Physical therapists and sports psychologist now available on campus


Photo credit Kanav Kakkar

Physical Therapist wrapping up a Westminster student’s injury

Westminster is the only high school in America where students have access to licensed physical therapists and a mental performance coach.

Previously, if a Westminster student injured themselves during a sports practice, they could get immediate help from Donna Hayes, the head trainer at Westminster. However, if the student required physical therapy, they had to go outside Westminster. Westminster has always had the facilities necessary for physical therapy, but trainers were spread thin, especially in the fall and spring. 

“We are so spread out that there is no time for a one-on-one session,” said Hayes.

The physical therapists provide much needed one-on-one supervision as well as expertise in areas such as massage and dry needling.

Westminster’s trainers help not only athletes but also community members. Sports fans who fell downstairs on the way to a football game, in addition to joggers who twisted ankles on Kosh, all come to the trainer for medical assistance.

“We even had someone who broke their finger at a pool party, and they came here,” said Hayes. 

Now, all members of the Westminster community, including club athletes, can continue their physical therapy without having to leave Westminster’s campus. 

Amber Golay is one of the licensed physical therapists in the training room from 2:00 pm-7:00 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays at Westminster. 

“Our general job as physical therapists is to restore physical function after injury and to determine if the injury can be treated conservatively through hands-on manual therapy,” said Golay.

Golay works for Team Rehab, a local physical therapy company near Westminster. 

“Our clinic is right across from the OK Cafe, so we already saw lots of Westminster kids,” said Golay. 

By being more convenient for both kids and parents, athletes can recover faster because they are more likely to attend physical therapy and get the help they need if it is offered on Westminster’s campus as opposed to having to travel elsewhere.

 In addition to providing support for physical injuries, Westminster has hired a sports psychologist to be a resource for both athletes and coaches. Sam Booth is Westminster’s mental performance coach (he can officially be called a sports psychologist when he gets his doctorate in 2023). 

“What I do is work to create a safe, healthy, non-negative environment,” said Booth.

Booth helps athletes and coaches at Westminster to reduce burnout, balance the time spent on academics versus sports, and utilize a full mind and body approach.  Additionally, he is working to help address the stigma about mental health in sports. 

“Athletes are afraid to talk about issues. They are afraid to speak up because they are afraid it will impact how their coaches see them and how their teammates see them,” said Booth. “And when a coach hears a sports psychologist is coming, they are often afraid to be judged. My main job is to empower a coach, and through that, you create a healthier environment.” 

 Booth has been attending athletic events at Westminster, letting students see him in a sports environment.  

“He loves sports and loves to be involved,” said Hayes.   

“I’m not going to use the title Dr. Booth. I want to come in an equal. You have to take the ego out of it,” said Booth. “Coaches will often come to me, asking if I can teach mindfulness. I’ll respond, asking if instead I can come in and speak to the coach or speak to the team captains because it would be more empowering if I did that. I’m in the background making moves,” said Booth. “I would love to empower the athletes to feel able to reach out to me directly.” 

Senior cross country runner Austin Reiner remembers when Booth met with the team.

“He seems like a good resource for people to have. I wish he had come in earlier,” said Reiner. “Sam made sure the team environment was in a healthy place.”

Reiner rolled his ankle towards the beginning of the cross country season, leaving him to watch his team continue moving forward without him.  

“It got very demoralizing at times,” said Reiner. “No, I never went to see him, but I think having Sam as a resource when I was dealing with the injury would have been helpful.” 

By working with his physical therapist in the Westminster training room, Reiner recovered quickly and finished his season strong.

Booth is a great resource for athletes coming off of an injury as well as athletes who face intense pressure from themselves or others during sporting events.   

“I think Sam could be very helpful for guys who are recovering and also for people who get inside their heads a little bit before races,” said Reiner. “People will get anxious just because you want to perform well, and you’re worried you won’t. Especially if you’re in a slump where you’ve had a string of bad races, I think he could help you break out of that. I think there is a lot of extra support to be gained from him.”

Booth and the physical therapists are two unique and beneficial sports medicine resources available to the Westminster community.

“This is kind of like a college campus,” said Hayes. “Our sports medicine facilities are a great resource for students and coaches and a great service that would benefit everybody.