When he was a kid, Mike Booi wanted to score the title-clinching goal in game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. It’s a scenario that finally came true, although, a little differently than his childhood dream. Booi, an athletic training graduate from the UK College of Health Sciences, is now an athletic trainer for the Washington Capitals, the 2018 Stanley Cup winning hockey team.
As a Michigan native, hockey has always been in Booi’s blood, but, his road to athletic training was rather unconventional. In fact, he entered into his freshman year at Michigan State University (MSU) as an architecture major. “I quickly realized sitting behind a desk and staring at a computer screen all day wasn’t for me,” Booi explained. So, unsure of where to turn for a major, Booi took several exploratory classes—including Athletic Training 101.
It would still take a few semesters until Booi’s interest and passion for the profession would be ignited, though. “I was a rower in college with your classic low back pain, and was eventually diagnosed with spondylolysis,” he said. “So, I met a therapist who really changed how I looked at rehabilitation.”
“I was finishing up a summer National Football League (NFL) internship with the Chicago Bears before my senior year at MSU, and the head athletic trainer at the time asked me if I wanted to pursue a career as an athletic trainer in professional football,” Booi continued. “Of course I said yes! He said before I was ready, there was someone I needed to meet, and he gave me contact information for this guy I hadn’t heard of: James Madaleno.”
Working with Madaleno (the University of Kentucky’s senior associate athletic director for sports medicine) was just the push Booi needed to get serious about his career. “I hadn’t put much thought into graduate school at that time. After that summer, I put a good effort into deciding on the right program to further my athletic training education,” he said.
Riding high from his success at MSU, Booi decided to attend CHS for graduate school and quickly found himself more challenged than ever. “I am very fortunate to have been accepted into the UK College of Health Sciences family. But man, let me tell you, I had no idea what I was in for.”
“When I first arrived in Lexington, I had everything figured out. I graduated top of my class at MSU, had an NFL internship under my belt, and had just been accepted to my top choice for grad school. I was walking tall,”Booi continued. “Then, I worked a summer football camp at Nutter (UK athletics training facility). It was early. It was hot. And I’m pretty sure the first thing I heard was something to the effect of ‘Congratulations, you’re qualified to not hurt someone. Now shut up and work!’”
“Grad school was difficult for me,” Booi said. “From the late nights working on my thesis, to the early mornings at Nutter covering punishment workouts, and maybe a few extracurriculars in between, I was burning the candle at both ends. At the time I couldn’t see it, but I know now that it was all by design. After all, that’s what UK CHS is about: this college is designed to make you better. And I am better for it today: A better clinician, a better researcher, and a better person. The beautiful thing about CHS is you have everything you need to succeed at your fingertips, but the design only works if you put the work in.”
What does Booi have to show for it? “I’m an athletic trainer for the Washington Capitals,” he said. “I’m literally a kid living his dream of a life in the National Hockey League.”
And, a year ago, his dream of going to the Stanley Cup Finals finally became reality. “In 2018, the Capitals made a deep run at the Stanley Cup and we won!” Booi exclaimed. “It’s unbelievable—an experience I can’t even put into words.”