Jessica Hayles is an Athletic Trainer at the Vereen Center who partners with Berrien High School in assisting their athletes. After graduating from Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Georgia, Hayles didn’t exactly know where she wanted to go for her graduate assistantship until some older classmates suggested Vereen.
“It sounded like something I wanted to do,” Hayles said. “I didn’t necessarily want to do the schooling side of it, but I definitely wanted the experience. When I came for a visit, I just fell in love, though.”
Hayles grew up in the small town of Gordon, Georgia, which is between Macon and Milledgeville. There, she grew up around sports, having played softball since she was 4 years old. Because of this, moving to Moultrie just felt right because of the small town feel.
While some people know they want to be an Athletic Trainer early on in life, Hayles did not.
She said she doesn’t have the typical answer like some who say their Athletic Trainer in high school was what led them to becoming one.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I got through with my freshman year,” she said. “I had different ideas for what I wanted to do, but not Athletic Training. I knew I just wanted to help people and be outside. Athletic training fulfils both of those things.”
Hayles joined the Vereen family in July of 2018, and so far she’s enjoying every aspect of working with Berrien High School.
“When I first got there, I was kind of nervous because I had to meet new people, but the coaches and students were super respectful and nice,” she said. “The whole community is so nice, and everybody knows each other. It reminds me so much of Gordon, so I feel at home.”
Hayles works with all sports, but football is one of her main priorities. Her day begins with the weight training class during first period and ends after football practice.
“It’s a high intensity and high impact sport,” she said. “I’m also working with softball and cross country, but for the most part it is football. On Mondays, if someone got hurt on Friday night, then I see them first thing that morning and hash them out. I treat people throughout the day and help during practice.”
They’re long days, but they’re worth it, according to Hayles. She wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
“I enjoy being an Athletic Trainer because I get that one-on-one time with the athlete,” she said. “If they get hurt, I make sure they’re out playing again really soon.”
Some of the most common injuries she sees are ankle sprains, especially in football.
“It’s different for everybody, but I try to look at the athlete and the injury,” she said. “The first thing I do is try to get them moving to improve flexibility and balance.”
Hayles credits Vereen for always being there when she needs them.
“Most graduate positions kind of throw you out there and hope you learn to float, but with Vereen, they’re really helpful in making sure I stay afloat,” she said. “If I have a problem, which I know I will, they will always be there with open arms. They are there for me.”
After she graduates with her master’s degree and finishes her assistantship with Vereen, she hopes to continue working with athletes, but she is also focusing on the big picture of her career.
“My dream job would be a rodeo Athletic Trainer,” she said. “It’s definitely something different. I’ve never ridden a horse, but I love that atmosphere and just being outside.”