It has been two years since I last visited the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It felt much more familiar this time around since I knew the lay of the land and what is expected of us [volunteers] while we are staying here. Although it is not a vacation as you are in a tiny little dorm with a shared bathroom for the floor, working 6 days a week; it is not an opportunity to be missed.
First off, I need to say how amazing the cafeteria is. They really know how to get you excited for all three meals a day. The cafeteria is open most of the day except for a couple hours to change things over. They have a great cold bar that has deli sandwiches and cold salads and fruit, hot meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a grill for your creature comforts (burgers and grilled chicken sandwiches). The menu changes daily and it was always fantastic. All caloric needs are listed as well as any allergy considerations. Herbs and spices are so plentiful as well. I’ll admit that eating well here is a joy as its perfectly laid out for the athletes every day.
The clinic was a buzz with athletes coming and going from competitions. I love Colorado Springs for the amount of amazing para-olympic athletes that either live and train on campus or pass through on their way to their destination. These athletes really make the words “I CAN’T” null. I met an amazing woman who just lost her leg this spring and is on campus now training for swimming for Tokyo 2020. Talk about a no “I Can’t” attitude. I hope to also see her run Boston in the future - and I hope to be there myself! Triathlon, swimming, alpine skiing, basketball; you name it, they are here.
The range of care depends on their needs as well. I had the pleasure to work with a para-basketball player who got a concussion while playing for a league in Germany. We worked together a twice a day to help relieve his symptoms and get him home so he could propose to his girlfriend. We did a lot of Active Release Techniques with him to help elevate his head pain. Another athletes was para-olympic triathlete who had no use of his legs. His sport requires him to use his arms for all three disciplines - very different from the rest of us who get to rely on our legs for 2 of the 3 disciplines. The fact that these athletes have training and rehab/treatment at their fingertips is so important.
Fortunately, while we are at the clinic, we are open to sit in on practices with the Athletic Trainers. For my rotation, mens wresting and mens gymnastics were on campus. USA Cycling was finished a training camp at elevation at the velodrome. As a le Tour de France fan, it was amazing to see one of the popular EF Education First USA cyclists in house. The women were getting a last big training in before leaving for Berlin for competition and onward.
While we were working, the LA Rams also made an appearance! They were supposed to play in New Mexico so scheduled a couple days to train at altitude in the Strength and Conditioning Center that is right outside the clinic doors. To see those men doing box jumps as tall as me while side by side the Pairs Figure Skating team did some gym work was amazing.
Another part of being a volunteer at the OTC is a requirement to be on-call at night. During our stay, we will be on-call for two evenings. That means you have to be able to respond to an athletes call in 10 minutes thus requiring you to remain on campus. It is just a new level of responsibility that we have there that we not have at home in clinic.
It is a phenomenal experience to work with TEAM USA. I was able to see some athletes I worked with in 2016 win gold in South Korea with past winter Olympics. I’m honored to have worked with these amazing athletes and cannot wait to come back. Thank you, OTC!