital, and Conklin was promoted to head trainer.
Conklin held that job until he became a fulltime teacher in the kinesiology department at MSSU, and Darin Moore was promoted from assistant to head trainer.
Moore is in his 10th year as head trainer, and Amanda Wolf has been his assistant the last eight years. They have four interns and eight undergraduate students.
“The interns are kids who have graduated and certified,” Moore said. “This is the first step of their career if they are interested in getting into coaching or physical therapy or moving on as a trainer.
“We start in the mornings doing therapy on kids, reconditioning, strengthening, flexibility. The afternoon is spent getting kids ready for practice, and we have to get ready for practice.”
The training staff is at every practice for every sport except golf. Naturally during games, it’s best when they have to do the least work. And with treatments on Sunday, it’s a seven-day job.
“It’s a labor of love,” Moore said. “There is nothing better than seeing someone — whether it’s Brandon Williams or some kid who never sees the field — come back from an injury and get to do what he loves to do. That’s fun to watch.”