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Dale Mildenberger named Distinguished Trainer

Thursday, Jun. 05, 2014

Dale Mildenberger at USU's Sports Medicine Center

Dale Mildenberger standing outside USU's Sports Medicine Complex.

Talk to the people he mentored and the stories pour out: about his straight-shooting style, his influence on athletic training at Utah State University, his pioneering work on sport concussion management, his election into the National Athletic Training Association Hall of Fame. Most of all, they speak of his mentorship.

In June, the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine will add Distinguished Trainer to the list of honors. The award recognizes his contributions to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and to the athletic training profession.

Mildenberger is an emeritus associate professor of the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department within the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services at Utah State University.

Thanks to Mildenberger’s influence, USU now has a sports medicine program for master’s students, and a long line of alumni who are now influential athletic trainers.

One of them is Rick Griffin, head athletic trainer for the Seattle Mariners.

“The number of people Dale’s influenced and motivated to get to a higher level will be his legacy,” he said. “He gave me the best advice professionally that I have ever had.”

National Athletic Trainers’ Association President Jim Thornton feels Mildenberger’s influence, too. He heads up an enormous professional organization, but, “I still feel that I need to continue to try and improve things so that Dale is not disappointed,” he said.

Mildenberger also made an impression on Jeff Martinez. Their friendship started with a conversation when the teenage Martinez mowed Mildenberger’s lawn.

“I didn’t know what athletic training was until I met Dale,” Martinez said.

Mildenberger invited Martinez to come work with him, and a career path began.

“I learned at a young age that no matter what, even if it was as mundane as stocking tape and filling water bottles, it was important,” Martinez said. “As a 15-year-old kid, I was willing to do it, so Dale was willing to do it as well.”

Later Martinez became a head athletic trainer and is now the athletic director at the University of Redlands. He is also a former chair of the NCAA’s Division III Management Council.

Last year, Martinez attended his mentor’s retirement party at Utah State.

“I was really caught off guard by the number of former student athletes that were in the room,” Martinez said.

Some came from hundreds of miles away—athletes, doctors, lawyers, businessmen. Others who couldn’t make it phoned in a steady stream of congratulations.

“I think that says a lot about Dale, and the impact he had on them during their student-athlete experience,” Martinez said.

Mildenberger's award includes an engraved certificate and a donation in his name to the NATA Endowment Fund. He will be honored June 27 during the NATA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Related links:

Contact: Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department Head Dennis Dolny,

Writer: JoLynne Lyon, 435-797-1463

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