The Team Behind the Team


Ari Watson

The Fredericksburg sports program pushes students to succeed every day, but sometimes students’ needs push the program. Fredericksburg High School has students with medical needs that require more attention and sometimes creative solutions so they can be a part of the sports program. 

“I will never tell a kid they can’t play if they’ve been cleared by a doctor,” athletic trainer Natalie Handley said. “I will support them and do everything I can so they can play.” 

Coach Handley works daily with these students and their coaches to find and maintain solutions. Not only does Coach Handley have athletes with different disabilities and conditions, they also range in familiarity with their condition. 

“An issue within these medical needs is where students fall on the spectrum,” Handley said. “For example, some kids have managed type one diabetes all their life, so I don’t have to constantly watch them. Some kids are newly diagnosed and have no idea how to manage it.” 

Coach Handley works with them on and off the field to ensure they are in good health. This range of students who all need her has changed her perspective. 

“I’ve been exposed to different types of situations that have changed how I approach different situations,” Handley said. 

No situation is the same, and Coach Handley has not only been exposed but helped students through each unique circumstance. Coach Handley’s creativity has been put to the test. 

“A swimmer was allergic to the type of chlorine used at the pool. So he ended up swimming at a different facility with our workouts. It was possible because it’s an individual sport,” Handley said. 

When asked how she must work with FHS coaches, Coach Handley said, “Really the coaches have to work with the students. We put the responsibility on the adult to figure out how to make the situation work.” 

They work every day to ensure no additional stress is put on the athletes. 

“That athlete could be the kid who was just diagnosed with diabetes and has no idea how to handle it,” Handley said. 

Coach Handley has many responsibilities, as do the other coaches, but that’s the job they all signed up for. 

“It’s our responsibility to figure out ways to be creative and change workouts, not the students,” Handley said. “We just figure out how to make it work within the constraints we have.” 

Every student is important to the sports program, and Coach Handley is a firm believer in the value of open conversation. 

“I pride myself on my athletes knowing I have an open door,” Handley said. “It doesn’t matter what time of day, if there is something going on in their life or with their disorder, they know they can come to me.”