Q&A with local legend Ryan Jaeger
By Lila Cohen, Deputy Editor
As many athletes can attest to, there are a number of things that make the VHS athletic program special. And while each VHS athlete’s experience is different, the one person all VHS athletes share their high school careers with is none other than athletic trainer Ryan Jaeger. Jaeger’s job is key to VHS’ athletic success and the health and safety of high school athletes. However, the impact he has had extends much further.
“I think Ryan means a whole lot to everyone. He keeps everyone moving and fixes all of us every time we need it. To me he is a friend, a mentor, and an amazing person to be around,” VHS football and basketball player Sawyer Ranney said.
Each VHS athletic season, between daily practices and regular games, Jaeger spends over 100 hours with his athletes. But how well do his athletes know him?
How did you come to work at VHS?
“I work through Seattle Children’s Hospital, and then the school district and the hospital have a contract for providing Athletic Training Services. And when I applied for the job at Children’s, they assigned me to that job. And here I am.”
How long have you worked here?
“This is year four. So the seniors this year were freshmen when I started.”
What does a workday in the life of Ryan look like?
“Depending on the day I get here between 1:00 and 2:00 ish, just depending on what I have to do. And usually the first hours are when I catch up on some paperwork and do some organizational things. Then kind of as we get closer to school being done, that’s when I’ll start getting any gear like coolers or equipment and stuff like that for games out. Maybe setting up my little stations for the field or something like that beforehand, too. And then when school gets out, and everyone starts coming over to get changed, I start doing treatment stuff for them, getting them ready for practice or games. And then once the game starts I just kind of hang out there and practice, same thing too hopefully no injuries.”
Do you work at other schools?
“I don’t, this is the only school that I’m primarily working at. There’s 40 or so of us that all work at the hospital, and are all hired and have their [own] school. So I might go and help somebody if they’re gone on vacation or something like that. But usually, I’m here 98% of the time for whatever Vashon needs and then the occasional thing going somewhere else.”
What did the students and the connections you’ve made here mean to you?
“I mean, that’s kind of like, one of the perks of the job. If you ask any athletic trainer, they’re probably like, ‘Hey, this is where you get to hang out with your kids and get to know them outside of school and they’re not structured and they get to be themselves.’ I think one of the best parts is to just see them out doing their own thing being themselves. So that’s kind of, I mean, that’s a huge thing, and especially in high school, and so much happens, like, you know, you’re slowly getting older and figuring out what you want to do and your personality is coming into life and you’ll start thinking about college and stuff like that. And then that’s kind of like the fun part. Or one of the fun parts of life that you know, it’s fun to see and see all the different people develop that way.”
What is your favorite part of the job?
“I like being out seeing the different groups of sports and how they interact with each other and kind of just seeing the different types of interactions and camaraderie with everyone. In terms of straight athletic training, game days are always exciting. It’s kind of interesting, football, for example, I always get super pumped and excited when I start doing all the taping and like getting people ready to go. Just having like everyone come in all at once just like just hammering out what they need ahead of time. This just gets me kind of in the mood for the game and excited for them.”
What do you like to do in your spare time?
“It’s kind of a hobby by necessity but I just bought a house this spring. So now I’m slowly getting into fixing it up and doing DIY type of stuff. Some things are more by necessity than for fun. But it’s kind of been a fun or an experience so far. My birthday present was a water heater to myself. So that was fun. That’s something I never thought I would have before. But aside from that, when it’s nice out like my wife and I, we go paddleboarding, we do some hiking and traveling like in the Pacific Northwest. So that’s kind of one thing we did a lot this summer was go out to like lakes and rivers and streams. And then I’m a big soccer fan. So I’ll go to Sounders games or go out and play that type of thing, just on my own, you know, a couple other people. But yeah, I mean, pretty low-key type of person not going all crazy type of a thing.”
What is the worst someone has gotten on a concussion test?
“I mean, the way that they work, they just compare it to everyone that’s taking it in the nation, and they just kind of put you in a rigged game. And I mean, there are a lot of times people read the directions wrong so they do the opposite of what they’re supposed to do. So I’ve had people not get to zero but get like, [but get] less than 1% in our ranking or something like that. And like then they just have to do it again. And then read the directions a second time.”
What is your favorite dog breed or cat breed?
“This is gonna upset some people I think, but I’m not much of a cat or dog person. I don’t know, I’m just not a normal pet kind of guy. If I had to say my favorite dog breed would probably be like a husky.”
If you could have a superpower what would it be and why?
“I mean, you know a realistic superpower would be nice if I could dunk, not really built for basketball but you know it’d be nice to maybe jump a little bit higher and [then I would] probably go with like telekinesis or teleportation.”
How did you get so good at basketball?
“I don’t know. I don’t consider myself built for it.”
Did you always know that you wanted to be in the medical field?
“I think so. I mean a lot of my family is in healthcare. So when I was growing up, it was kind of like, oh, there’s a random journal about medicine and stuff. And I would just flip through that when I was bored and just kind of look at the pictures… I had the opportunity to do a student AT thing for the track team [in high school]. So I went to the track meets and helped athletes and stuff like that and kind of helped out. And then that’s how I kind of applied to it for college. And then once I got into college and was like ‘Oh, this is pretty awesome.’”
Where did you grow up?
“I’m originally from Wisconsin, and went to school, high school, all of that same city that I grew up in, and then went to Marquette for college for athletic training. And then I did my master’s at the University of Wisconsin for kinesiology. And then we got here in 2017.”
What brought you out to the Seattle area?
“My wife and I got married that same year . And we just decided that we wanted to move because we were in Wisconsin our whole lives. And we just kind of threw some darts at the board and, you know, started applying to jobs in the same city. So Seattle just kind of happened to work out. We [both] got offers and we just went for it.”
What advice do you have for students?
“As kids and students are getting older and getting closer to college and adult years, [I think it is important] to be open to trying different types of opportunities. It might not always be what you think you’re meant to [be] or wanting to do. But it might be something that you kind of get thrown into your lap. And now with something that you really liked and enjoyed that you tried. So [just] don’t close the door on any opportunity until you’ve tried it out and figured out if you liked it or not.”