Tireless. This is just one word that describes Rachel Eldredge, the Assistant Director of Sports Medicine. She is an athletic trainer, a therapist and practically a mother to many athletes at Middlebury (the last two were conveniently left out of the job description).
Rachel, or “Trachel” for “trainer Rachel” to differentiate her from the Women’s Tennis Head Coach Rachel Kahan, is one of the main reasons that the field hockey, women’s ice hockey, and both tennis teams have achieved so much success both on and off the field, ice, or court. Eldredge has been a trainer at Middlebury since 2003, and just last year was promoted to her most recent role of Assistant Director. She was an athlete herself, swimming for the University of La Verne in California. Due to her modest nature, she would never tell you unless you asked.
Her job is made difficult when most of her athletes are unable to describe the physical problem. Sometimes her athletes come in knowing they are in pain, but not being able to describe where it is coming from exactly. With a few prods and pokes here and there, Eldredge is able to find the root of the problem. And, if on the rare chance that problem solving takes her more than five minutes, she transforms into a dedicated researcher. If she can’t locate the problem, she will find someone who can deliver her the answers. She will write a plan, construct a strict schedule and check up on her athletes every day to evaluate their progress. Everyone needs a “Trachel”; even her athletes have told her that she needs a “Trachel,” given how much she works with her body to heal others.
Maddi Stow ’20, a member of the women’s tennis team, has spent a large portion of her career recovering from injuries — meaning she has spent a lot of one-on-one time with Eldredge. Stow, coincidentally the Director of the SGA Health and Wellness committee, commented on the help Eldredge provides her off the court, “Rachel challenges us to make time for our self-care even when we are extremely busy. She is always there to pick up the slack (and pick up a snack) when our bodies start to give out on us. When I fractured my elbow freshman year, she would even put my hair in a ponytail when I couldn’t. Even while I was studying abroad, we were in constant communication with her giving me exercises and advice in order to make sure I was healthy when I came back.”
Eldredge’s dedication to the three female (and one male) sports teams she treats is unparalleled. Grace Jennings ’19, captain of the field hockey team, also spoke about her team’s tight-knit relationship with Eldredge. She reminisced about her junior year season and Rachel’s help along the ride. “My junior year I suffered an ankle injury after someone jumped on it off of the field,” said Jennings. “It was right after we had won NESCACs and we were heading into NCAAs. I couldn’t play in practice at all and was on crutches during the week. In order to play in games, we put probably two-to-three inches worth of tape on my ankle to keep it stiff. Especially in the semi-final game of NCAAs, my ankle was in a lot of pain and I was becoming more and more frustrated. But Rachel was there for it all. She worked with me to come up with ideas for how to keep the ankle stiff while not hindering my speed. Mentally, it was very challenging, but she calmed me down and made me focus on the game instead not the injury itself. And that’s what she always does. She takes care of our physical and mental wellness so that we can focus on our performance on the field.”
Athletes all know that in the training room, we have a friend and trainer in Rachel. And that relationship cannot be replicated easily. Junior Sidney Portner spoke of Eldredge’s help with the women’s hockey team over her past three seasons. “I think over my three years the thing that I have noticed and always gives me a good laugh is that she knows each of our very different personalities and she manages them so well,” explained Portner. “She loves that we all come in and heat or ice, and she always mentions how “we are so self-sufficient,” claiming that we make her job easy. This is pretty funny considering it in no way can be ‘easy’ to manage 25 different women, yet she does it every day for five months, excited every time we walk in that training room even if we don’t need her.”
What is most special about Eldredge is her ability to form personal relationships with almost every athlete she works with. You can see how much she values these relationships by her comments about the hardest part of the job. “The hardest part about my job is telling an athlete their season is over because of an injury,” said Eldredge. “No matter how hard I try to fix my athletes, there are certain situations where time or surgery are the only way to fix the injury. Whether they are a first year or senior there is nothing I can say to make it all better. The only thing I can do is to be there for them every step of the way and be as supportive as possible.”
We are lucky to have someone so dedicated to not only her job, but also the athletes themselves, helping them succeed wherever they go. Her love for her role and athletics is simply unmatched. “Being an athletic trainer at Middlebury and working with such talented teams has given me the ability to be a part of something great, pushed me to be better every day and given me such great purpose in my life,” said Eldredge. Eldredge is even willing to travel across the world for her teams. In just a few short weeks, she will accompany the field hockey team on a trip to Dublin, Ireland and Belfast, Northern Ireland.