McDonald, who has served as Science Hill’s athletic trainer for more than 27 years, figures when everybody on the field stays healthy, most of his services aren’t needed.
“When I come to a game I’d rather not have to work,” McDonald said with a smile before a recent baseball game. “The best thing I can do here for baseball is come out, keep book, watch the game, hang out and go home. When I don’t have an injury, it’s a good night.”
When nobody gets hurt, everybody goes home happy.
McDonald has seen his share of ligament tears, broken bones and dislocations. He says it’s tough when a kid he knows is down on the field after suffering an injury. That’s when instinct takes over and the trainer gets to work.
“You don’t like that, but you really don’t think about it at the time,” he said. “You have to do your job.”
McDonald said legendary ETSU trainer Jerry Robertson was the one who got him interested in becoming an athletic trainer.
“My dad was a football and track coach,” McDonald said. “I’ve always been around athletics. I played a little in high school but I knew I wasn’t good enough to play anywhere after high school. My dad introduced me to coach Robertson at ETSU. He told me about the program and that’s what got me interested.”
Being at an athletic powerhouse such as Science Hill is a blessing and a curse for McDonald.
“We have great facilities and great teams, so when my seasons ends, I go two or three weeks in the postseason because we win at everything,” he said. “And we’re going to host a lot of things on the weekends because we have such great facilities. So I’m working a lot more. If we were at another area school that wasn’t as successful — which I wouldn’t want to be — you get more time off.”
McDonald can be found at Science Hill as early as 6:45 a.m. helping athletes rehab injuries before they go to class. It has turned into a labor of love.
"I really do like it,” he said. “It’s a good job. It’s different and it’s seasonal. As the season changes, the sports change. I like each one of them for different reasons.”
McDonald’s love of his job wasn’t always so strong. In fact, he said he was ready to quit shortly after starting.
“I did not think I’d stay this long, and if I could have left in January or February that first year, I’d have been out,” he said. “It was just overwhelming. It was my first year and I was by myself.
“I came there from a college setting, a GA (graduate assistant) position where I had two certifieds over me, 12 kids under me and plenty of help. All of a sudden it’s just me. It was tough.”
McDonald stuck it out and hasn’t looked back since.
“It’s a great place to work,” he said of Science Hill. “Good coaches, good kids, good teams. If you have a losing team, everything hurts, so the training room will be full.”
Science Hill was ahead of the curve in athletic training. Before McDonald, Chris McWherter spent more than decade in the position.
“Science Hill has had a trainer on staff for 40 years,” McDonald said. “Very few schools had one when I started. Now most every school I go to has somebody covering it and taking care of it. So that’s good.”
And every one of them hope they don’t called into action at their next game.