St. Francis High deemed "Safe Sports School"

It's not rare for the St. Francis High athletic teams to reap first-team honors in the Mission League or CIF Southern Section.

It's not as common for the Golden Knights team of athletic trainers and sports-medicine interns, who are usually out of the spotlight caring for those athletes in it, to reap recognition.

So when Eli Hallak first heard the National Athletic Trainers' Assn. was going to be honoring select schools with a Safe Sports School award, he was excited.

The Golden Knights head athletic trainer quickly became ecstatic when he read over the criteria each school needed to hit to be recognized; certain his program was highly qualified. Hallak's confidence was vindicated when the Golden Knights received a first-team distinction.

"It's basically a huge feather in our cap, it's an honor," said Hallak, who also teaches the school's introduction to kinesiology and rehabilitation course. "It makes me feel good because that makes me, our students and our parents realize we're looking out for the students and taking care of them the best we can."

St. Francis was one of 13 schools across the country and the only one from California to be given first-team status. While the award guarantees St. Francis will be recognized as a NATA Safe Sports School over the next three years, it will have to reapply for the honor after it runs out on May 2016.

The award was created to recognize "secondary schools that provide safe environments for student athletes" and "reinforces the importance of providing the best level of care, injury prevention and treatment," according to a St. Francis press release.

Applicant schools, which paid a $150 fee, were held up to 10 different criteria in consideration for the award.

"We hit every possible category that they had," Hallak said. "That was very gratifying."

St. Francis Assistant Athletic Trainer Albert Galvan said while Hallak deserves a lot of praise for the award, what really makes the Golden Knights sports medicine program unique is how deep the staff is.

"It's the collaboration between not only Hallak and me but the physical therapists and the team physician, that's what makes us different," Galvan said. "It's a team effort."

Hallak, who also thanked St. Francis' administration for the support, said the team includes five interns from Cal State Northridge and 78 St. Francis students who volunteer their time as part of their course.

"I didn't think there was any other school that really deserved it," said Scott Marshall, one of those 78 students. He graduated from St. Francis May 24 and is going on to study sports medicine at Northern Arizona University next year. "Eli's been working very hard for this and he deserves it. Being apart of the program and having that title is really nice."

Marshall wasn't the only student happy to hear about the award.

"Even the students, when I announced it in class they grinned, smiled and showed a little pride," Hallak said, "which is nice to see."

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