Humans of Harker: Beyond the training room

Katrina Ipser makes an impact on the mat and by the sidelines

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Anna Vazhaeparambil

“Every single athlete who comes in with a problem is helping me in a way because it allows me to see all this stuff and get experience, even just every single time I tape an ankle. In return, [I want to be] someone who helped out or made their days better, even if it’s just in a little way," Katrina Ipser (12) said.

If you’ve ever been to the athletic training room in the gymnasium, you’ve probably seen Katrina Ipser (12) sitting on the tall black treatment tables, swinging her legs back and forth and leaning against the bright Harker logo emblazoned on the seat. Sporting a gray and white Harker Athletics jacket, Katrina converses with students around her as she patiently waits for an injured athlete to enter through the glass doors.

Having volunteered to be an athletic training student aide during her junior year, she continues to help athletes who have been hurt, assisting the upper school athletic trainer Jaron Olson.

“[Katrina] has a drive to do things and has been a consistent presence [in the training room],” said Olson. “She has a work ethic that I admire, and it really seems to have translated into a direction. Not too many students take it upon themselves to spend their time doing a behind-the-scenes job, but it has been super fun to see her become interested [in the field].”

Katrina’s involvement in sports medicine stemmed from an injury in her childhood. After continuously hurting her knee, she took the school’s Kinesiology course in an attempt to figure out what was wrong with it, and her interest in this field only grew from there.

“I like helping people in a very face-to-face, hands-on way because it’s very concrete, and I can see the change I make right away,” Katrina said. “[Becoming an athletic trainer] was just the avenue that was easiest for me to get there, because it’s hard when you’re young to find somewhere where you can do that, so I feel like this was my gateway.”

Her friend Rithi Jayam (12) admires Katrina’s growing confidence in the training room and her loyalty to the people around her.

“She always checks in with me to ask if I’m OK, and she’s very consistent with it — there has never been a time where I’m not laughing when I’m with her,” Rithi said. “She has taught me to be brave, and to take risks and be okay with myself.”

Katrina’s interest both in the training room and in being able to help others has pushed her to delve deeper into the field by working at a physical therapy clinic over the summer, where she learned how to interact with patients in a more professional office setting. Having also been younger than most of the other training aides at the clinic, she notes how conscious she was of her inexperience in front of the patients who were not used to having someone so young helping them out.

“As soon as I told [patients] that I was in high school, I felt like there was an expectation I had to hit, where I have to be extra good and I have to act like I really know what I’m doing so that they feel more comfortable with me,” Katrina said.

Her awareness of the people around her and her dedication to be the best that she can is also reflected in her attitude towards taekwondo, which she started at the age of seven. Now, as a seventeen-year-old, she appreciates the experiences and lessons she has gained through the sport.

“[Taekwondo] is a very mental thing, because a big part of it is just outhinking your opponent,” Katrina said. “We learn a lot from the masters — I remember one of them was really big on ‘how you do anything is how you do everything,’ and so I’m really conscious of that to this day.”

Katrina applies what she learns in taekwondo to other aspects of her life, including sports medicine. As a result, her appreciation of body and spatial awareness has grown over the years.

“Because the human body is a very complex thing, even just learning the anatomy of it takes forever,” Katrina said. “And so to really understand every single moving piece and how everything works and how it can all break down is really interesting to me and is something that I would like to figure out how to do.”

Senior Katherine Tian, who has known Katrina since elementary school, admires her dedication to sports medicine and taekwondo, as well as her selflessness for those around her.

“She has this very caring personality, and it translates over to her other activities in the same way where she cares about what she does, she cares about the impact she has,” Katherine said. “Sometimes maybe she doesn’t even believe it, but I believe that in her gut feeling, she’s trying to do the right thing all the time.”

Whether she is in the training room, the taekwondo studio or the classroom, Katrina enjoys collaborating with others and serving the people around her.

“Every single athlete who comes in with a problem is helping me in a way because it allows me to see all this stuff and get experience, even just every single time I tape an ankle,” she said with a laugh. “In return, [I want to be] someone who helped out or made their days better, even if it’s just in a little way.”