‘Where you need to be’

Alum serves as UK football athletic trainer, Dir. of Sports Medicine

5 Questions with … Gabe Amponsah

by Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

They come from all over. You can find them on the Internet if you search.

“I want to to reach out to thank Gabe, all of our doctors, all of our medical team. These guys work around the clock and do a great job. They keep you guys healthy and they care about you and you know that.” — UK Head Football Coach Mark Stoops

They are quotes from coaches and players. And they’re talking about the medical staff here at UK.

“I hit a mental block. I was rehabbing and rehabbing and rehabbing and just pushing myself. And I got to a point where it was like, ‘Man, do I even want to do this anymore?’ … Gabe told me, it’s not going to be easy, but you can do it.” — Terry Wilson, former quarterback, UK football

These quotes just happen to reference Gabe Amponsah, MS, ATC, LAT — the head football athletic trainer and Director of Sports Medicine at UK.

“Gabe is our head trainer and he does an outstanding job of making sure everybody has the resources they need.” — Safeties coach Frank Buffano

Amponsah also happens to be a UK alum. While completing a Master’s of Science in Kinesiology and Health Promotion with an emphasis in Athletic Training, he also served as a graduate assistant athletic trainer at UK with the football team.

And it’s these little mentions from players, he says, these small acknowledgments, that actually mean the world to him.

“To me, that's a cool thing — when you've got players from years ago, who remember you and you had influence on them in a positive way,” he said.

Here’s five questions with … Gabe Amponsah:

Why Athletic Training?

Well, honestly I grew up playing soccer and I wanted to be a physician. And, as you get closer to college, you try to figure out what you want to do. Then, as I wanted to start working, I started thinking, and I didn’t know about going to school for 10-plus years.

So I was like, well what are other things that are medicine-related and I could still have a good feel for sports? So I saw athletic training as a possibility and it was the best decision I ever made because I fell in love with it — the medicine aspect and learning about the human body, yet you’re still in touch with the sports world and you get to help people.

I’ve always felt like I kind of had a calling to help people, and I think maybe that's why I wanted to be a physician. But being an athletic trainer, you get to help student-athletes get back to doing what they love.


Why UK?

Well, I did an internship with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a senior in college and one of my mentors there told me when I was looking at grad schools to consider Kentucky because they had a good master's program.

Then, one of my mentors in college also told me to look at Kentucky.

I didn't really know anything about Kentucky — other than the Kentucky Derby — so I just said, you know, let me apply and see what happens.

And I did, and one of the things that brought me to Kentucky were the people. There were a lot of good people on the academic side, athletics and the community side. So I decided to come here for grad school.

And that's one of the beauties of the athletic training program here at Kentucky: They did what other programs couldn't do, which is marry the good, clinical side with the good, academic component to create a more well-rounded student.

How did UK prepare you for your current role?

Just all of my experiences as a graduate student.

Just seeing how to operate at this level. The senior athletic trainer was a good mentor of mine who took some time to guide me and direct me. Looking at his role and responsibilities and how he handled the room and the relationships. He helped the student-athletes.

The current director at that time did the same, and I saw how they could be a positive influence on their student-athletes’ lives, and at that point, that's probably when I thought I can do this one day.

Football is just very demanding and it's exciting. It really takes a team of people to get it going — the actual support staff and everything involved in terms of helping the team get to the field and perform at a high level.

Working that, day in and day out, that's a full-time job, plus the academic side of your coursework, and we had to do a thesis at the time. It stimulates you mentally and physically — it’s a grind.

But it molded me and shaped me to the point that when I got out, I’d been through the meat grinder, and at the end, I was ready for any type of possibility the working world would throw at me.

What’s been your favorite moment at UK?

It’s a good question — you don't ever really think on that stuff, because you're too too busy in the day to day.

But sometimes, you’ll see stories or articles on previous players who've been here, and then they’ll bring up your name. They remember you. You know, maybe you did rehab on them, or maybe you helped them through a tough time.

That’s special, for me, those players who I had an influence on. At the time, I probably didn't know I was having an influence on them, but you do. There was a game we had where Coach (Rich) Brooks was getting recognized, and he came back and a bunch of the old players came back, too.

And these guys remember the good times, and they tell you they appreciate all you did back then. The positive influence you had, that’s really special.


What do you say to someone who may be interested in Athletic Training at UK?

Well, if you are interested in being a better version of yourself and you want to get a good education both clinically and academically, then UK is the place for you.

We're going to challenge you in a way that you've never been challenged before, with your best interest in mind, so that you become the athletic trainer that you're very capable of becoming.

That’s the biggest thing — you're going to be surrounded by people who have your best interests at heart. And they're going to try and prepare you in such a way, where you know you may not like it at times, but it's tough love, and in the end, it's all to get you where you need to be.


March is National Athletic Training Month

National Athletic Training Month is held every March in order to spread awareness about the important work of athletic trainers. The College of Health Sciences will be recognizing and honoring our Athletic Training program with profiles and stories throughout this month.

Interested in applying to UK’s Athletic Training program? Visit us here.