Captain Turned Coach: Doctoral Student Hones Skills on the Sideline

By Purnell T. Cropper | September 27, 2011

By Sarah R. Schwartz ’10

Jamie Bradford ’09 has contributed to Arcadia University athletics at every level: a powerhouse in the midfield, she provided defensive cover and an offensive spark for Rick Brownell’s high flying women’s soccer team, and now she joins her former coach on the sideline as an assistant while completing a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.

With the support of Brownell and the Department of Physical Therapy, which supplies Arcadia’s sports teams with a steady stream of graduate assistant trainers, the transition to coaching has been an easy one. A terrific liaison and coach to the student-athletes, Bradford has taken on specialty roles in establishing core and flexibility training, which has been integral to the Knights’ continued success.

From Apprentice to Peer

Brownell has been Bradford’s mentor since her first season with the Knights. “He’s been there for me both on and off the field and has helped me grow as a player and a person,” says Bradford. “Now, as a fellow coach he helps me improve my skills in coaching and guides me to good opportunities. I thank him a lot for everything he has taught me.”

Juggling coursework in Arcadia’s highly competitive D.P.T. program, preparing for the new season, and finishing an intense six-month internship at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, it’s a wonder how she’s able to attend to everything. But as Brownell notes, anyone who knows Jamie isn’t surprised at her accomplishments.

“Jamie has epitomized success within our soccer program with her positive attitude, work ethic and easy going personality,” says Brownell. “Although early in her collegiate soccer career here she struggled somewhat for playing time, she out-hustled and out-worked teammates and the competition and was always so reliable that she became an impact player, starter and eventual captain of the team her senior year.”

Even as a work-study student, Bradford assisted Brownell for many years keeping the soccer program and intramurals organized and running smoothly.

Merging Passion and Profession

Bradford was introduced to the profession at an early age, as her family members sought physical therapy treatment. “I have always been enthralled with the idea of helping people recover their function and increase their quality of life,” she says. “I began to become interested in Arcadia upon researching the school and with the faculty and the reputation I just couldn’t possibly think of a better school.”

The close working relationship between the Athletics and Recreation Department and the Department of Physical Therapy provides students such as Bradford the opportunity to gain valuable experience in sports training and rehabilitation.

“It has been such a pleasure working with Shirley Liddle and the rest of the Athletics and Recreation Department,” says Dr. Rebecca L. Craik, Professor and Chair of the Department of Physical Therapy. “The chance to provide our D.P.T. students with graduate assistant opportunities with athletics teams, whether coaching or helping student-athletes prevent and recover from injury, has been spectacular. As these students become familiar with physical therapy, it is exciting to watch them apply their new knowledge in a familiar area and raise new questions.”

For Bradford, merging physical therapy and soccer yields just as much benefit to her professionally as personally, namely, in the connections she makes with student-athletes and learning new things that she can apply to her life.

“The thing I enjoy the most about coaching is teaching players the game, strengthening players to make them a better player and just continuing to be involved in a game that I love,” says Bradford. “The skills I have learned as a PT student have helped me to better understand what is good and bad for players [when it comes to fitness and overall wellness]—even for myself,” she says. “Because I am still a student I will always send the players to the athletic trainers, but I do enjoy the fact that I can help the girls with smaller problems as well as help to train them physically during practices with Rick.”

Bradford’s dedicated assistance is paying off. The Knights are ranked third in the region in the latest NSCAA poll. As the women’s soccer team sprints toward a national ranking and seventh-consecutive playoff berth, Bradford is preparing for her next transition when she graduates from the D.P.T. program in February 2012. She plans to become a physical therapist specializing in pediatrics and hopes to continue coaching sports teams in the future.