Taking Care

Taking Care

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Adam Bennett has always fascinated by how the human body works.

Even in high school – where he played football, ran track and was a member of the swim team – he’d often talk to the athletic trainers around him, trying to learn what he could about anatomy and physiology. Older friends already studying the topic in college provided insight, too.

So, when it came time to settle on a course of study for himself, athletic training seemed a natural fit, especially after he came to the realization it would keep him around sports long after his playing days were finished.

“I’m not one to sit at a desk all day and read policies and procedures and crunch numbers,” said Bennett, now an associate athletic trainer and the head football trainer at Miami. “I like working with people and thinking critically and I like working in an environment where two plus two doesn’t always equal four. There’s a gray area you have to play with a little bit. That always appealed to me, and I always had a big interest in it from an early standpoint. It just kind of fit who I am as a person.”

In the years since making that fateful decision, Bennett’s career has provided opportunities he could never have imagined.

During his time as a student at Florida State, he worked with the Seminoles’ football team in both the spring and the fall. He spent time with FSU’s men’s basketball team and the Seminoles women’s soccer team.

He went on to have internships with two different NFL teams, the Houston Texans, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He worked at the University of Minnesota. He’s served – twice – as an athletic trainer at FAU and before coming to Miami, Bennett spent time working with injured service members at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

Though his time at MacDill took him away from the hustle and bustle of athletics – something he enjoys – Bennett says it was an experience that proved both educational and humbling.

“I needed something different to reset and re-evaluate, but working in a hospital or a clinic never really appealed to me. I wanted to work with people in a more athletic realm,” Bennett said. “And when you have the opportunity to work with service members at a high level that have done more for us than we’ll ever do for them, it felt like it would be meaningful, and it was. … It filled everything I needed, gave me a chance to reset, gave me a chance to grow and gave me the chance to take a lot of continuing education courses and classes that I just didn’t have the time to do in athletics because we’re so busy.”

During his time at MacDill, Bennett found himself building relationships with the service members he worked with and discovered a newfound appreciation for the work those service members did, both in their careers and in the training room.

He was also challenged in a most unexpected way.

Because of the nature of the work he was doing, Bennett didn’t always have access to the background information on some of the injuries he was charged with treating. On other occasions, he was treating older injuries that service members simply hadn’t been able to treat effectively before coming to MacDill themselves.

The work he did at MacDill was a marked contrast to working in athletics, where more often than not, Bennett watched injuries happen and then jumped into action with a treatment plan.

“In athletics, we see the injury happen 99 times out of 100. In the military, you’re dealing with injuries that might be six, 10, 12 years old and they just didn’t deal with it because they were going on deployment after deployment and they had to go, go, go,” Bennett said. “So, you’re dealing with more chronic injuries and your evaluation skills improve and change, which is a great way to learn. You’re learning hands-on, in that moment. …

“Like I said, it’s hard to really express the appreciation for what they do for us, but it was meaningful to help those men and women out. It was a different challenge. I learned a lot. I feel like I had worked in football for nine or 10 years by then, so seeing it from a different perspective and learning what [service members] go through and learning the risks they deal with while training and deploying, the injuries they deal with, was eye-opening. It was a different perspective. That was pretty awesome as well.”

Still, as much as he enjoyed his work with the military, Bennett couldn’t help but wonder if it was time to return to college athletics when he heard about an opportunity to work with the football team at Miami.

As both a South Florida native and a Florida State grad, he knew full well Miami’s potential and ultimately, he decided he wanted to be part of helping the Hurricanes take a step forward under head coach Mario Cristobal.

“I think when Miami is rolling and rolling well, it should be one of the premier places in the country – and that’s coming from a Florida State grad,” Bennett smiled. “When Miami is good, it’s good. I wanted to be a part of that. And obviously, being South Florida, the familiarity, there’s something about that. You know in college athletics there are going to be a lot of challenges, but if you kind of have an idea of what those challenges are going to be before you get there, it’s a little easier to navigate them. It fit a lot of question marks that I had and like I said, I wanted to be really selective.”

Bennett made an impression during his interview, joined the Hurricanes last year and now, continues the work of building relationships with not only the student-athletes and coaches he works with on a daily basis, but the rest of Miami’s athletic training staff.

He appreciates Miami’s all-hands-on-deck approach to helping student-athletes be at their best and the collaboration between the athletic department’s medical staff, athletic training staff, nutrition staff, sports science staff, strength and conditioning staff is a game-changer that makes a world of difference for the Hurricanes, he says.

He’s also made an impression himself.

“I love the way he approaches the players. I love the way he talks to the players. He establishes trust with them right away,” said Vinny Scavo, Miami’s senior associate athletic director for athletic training. “If a player misses a treatment or is late for something, he really talks to them to explain the importance of needing them to be on time or show up for treatment. … His presence in the room – he’s in charge of football, but he gets along with the entire [athletic training] staff. He gets along with the people in the equipment room and the strength staff, nutrition. They all work well together, and he understands all of the aspects of the job.”

Now, with his second season set to start, Bennett says he wants to continue to strengthen the relationships he’s built with the student-athletes in his care and the staff he works with on a daily basis.

He knows the potential for Miami’s football team and is eager to see where his journey with the Hurricanes takes him next.

But he stresses his biggest goal is making sure the student-athletes he sees every day are as healthy and well-cared for as possible.

“I want to be around people that want to challenge themselves, challenge themselves on a day-to-day basis and bring up new ideas,” Bennett said. “The goal is to have a great staff and see them grow and succeed. The goal is to put our kids in the best position that they can be in, day in and day out. …

“I won’t quantify my success as an athletic trainer on wins and losses. I look at it objectively and want to figure out the best way to help our athletes and be as efficient as we can in the care of the athlete. … Always being willing to put the athlete first is the ultimate goal and the ultimate priority.”