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How One Athletic Trainer Promotes Physical and Mental Health Among Athletes

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Sarah Jane Walley, an assistant athletic trainer for the McNeese State University softball team, takes a holistic approach when it comes to working with student athletes.

Walley, known affectionately as “SJ” to the softball team, said the program is competitive and that the coaches expect a lot from the players. That’s why she always tries to understand what the women are experiencing off the field so she can help them perform their best in the game.

“Their mental health is just as important as their physical health,” Walley said. “And so I always try to make sure that they know that they’re heard, they’re listened to and that they are so much more than what they do out on that softball field.”

Walley isn’t all talk, as evidenced by her relationship with the women on the team.

“These girls are some of the most characteristic, flamboyant personalities I’ve ever been around,” she said. “And not only does that make my job fun, but it makes my job a lot easier.”

Walley has grown particularly close to senior outfielder Toni Perrin, who said Walley “is like a big sister to me we’ve grown so close.”

“If I didn’t have SJ I don’t think I’d be able to last the whole season,” Perrin said. “I’m being so honest.”

Perrin recalled a particular time when Walley talked her through a rough patch. She got suspended because of her body language during a game in the fall, and Perrin said she wasn’t in the right head space. The incident happened during the same year her dad died.

Perrin said she walked into the locker room crying. Walley followed her and asked what was wrong. Perrin said she didn’t know if she wanted to keep playing softball.

Walley told Perrin she’s extremely talented and an essential leader on the team, but that ultimately it was her decision whether to keep playing. The women ended up talking all day.

“She just been a very influential person in my life, and I’m super grateful and thankful that she’s here,” Perrin said.

The Ochsner Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine’s Athletic Training Outreach Program provides quality healthcare to athletes competing in any sport. Ochsner athletic trainers are proficient in prevention, treatment and maintenance of any sport-related injury or health condition. The program’s goal is to keep athletes safe and to prevent serious injury from occurring.

Learn more about the services and benefits provided by the Ochsner Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine’s Athletic Training Outreach Program.

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