ATHLETIC TRAINER FEATURE
Describe your setting:
I am a physiotherapy
consultant working for
organization (NGO) in
this NGO, I am working
with the Physiotherapy
Institute of Kabul and
the Afghan Association of
Physiotherapists to work on
integrating sports medicine into the
existing physiotherapy education.
How long have you worked in this setting?
So far, I have only been in this position for two months, but
getting to this job has been years in the making. I graduated
from Bethel University not expecting to go into a traditional
athletic training role. A few years later, I found myself doing
short-term development work in Afghanistan. By the end of
my first week in Afghanistan I was asked to work with the
Olympic team, so my husband and I moved to Afghanistan
in September 2012. Before starting work, I completed a
6-month Persian language and cultural orientation course to
prepare for my assignment. Now I have started working on
developing the curriculum, and soon I will also start with the
women’s Olympic soccer team.
Describe your typical day:
In Afghanistan, there is no typical day. But in general,
I work on three main projects. First, I write curriculum
for the Physiotherapy Institute, working to integrate
sports medicine into their 3-year general physiotherapy
curriculum. Sometimes I also substitute teach for classes
at the Physiotherapy Institute, which is quite a challenge
to teach undergraduate classes with my language skills.
Second, I develop and teach continuing education classes
to physiotherapists throughout the country. Lastly, I also
will work with the women’s Olympic program, giving
athletic training services and teaching graduates of the
physiotherapy institute how to do this work.
What do you like about your position?
I love working in such an environment where my skills
and expertise are really needed. When I first came to
Afghanistan, one of the most skilled physiotherapists
in the country told me he was invited to the London
2012 Olympics to work with the athletes. He told me
that he didn’t know what he would do, since he had never
worked with an athletic population, so he declined. Right
now there is no knowledge in sports medicine, but the level
of sports participation and interest is rapidly growing. I am
so excited to see Afghan physiotherapists learn to connect
their skills with the new athletic population.
What do you dislike about your position?
Things here move at a different speed than in the West
since everything is so unpredictable. Sometimes we have
no power for days, sometimes the Internet goes out and
sometimes we have security scares that leave us unable
to leave our homes. I would love to go at the same pace
I could in the United States, but that is not possible here.
Things are just a bit slower and a bit more unpredictable.
But I am learning to make the best of whatever resources I
might have at any given point in time.
What advice do you have about your practice setting
for a young AT looking at this setting?
I would tell a young AT to not be afraid to go to places with
real need. Sports can have such an impact in low-income
areas or third world countries. In Afghanistan, I’ve seen
sports bring warring tribes together! It is a tough job but it is
I would also say to go for your dreams. I knew I wasn’t
made for a traditional athletic training role, and people had
told me doing athletic training in the third world wasn’t quite
practical. But somehow a way was made!
An In-Depth Look with an AT in Afghanistan
Kate Mayhew, ATC