Soccer players Emma, Maddie, Ana, Yaya, and Teji. Haia Elmoghani

The crowd fell silent. On September 23, 2022, Ana Juricic (‘25) and Julia Palmer (‘24) were injured while playing in the girls’ soccer game against South River, not knowing the extent of their injuries and with only a first aid kit available to them. There was no trainer available to help, and it wasn’t the first time this had happened.

Trainers are an important component of any sports game to prevent serious injuries. Certified Athletic Trainers are trained in risk management and injury prevention to provide “on-the-field” assessments to players. For Highland Park High School, these trainers are hard to acquire, especially since the school hasn’t hired a full-time trainer since around 2005-2006. Michael Lassiter, the principal of the high school, stated that it was cut off the school’s budget. Instead, the school uses two companies to post the game schedules so the trainers themselves can pick the games they want to go to based on their availability. When interviewed, Craig Girvan, the Athletic Coordinator, adds, “We don’t specify if it is a boys’ or girls' game. We just send out the full soccer schedule to the companies.”

However, many players and parents noticed a greater shortage of trainers for the girls’ soccer games compared to the boys’ games. The problem gained more publicity when Ana Juricic needed to go to the hospital halfway through the match against South River. Yaya Hang (‘24), a player on the girls’ team, added “Yeah, we literally knew this was going to happen.” Since October 13, 2022, there have been seven home games for both the girls’ and boys’ soccer teams. Of those seven, there have been noticeably less girls’ games with trainers present compared to boys’ games. When asked if this is a coincidence, Girvan nodded, “Yes, completely.”

Many angry emails from parents and students were sent to the school the day the injuries happened. Michael Volpert (‘24), a varsity player of the boys’ soccer team, wrote, “The boys’ and girls’ soccer teams are both products of the same program and should be receiving the same amount of professional care.” In response, Lassiter emailed the team members and parents of the girls’ and boys’ soccer programs stating to “be assured that this is not being done with any discrimination based on gender.” He also adds, “many of our events this year including boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer, and volleyball have not been covered.”

The Highland Park Board of Education reports that they have reached out to the trainer companies for answers, who have replied that higher divisions pay more money to the trainers. Yet, many point out that both the boys’ and girls' soccer teams are in the same division. The Board is making an amendment to use different companies, though Girvan expressed that the school should hire full-time trainers again.

Although this issue has been brought up multiple times by concerned students and parents, trainers are still missing from games. It will be notable to see if any changes occur to solve this issue.