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Panthers’ Athletic Trainer All About Quality Care Castellanos Took Round-about Route To Holliston

Jeff Castellanos has settled into his role as Holliston High’s athletic trainer.

Staff Sports Writer
The route Jeff Castellanos took to become Holliston High’s athletic trainer was by no means direct. His round-about journey included three colleges, a branch of the military and a regional school in the southwest corner of Massachusetts before joining the Panthers’ athletic staff.
The Milford native, who was a Colonial League all-star in soccer at Blackstone Valley Tech, graduated in 2008 before enrolling at Bay State College in Boston to study criminal justice. Not exactly enthralled about a criminal justice career, Castellanos joined the Air Force. When his four-year military commitment ended, he knew he wanted to pursue a career linked to athletics.
UMass-Amherst seemed appealing because of its journalism program but Castellanos wasn’t eager to commit to a newspaper career when the market for print journalism was shrinking. Athletic training crossed his mind, but at UMass that curriculum was minimal and on the verge of being phased out.
 “So, I transferred to Salem State as a full-time student and got my bachelor’s degree in athletic training during the next four years,’’ said Castellanos. “I worked clinical hours on site at Tufts University while studying for my degree and got my certification shortly after graduating in 2020.’’
Castellanos joined a physical therapy company that assigned him to Southwick Regional, a school in western Massachusetts that includes the towns of Southwick, Tolland and Granville. When Castellanos’ contract at the regional school expired, his firm had another job lined up for him — this time in Connecticut.
 “I had two interviews at Holliston, one virtual and the other on site,’’ he said. “I was about to go to Connecticut but when Matt Baker (Holliston Athletic Director) texted me about coming to Holliston, I was overjoyed. I started last August.’’
Castellanos’ work at Salem State, Tufts and Southwick Regional no doubt has  prepared him to become a proficient trainer. But, he knows there are attributes that are crucial for success in his current role. 
“Trainers need to have empathy and to be trustworthy and objective,’’ he said. “I was an athlete in high school and know how frustrating it is to be injured. Kids rely on me for wellness. Being trustworthy is important, too. I must offer advice that’s accurate and I’ve got to help student-athletes be motivated to do well. Objectivity is another key. I understand that their safety comes first, so I’ve got to recommend the right path for good healing.’’   
A typical day for Castellanos begins at 10:45 a.m. His first hour involves seeing students for rehab, then from noon to 1:30 p.m. he works with school interns eager to learn the insights of athletic training. From 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. he’s taping athletes and assessing their injuries. From 3:30 p.m. on, Castellanos is at practices and/or games. His day usually ends around 8:30 p.m.
Castellanos is required to be present for football and hockey games, and he strives to be on hand for all home games, no matter what season it is. If needed at practices, he’s available.
If athletes are injured, seeing a doctor or undergoing physical therapy, Castellanos monitors their progress and might supplement their physical therapy if they can’t attend an appointment. “If there’s been surgery and rehab is needed, I’ll observe how one’s progress is going,’’ he noted. “The kids who see a doctor and get physical therapy have to provide me with paperwork so I know their situation thoroughly.’’

Castellanos says the most common injuries are concussions and ankle sprains. “A student-athlete typically deals with a doctor for a concussion,’’ he said. “Then, I execute the doctor’s advice. A sprained ankle, especially minor sprains, can be dealt with by an athletic trainer.’’
Paperwork on physicals usually is handled by the high school nurse or Castellanos. “Once a student-athlete gives us a copy of a physical or it’s uploaded to a website, then we okay the document,’’ he said.
For an athletic trainer to succeed, a solid relationship must be fostered with coaches, the athletic director and the students. Castellanos is pleased with the way he’s been received in his first year at Holliston. 
“Matt Baker is a great communicator,’’ he emphasized. “He keeps me informed on schedule changes and postponements. I know most of the coaches and the relationships are positive and growing. As for the athletes, the kids seem to explode with optimism with the way I’m handling their situations.’’
Castellanos, who’s the father of a seven-year-old son, is acutely aware that his role will often involve difficult situations. “It’s tough to see a student-athlete go from being active to being hospitalized,’’ he offered. “Another difficult time might occur when an athlete balks at physical therapy. What’s challenging for me is to try to motivate that individual to do the necessary therapy to get back to normal.’’
The highlight of Castellanos’ job is when an injured player returns. “That’s the best part,’’ he says. “When a competitor goes from being out, to working hard in rehab, remaining  determined, then finally returning to action, that’s satisfying. To get rehab into an athlete’s rear-view mirror is uplifting.’’
Castellanos enjoys each day at Holliston and finds every day different. “You never know what to expect,’’ he emphasized. “Athletes react differently to injuries. Sometimes we’ll see an injury that’s a first-time situation for me and also for the athlete.’’
No matter what transpires or what evolves, Castellanos’ mission doesn’t change. “I want to deliver the highest quality of care, given the most updated evidence-based practices,’’ he said.
With Jeff Castellanos on hand, the health and wellness of Holliston High’s student-athletes will always be a top priority.