Rocky Boy athletic trainer gets national recognition (copy)

Nora Mabie

John Sunchild attends almost every sports practice and game for the Rocky Boy and Box Elder high schools, tending to athletes on the varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams. In the winter, his focus is basketball. In the spring, it’s baseball and track and field. And in the fall, it’s cross country, golf, football and soccer.

As an athletic trainer, Sunchild does more than wrap ankles. He works with student athletes on injury prevention. He diagnoses medical conditions. He educates players on nutrition, offers sports psychology and performs specialized tests for muscles, bones, ligaments and concussions.

Sunchild, 31, said the position is critical not just for student athletes but also for the community. With a trainer, athletes can stay healthy, develop good habits and come back from injuries stronger.

Nestled in the Bears Paw Mountains in north central Montana, the Rocky Boy Reservation is home to about 3,800 people and spans 122,000 hilly acres. The nearest town is Havre, 25 miles away, and the nearest large hospital is in Great Falls, 100 miles away. In working with Sunchild, students have consistent access to a health care professional, something Sunchild said can be rare in rural places.

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