Exercise Science alumna Hope Sanborn ’21 lands dream career as athletic trainer

Exercise Science major Hope Sanborn ’21 became interested in physical therapy and athletic training while in high school. A life-long athlete herself, Sanborn knew the importance of trainers and physical therapists in keeping soccer players like herself happy and healthy on the field, and when she started shadowing her high school’s athletic trainer, she saw a potential career path for herself. That interest grew when she began studying in the Exercise Science program at Lees-McRae.

“My passion for the field definitely came at Lees-McRae through the time I spent playing soccer with my teammates and through the recovery and athletic training experiences that I had there. They were the reason that I really got into it,” Sanborn said. “When you’re done playing a sport you’ve been playing your whole life you kind of look for ways to find that atmosphere again.”

For Sanborn, the college’s Exercise Science program was the perfect way for her to access that atmosphere and channel her passions for both the sport and helping other athletes stay at the top of their game. Since graduating from Lees-McRae Sanborn has also earned her Master of Science in Athletic Training from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and now works as an athletic trainer for the field hockey and men’s tennis teams at Queens University in Charlotte.

While earning her master’s degree, Sanborn completed several “rotations” where she was placed with different athletic teams throughout the state and worked as part of each existing team of athletic trainers while still in school. Sanborn’s rotations including working with UNC-Charlotte’s football team, one of the Charlotte area’s local high schools, the softball team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the women’s soccer team at Queens.

Through her “rotation” with the football team at UNC-Charlotte, Sanborn made connections that led her to a summer internship opportunity with the Carolina Panthers professional football team. She worked with the team throughout their pre-season camp and was even able to work with them for one of their pre-season games at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.

While Sanborn said the program at UNC-Charlotte and the rotations she completed throughout it were challenging, she believes that the foundation she laid throughout her time at Lees-McRae set her up for success both academically and professionally.

“It was intense. I really do think going to a school like Lees-McRae helped me be able to go out of my way and build those relationships with professors. If you go to bigger schools, professors don’t have time to do that,” Sanborn said. “I feel like being able to make those connections goes a long way in different aspects of grad school and my job. You make sure you are going out of your way to make a connection with everyone in the room because you don’t really have a choice at Lees-McRae.”

In addition to her confidence in networking, Sanborn credits many of the college’s Exercise Science faculty with setting a positive example when it comes to giving students grace, understanding, and space to explore the topics they are interested in. Her professors’ willingness to give each student individualized attention and feedback shaped the way she strives to interact with the students she works with today at Queens.

Sanborn has been working as an athletic trainer with Queens University since August 2023, and now works with approximately 30 student athletes each day. She said that the emotional relationships she is able to form with these students often allow her to connect with them on a deeper level, and therefore provide more effective physical therapy and injury care.

“Being where I am now, having a career as an athletic trainer, and thinking back to where I was as a student athlete, you never really realize how much time and how many hours they put in,” Sanborn said. “It’s really nice to be in one spot and build those relationships because they grow every day. It’s a lot of fun. It’s exhausting, but a lot of fun.”

By Maya JarrellFebruary 02, 2024