This year has been full of changes for the athletic department at Wartburg College and across the nation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ryan Callahan, Wartburg’s head athletic trainer, has not been immune to these changes, as the six-year trainer’s role has evolved to include representing Wartburg College on the American Rivers Conference (A-R-C) COVID-19 action team. 

“COVID-19 has created a situation unlike anything that has been navigated in recent memory. This situation, a global pandemic, has only put on display those things that make Wartburg so special,” Callahan said. “The faculty and staff worked diligently through the late Spring and Summer to prepare for students to return. I am grateful to have been a part of those preparations while serving on the Campus Health Recovery Team.”

Callahan has gone from helping athletes stay healthy to making sure that Wartburg College is staying healthy by following COVID-19 guidelines as a part of the A-R-C COVID-19 action team, which focuses on the safety precautions that each school must follow. 

“Luckily for me, a former staff member of mine from days at the University of Northern Iowa who was working at Wartburg in 2014 recruited me to the position when it opened up,” Callahan said. “Wartburg clearly showed me that it was a top notch academic institution with a firm commitment to intercollegiate athletics and student-athlete health and safety.  Wartburg was always described as a “special” place because of the individuals that comprise the students faculty and staff.  After six years here I can definitely say I agree with that description.”

Callahan has also been working closely with Rick Willis, Wartburg’s athletic director, to make sure that there is a safe return to sports for the college. Together they have also been working with the A-R-C to find a safe way to allow sports to return once the NCAA mandates around high-risk athletics are lifted or restricted. 

“We have been working very closely as part of the athletic department’s COVID action team,” Willis said. “We put in place policies and protocols being used by all of our programs.  We consult daily about things within our department and also the NCAA and government guidelines. The athletic directors have been meeting regularly throughout the summer and this semester, working through all the necessary planning and adjustments.”

This unique year has also brought about learning opportunities for students that were otherwise not available. Callahan has also been a good mentor to a student here on campus that is doing their public health internship with the contact tracing team, Lexi Groe, a fourth-year student at Wartburg, said.

“While it is true everyone is constantly learning and adapting, Ryan, and everyone who works on contact tracing, always takes the time to answer any questions that I have, and help me understand a task or project thoroughly,” Groe said.


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