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Casa Brings Energy, Dynamism
to New Athletic Training Program
November 1, 1999

He's known among his colleagues in Gampel Pavilion as "Hurricane Casa." It's not because Doug Casa is a destructive force, but because he has so much energy and determination.

He picked up the nickname several years ago, while earning his doctorate. Now he's an assistant professor of kinesiology, and the new director of the athletic training education program for the Neag School of Education.

Spotlight on New Faculty

"Doug was a unique student. Not only was he a full-time student in our doctoral program, which is no small feat, he was assistant coach of the women's track team, so I knew he had a high work capacity," says Carl Maresh, head of the department of kinesiology. Casa also found time to be a research assistant in the department's Human Performance Laboratory, run a campus fitness center, and coach a club level women's track team.

It's no wonder, then, that Casa was at the top of the list when Maresh was given the go-ahead to whip the athletic training education program into shape. Now Casa is responsible for getting the program accredited by the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) within the next two years.

At the same time, he's involved in research at the UConn Human Performance Laboratory involving exercising in the heat and hydration; and he chairs a NATA committee charged with writing and developing the official guidelines for certified athletic trainers on the subject of fluid replacement for athletes.

But, his main focus for now, is the athletic training program. An accredited program requires more course work, which Casa says will result in a higher quality education for the students. Yet, meeting the accreditation standards isn't enough for him. "My goal is to develop our program into one of the top 10 undergraduate athletic training programs in the country," he says.

The NATA oversees and regulates athletic training education programs around the country, and has mandated that university and college programs earn accreditation by the year 2004, so UConn - which expects to meet the qualifications by 2002 - is getting an early start.

Maresh believes getting a jump on accreditation will help the University's program grow to prominence quickly. "Having a certified program means we will be among a fairly select group in the country. This will also bring a lot more credibility to our sports medicine program," he says.

Both Maresh and Casa are quick to point out that UConn has many of the resources needed to meet the high standards set by the NATA. The critical component that was previously lacking was having a certified trainer on the faculty; Casa now fills that void.

The next step includes a number of changes he set into motion after being on the job just one month. By next fall, he expects that a total of 14 course changes will be implemented.

"The curriculum is being bolstered tremendously," he says. "Not only are the courses being overhauled, but how students learn is being overhauled, too."

Some of that learning will take place in a classroom that has been converted into a lab and furnished with athletic training equipment. Casa and another certified trainer will work with small groups of students to give them regular hands-on instruction - another first for the UConn program.

What isn't new and will continue, is the amount of experience gained when student trainers are exposed to the many top-level, motivated athletes at UConn, along with a top-notch sports medicine staff. "It's what makes UConn's program so different from many other athletic training programs," says Casa. "It's a good relationship . And for the division of athletics, our accredited program means better prepared students are working with their athletes."

There's little doubt that for him, it's all about the students. He says his greatest love is inspiring students to reach their potential and helping them get great jobs. With that in mind, Casa has his sights set on commencement day 2003, when UConn will graduate its first students from the newly accredited athletic training education program.

Janice Palmer