Gabby's Story

Athlete’s Guardian Angel

Gabrielle Kelly

As three o’clock strikes, the chapel chimes echo as student athletes make their way to training rooms to prepare their already beaten and bruised bodies for yet another long, exhausting practice. As they push open the large metal door, students are welcomed with laughter and warm smiles from student trainers, who work swiftly and efficiently in efforts to get each and every athlete the attention they need. Wrapping knees and taping ankles left and right, trainers are intently focused on their goal: to help at-risk athletes stay in the game. At the center of the hub is queen bee/athletic trainer Ann Worley, who makes her way around the room instructing, nurturing and offering aid to anyone in need. Suddenly the dreaded practice doesn’t seem so bad.

This is a scenario I know all too well. Every day before practice or a game, my right foot is wrapped with several layers of Union College-orange tape due to a preseason injury that thankfully didn’t end my career.  As much as I don’t look forward to the whole “taping” routine, I can honestly say that my injury didn’t hit me without introducing at least one benefit; it brought me closer to Ann Worley. The special attention she continues to provide has helped me find success not just as an athlete, but as a person. I should back up so you can better understand my story.

I came to Union as a Division I NCAA transfer from Wyoming to earn a bachelor’s degree and continue playing volleyball. Moving halfway across the country isn’t easy. I’ve often needed guidance—the kind of direction only family can provide—and I found it here. People like Ann have made it easy for me to call Union home. Anytime I am frustrated, need advice, or just good company, I know she will be there for me. I will never forget a time when I was feeling especially distressed and Ann said to me, “It’s okay to fail. We learn from our failures. It may be frustrating, but how we deal and react to frustration is important.” Now whenever I feel frustrated, I remember her advice and do my best to turn a negative into a positive.

Sage advice isn’t the only thing born out of Ann’s training room; bonds are built there. She makes the experience a two-way street by sharing details about her own life—things to inspire and motivate young athletes along life’s journey.  So as Ann grew to know me, I grew to know her as well. She grew up in Lebanon, Ohio, where she was actively involved in sports, both as a player and a spectator. She regularly attended Bengals and University of Kentucky games when she wasn’t competing herself. Like many Union students, Ann was an avid athlete; she played volleyball for five years, including one year at Eastern Kentucky University, and also ran track for eight years, two of which were at the collegiate level. During volleyball her senior year of high school, Ann tore her ACL. Rather than sulking through physical therapy, Ann quickly saw the opportunity in her situation; she fell in love with athletic training and wanted to help students discover that same passion. After 10 years working at Waynesville High School, Ann decided to move closer to family here in Barbourville. She had no idea the impact she would have on so many students’ lives. Including mine.

College is a difficult time for many students; juggling classes, athletics, extracurricular activities, jobs, and even planning for the future can be overwhelming and can take their toll on students. Many find themselves going to Ann for advice. She stresses a simple life motto: “Life is unpredictable, but what you do with the twists and turns…that’s what makes it interesting and fun.” Ann has taken on a motherly role for me and many other students here on campus. I cannot tell you how many people I have seen her help, both in and out of the training room. While she may not realize the impact she has on students, I for one can say that I am forever grateful. For me, Ann is that 1:1 I was looking for. I’m so glad I found her here at Union.