Athletic training lets Bancroft stay close to sports

Published 2:55 pm Friday, September 16, 2022

DOWAGIAC — Southwestern Michigan College Athletic Trainer Elise Bancroft holds a master’s degree from Grand Valley State University.

She is certified and licensed in Michigan as an athletic trainer.

As a football coach’s daughter with two older brothers, she grew up in Stevensville always involved in sports, including softball, volleyball and ice hockey. Bancroft, 24, graduated from Lakeshore High School in 2016.

“I knew I wanted a career path that allowed me to stay immersed in sports while also providing care and support for those who needed it,” she said in her new office in the Charles O. Zollar Building on SMC’s Dowagiac campus. “Athletic training was the perfect combination of the two and I am thankful to be able to do what I love.”

Bancroft graduated from Grand Valley in 2021 and is in her second year as an athletic trainer with Spectrum Health Lakeland.

“I was kind of like the substitute teacher of athletic trainers,” Bancroft said. “I worked around the area with a bunch of different high schools if they needed help or needed me to cover for them if they couldn’t be there. It was a great first step for me to dip my toes into the water.”

“Dan Tinkey has been the athletic trainer at Lakeshore for years. He was my dad’s athletic trainer,” she said. He has been working with athletes of all ages since 1980 after beginning his career at Lakeland when the sports medicine program was just getting started.

“I’d go to practices with my dad and hang out with Dan in the athletic trainer room all the time,” Bancroft said. “I was so intrigued by what he did. He got to watch games and be involved in the community in a way that I really wanted to be, so I went to college, majored in athletic training my freshman year and never changed.

“In five years, I was able to get a bachelor’s degree in clinical exercise science and a master’s degree in athletic training. I never went through a significant injury in all of my years of sports. I didn’t even get my ankles taped, I just loved the idea of staying involved in an athletic environment while taking care of people who are passionate about what they do, helping athletes be the best they can be.”

Bancroft selected Grand Valley after touring campuses that also included Western Michigan University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Her father, Bill, coached linebackers for the Lancers, then became defensive coordinator. Head Coach Denny Dock formerly coached the Dowagiac Chieftains. Lakeshore Athletic Director Greg Younger quarterbacked Dowagiac to the state Class BB football title in 1990.

“Denny was my softball coach,” Bancroft said. “He frequents my parents’ (Red Coach) donut shop in Stevensville.”

“This position is an amazing opportunity that I didn’t feel I could pass up,” said Bancroft, finishing her second week since starting Aug. 29.

“A lot of people, when I tell them what I do, think I’m a personal trainer,” Bancroft said. “I help with emergency care, rehabilitation and preventive care of athletes. I cover practices and games, and I’m here all day (11 a.m.-7 p.m.), so athletes can come see me if they have an issue, like a cross-country runner with a sore knee. We’ll figure out what’s wrong and make a plan where to go from there after immediate relief. The schedule’s great. Men’s and women’s basketball alternate from 1-3 and 3-5, then volleyball is 5-7.”

“Everybody has been overwhelmingly welcoming to me,” she said. “It’s been a great experience because (Athletic Director and Men’s Basketball Coach) Rodell (Davis) is doing such an amazing job building this program. He’s passionate about making this program the best of the best.”

Bancroft’s office is housed in the Sports Medicine Center, a modern athletic training room where student-athletes can get pre- and post-game treatment they need to perform their best and successfully recover afterward.

With taping stations, treatment tables, a therapeutic hot and cold whirlpool, a nugget ice machine, the latest in ultrasound technology and commercial-grade laundry facilities, the center supports Bancroft in helping student-athletes rehabilitate any injuries and provide education and guidance on best practices for staying healthy.