Keene State Alum Cook athletic trainer for national championship team
KEENE, N.H. 3/23/11 – He didn’t score a basket or pull down a rebound, but Keene State alum Matt Cook ’03 played a key role in helping the Amherst College women’s basketball team capture the 2011 Division III national championship last weekend in Bloomington, Ill.
As the head athletic trainer for the Amherst women’s basketball team, Cook was responsible for maintaining the physical health of the Lord Jeff players so they could endure a long, 33-game season and revel in the excitement of the program's first national title. The Middleboro, Mass., native said he won’t soon forget the feeling of running onto the court following Amherst’s 64-55 win over Washington University-St. Louis in the championship game. “Your goal is always to win a national championship, so to finally achieve it was something really special and a feeling I’ll always remember,” he said.
Cook’s work with the team was very much appreciated by Amherst coach G.P. Gromacki. “Matt has been a true professional,” said Gromacki. “He understands the students' needs and cares from a health perspective so they can make a quick recovery. He has done a great job for us.”
"Matt has proven to be an excellent hire for us at Amherst College," said Stan Zieja, the Director of Sports Medicine at Amherst. "Besides being well qualified, Matt brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to all that he does. Our student athletes know that they completely put their care in his hands. Matt has been a very welcome addition to our Staff and we look forward to working with him for years to come."
Now in his fifth year at Amherst College, Cook primarily works with the Lord Jeff football, field hockey, women’s basketball, and baseball teams. Although the schedule is long and the demands are many, he says it’s a labor of love. “I’ve been around high school and college athletics and I think the Amherst kids are much more mature and well rounded,” Cook said. “It makes coming to work a lot easier when you have athletes that appreciate and are thankful for everything you do.”
A soccer and track athlete at Middleboro High School, Cook was attracted to the field of athletic training by accident. “I remember getting hurt and going to see the trainer,” he said. “I was interested in what she was doing and started asking questions."
Those questions ultimately led to a career. After graduating from high school, Cook looked into colleges with athletic training programs. “When I stepped on the Keene State campus, I knew it was where I wanted to go to school,” he said. “That’s where it all started for me.”
At Keene State, Cook, who was also a member of the Phi Mu Delta fraternity, was an athletic training student for all seasons, working with the Owl soccer, basketball, baseball, and softball teams. “Those experiences really shaped me as a person,” he said. “I’m so glad I chose Keene State as the place to get my undergrad degree.”
Cook complimented members of the KSC athletic training faculty, including Sherry Bovinet, Bob Merrow, Scot Ward, and Nancy Bleam, saying he was well prepared to go out into the work force. “They were all amazing in getting me ready to go out into the world of athletic training,” said Cook. “It wasn’t an easy curriculum, but it helped prepare me.”
“You could tell that Matt got it. He figured out how to be a very good athletic trainer," said Ward, assistant athletic trainer and coordinator of the Clinical Education program at Keene State. “You could tell he was destined to do well in the field.”
Getting a job at East Longmeadow (Mass.) High, Cook also began working part-time for Mount Holyoke College. That led to an interim and later a full-time position at Amherst College.
Cook enjoys working with Amherst athletes and seeing them do well in the highly competitive NESCAC Conference. A one-time Owl and now a Lord Jeff, Cook says the Keene State–Plymouth State and Williams–Amherst rivalries are comparable. “They are both known for how much the students show their passion and pride for their schools,” said Cook.
Over the years, Cook has had several opportunities to return to his alma mater. “It’s always great to come back and see familiar people, especially the athletic training staff,” he said. “When Keene State teams come here, I try to make an effort to say hi to the coaches and see how they’re doing. It’s definitely different sitting on the other bench.”
Cook will have an opportunity to visit with the Keene State baseball team on April 5 when they travel down to Amherst.