Q-A with UW–Madison Athletic Training student Kendal Johnson

Do you enjoy sports and physical activity, the human body, solving problems, caring for patients, and working with people?

If so, have you considered pursuing a career in athletic training?

The Master of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT) program at UW–Madison is a 24-month program that prepares students seeking a health care career in athletic training.

Athletic trainers (ATs) are multi-skilled professionals who collaborate with physicians as part of the health care team to provide preventative services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention, and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. For those who seek dynamic, exciting, and challenging work within the health care field, athletic training is an incredibly rewarding career with a positive employment outlook.

Nonetheless, it’s understandable that you’ll want to learn more to make sure this is the right path before enrolling in an AT program. For additional information, visit the MSAT program’s website.

To give you some more insight, following is a Q&A with Kendal Johnson, who is pursuing an MSAT degree and had an interesting summer clinical experience with the Madison Mallards baseball team.


Where are you from and what drew you to UW–Madison? I’m originally from Naperville, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago. After undergrad, the master’s program at UW–Madison drew me in because of the opportunity to learn at such a well-known institution while gaining experience with high-level D1 athletics programs. Specifically, I was drawn to the UW–Madison MSAT program because of the amount of immersive clinical experience we get to receive before graduation.

Where did you earn your undergraduate degree, and what was it in? I got my bachelor’s degree in exercise science with a minor in sports management from the University of Kansas.

How did you decide to study athletic training, and how long have you been in the program? After being in the world of sports for my entire life and majoring in exercise science I knew I wanted to go into sports medicine of some kind. Although through most of my undergrad program I had plans to pursue physical therapy, I knew the fast-paced and slightly chaotic nature of athletic training was more my speed. I not only wanted to know how athletes’ bodies function but also how to help them return from injury. I am currently in the second year of the program, finishing up the fifth of six semesters before graduation in May 2024.

Where did you do your summer clinical experience and what type of work did it entail? I completed my summer clinical experience with the Madison Mallards, our local collegiate summer baseball league team. The unique nature of the Northwoods League made for a very intensive summer for our athletes: playing around 75 games in a matter of 80 days. My fellow intern and I would work each home game alongside our preceptors, getting the field and players ready to play. This included pregame field setup and treatments, game coverage, and post-game treatments. Treatments for a baseball team often include making sure pitchers are properly stretched and warmed up, therapeutic exercise prescription for those who are coming back from injuries, and a lot of soft tissue work. Then, we watched the game from the dugout and looked out for any problems that our athletes might need help with.

Johnson (right)

What was your your most meaningful experience from this summer clinical experience? With this summer being our first immersive experience, it was most meaningful to me to start being able to work more independently throughout the summer. Having that trust from my preceptor to make my own clinical decisions, with the safety net of still being supervised, really helped build my confidence in all of my clinical skills.

What did you enjoy the most about it? What I enjoyed most this summer was getting to see the athletes and staff each day. I became very close with my fellow intern, which only made each game more fun since I had someone to do it all with. Watching each game, I got to see my work come to fruition as every athlete I helped was able to play on the field. I will never forget when a pitcher once thanked me for helping him, saying that he did not think he would have been able to pitch before we completed his pregame treatment.

What class or faculty member with the AT program has had the greatest impact on you, and why? I think the classes do a really good job of compounding upon one another and each semester is just as important as the last. Early on, our first anatomy class was really impactful in giving us a foundation for all of our evaluation and assessment skills that we would learn next. Having a strong basis in anatomy is such a crucial part of everything we do that all of the time spent writing down muscles and bones was completely worth it.

What has been the most difficult part of training to be an AT? For me the most difficult part would be the sheer amount of information we have to learn in a short amount of time. Because we have an entire year dedicated to immersive experience, our program fits 90 percent of our coursework into the first year. Although this design is really beneficial to get us as much hands-on experience as possible, it does make for some long nights of studying. We have to make sure that we really understand all of the content, because soon after we will be responsible for the health of these athletes — and that is not something we take lightly.

What’s next for you? What are your future plans? I am currently finishing up my fall immersive with Creighton University women’s volleyball, and I will be heading out west to work with the Stanford University softball team for my final immersive semester. After graduation, I hope to jump into reaching my goals of working in professional baseball and specializing in corrective exercise.

For more information visit the MSAT program’s website.

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