Q&A with Flyers Athletic Trainer Jim McCrossin

If you’re a hockey fan, you must be bumming pretty hard right now as it’s been 57 days since the NHL lockout began. I’m not a big hockey fan, but I can’t even imagine not being able to watch baseball for that long (I was too young in 1994-95 to pay much attention to the MLB strike). So I can sympathize.

Anyway, we thought we’d bring you something hockey-related (that those who aren’t NHL fans will hopefully find interesting too!). Jim McCrossin, the Athletic Trainer and Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Philadelphia Flyers, was kind enough to do an interview with ProCore Sports. This will likely be the first of many interviews with people with different perspectives on and insights regarding sports.

ProCore Sports: How did you get involved in athletic training?
Jim McCrossin: I guess that was the path I chose when I had to make a decision. The choices were to become either a physical therapist or an athletic trainer. I decided to choose athletic training. I met the head of the program at the time from West Chester University, Phil Donnelly, who was a physical therapist/athletic trainer and we got to talking and–to make a long story short–he told me what an athletic trainer was all about and here I am.

PCS: What exactly is an athletic trainer all about?
JM: For me, being an athletic trainer is about care, prevention, and rehabilitation of injuries that athletes or industrial athletes sustain. Athletic trainers are now used in the military, they’re used in special ops, they’re used in industry. But predominately they’re used for care and prevention and rehabilitation of injuries that occur to athletes.

PCS: What do you like about working for a hockey team in particular?
JM: I like the camaraderie, I like being part of a team. I like that even though we don’t go out and score goals, I feel like our job is behind the scenes and keeping the players as healthy as we can possibly keep them so they can go out and do what they do best.

PCS: Do you have any tips for young athletes hoping to go pro?
JM: I think you have to be dedicated. I think you have to be dedicated in any manner, in every manner. You can’t just rest on your skills, because at some point skill level will become equal. You need to be dedicated to your training, to your nutrition, to getting your rest and not going out and sometimes doing what your other buddies are doing and getting caught up in things you shouldn’t be getting caught up on. And you have to stay dedicated to your true goal, if that’s truly your goal. If you want to play in the NHL or NBA or—it doesn’t matter what you want to do, go to the Olympics—it takes a dedication.

PCS: What are some of the benefits of resistance band training?
JM: To me, the benefits of using any kind of band training would be that you’re able to go and strengthen functional movement planes. Whereas with a dumbbell or a kettlebell, you could, but I like that [with bands] you’re not only getting concentric work, you’re getting eccentric work. To me, functional movement patterns and training the way you train specifically for the sport that you’re playing or the activity that you’re doing is the way to go. It’s a safe way to do it too.

PCS: What is a functional plane?
JM: We move in all different planes of motion. And when you’re training, it all comes down to if you have a really good grasp on your anatomy and your kinesiology and movement patterns. And that you’re not doing segmental training meaning I’m not just going to train my quads or my adductors (the groins), that I’m going to be training my upper and lower and core together, the way we utilize it out there in the field of play.

PCS: Why do you think athletes are training with heel-based resistance?
JM: It’s no different than if I’m working a rotator cuff with band work, it incorporates the whole kinetic chain. So if I’m using heel-based resistance—if I’m David Akers [kicker for the San Francisco 49ers] who I know has used ExcelCord®—that I’m able to go ahead and load that limb at the end and work that through the whole range of motion. So now you’re functionally training through the whole entire range of motion, which is great—that’s what you’re looking for. You’re trying to strengthen up any of your weak links within that kinetic chain.

PCS: What is the most important thing you teach your athletes?
JM: I think being an athletic trainer and being a strength coach, it’s important to instruct your players on how to do any type of conditioning the right way, because you can injure yourself if you do it the wrong way. And if you don’t know what you’re doing and you allow an athlete to go ahead and get hurt under your watch, shame on you. I think the most important thing you can do is to make sure that you’re not afraid to say, “Hey stop, this is the way to do it and this is why you have to do it this way. And if you continue to do it the way that you are doing it, you can put yourself at risk of injury.”

PCS: What is your favorite thing about your job?
JM: Again, camaraderie, being part of a team. I think for me, it’s being there to help. I’m a people person, I like to help. I’m a caregiver. And in my job I’m able to do all those things and get those rewards. I don’t need the spotlight. I’m not in it for the spotlight, that’s for the players. My reward is that if a player gets hurt—you know, God forbid—you’re able to help them get back. If you can help prevent an injury, that’s great, that’s what you’re there for. Again, it’s just being around the team, being around the camaraderie. Being a very small piece of that team. And I always say that our medical team is a team within a team. And without that, the team doesn’t run.

If you’re interested in a little more information about Jim McCrossin, this was taken from his bio on the Flyers’ website: “Jim McCrossin is the Athletic Trainer/Strength and Conditioning Coach of both the Flyers and the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Flyers’ AHL affiliate…Is in his 10th season with the Flyers…Spent the previous five seasons also with the Phantoms…Served as the Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Hartford Whalers during the 1995-96 season…Previously worked with the Flyers as an athletic trainer with Pat Croce…Is a graduate of West Chester University and is a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist CSCS)…Is a member of the National Athletic Trainers Association, the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the American Academy of Sports Medicine…Jim has four children: Kevin, J.D., Danielle, and Luke…He and his wife, Robyn, reside in New Jersey.”

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