Multiple factors go into sending an athlete onto the field by ensuring they are prepared to perform to their full capabilities. At the forefront of maintaining player health, athletic trainers are owed immense praise for the success of an athletics department.
Director of Sports Medicine Micki Collins exemplifies this understanding by being one of LSU’s most valuable and revered athletic trainers.
Collins, a native of Charlton, Iowa, began her journey to becoming an athletic trainer in high school.
“I played volleyball, but I realized I didn’t want to pursue a playing career,” Collins explained. “My dad offered me the opportunity to work as an athletic trainer for his football team, and he helped me realize I could pursue a profession in this field.”
Collins’ desire to become an athletic trainer continued while she earned her bachelor’s degree in exercise science from the University of Nebraska in 2000. While at Nebraska, she was a student trainer for the football, women’s basketball and gymnastics teams.
After graduating from Nebraska, Collins attended LSU to gain varied experience with work as a trainer, along with earning her master’s degree in sports pedagogy in 2002. Beyond her undergraduate and graduate degrees, Collins’ qualifications include an MS degree and LAT and ATC licenses, along with being certified by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association in April of 2000.
After getting her master’s degree, Collins was hired by LSU women’s basketball coach Sue Gunter in 2001. Gunter is one of the pioneers of women’s basketball and one of LSU’s most successful coaches, spending 22 years with the Tigers, starting in 1982. Collins said Gunter was essential to her life and career, and the legendary coach helped mold Collins into who she is.
When speaking about to whom she attributes her success and experience, Collins said, “I would say it’s a collaborative effort, taking tidbits from everyone, ranging from my parents, grandparents, and colleagues such as Coach Gunter and Coach Bob Starkey with women’s basketball, showing me how to work as a team.”
Collins’ connection with Gunter continued when she won the Sue Gunter Award in 2016, an award given to an individual who has had a tremendous impact at LSU.
Collins’ efforts never go unnoticed, especially with her admiration for the individuals she works with and the respect she has gained throughout her career, along with the many awards she has received.
Collins received the Southeast Athletic Trainers’ Association Backbone Award in 2016. The SEATA Backbone Award is given to the individual who has played a significant role as the “backbone” of the Head Athletic Trainer to help guarantee that the training operation runs smoothly.
Collins also won the Chris Patrick Award at the SEC meeting in May 2017.
“Chris Patrick was a longtime athletic trainer at the University of Florida,” Collins explained, “and it was a huge honor to receive this award.”
Peers vote on the Chris Patrick Award, which is given to an athletic trainer with passion, loyalty, care and a great work ethic.
Collins’ LSU tenure began when she started working with the women’s basketball team for 18 seasons before becoming an athletic trainer for the football team in 2019. In the summer of 2023, she was promoted to the Director of Sports Medicine, and she also serves as Associate Athletics Director.
To put it in perspective, Collins manages the healthcare of over 400 student-athletes and oversees the athletics department’s sports medicine team. Besides the physical health of the Tigers, Collins also helps with the academic side of LSU, having taught in the Athletic Training curriculum for over 20 years. She is a clinical supervisor of the students in the athletic training program and the health and wellness departments within LSU Athletics.
“Student-athlete health and wellness is at the forefront of everything we do in athletics,” said LSU athletics director Scott Woodward, “and Micki is uniquely qualified — through her extensive experience in athletic training and her innate ability to connect with people on a human level – to lead our sports medicine program.
“Whether it’s collaborating with campus and community partners to elevate our best-in-class sports medicine program to new heights, empowering student-athletes to compete and win at the highest level, or leading a team of highly-skilled and diverse care providers, Micki continually and selflessly works toward the betterment of LSU and the student-athletes who call this place home.”
The heavy workload begs the question of how Micki Collins can manage this demanding profession.
“It starts with the student-athletes being successful in the little things that they do,” Collins said. “College is hard, and when you add playing a sport, it makes it extremely difficult to strive for success with multiple commitments. Having athletic trainers being a part of the team and seeing other individuals succeed makes it all worth it.”
Collins speaks enthusiastically on how LSU has enhanced her profession.
“Our administration supports sports medicine fully; anything relating to a student- athlete’s health, we are indeed supported,” she said. “Anything that we can do to help our students and athletes, the university always gives us the green light. Unique to LSU, we are very good at collaborating with the whole team, such as strength and conditioning, dieticians and psychology.
“We have an amazing athletic training staff, and they do fantastic work, and I appreciate everyone I work with. Building relationships in everything you do, bettering student-athletes and younger athletic trainers, is how I was treated coming up, and I hope to treat everybody the same.”