SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Admittedly, members of the University of Rhode Island men’s and women’s basketball teams and the football team get the lion’s share of publicity. And rightly so.

But lost in the shuffle is the work being done by Woonsocket native Michelle Barber, who is the associate athletic trainer.

An Associate Coach, under the direction of the Head Coach, oversees the physical assessment and treatment of student-athletes to maintain peak physical fitness and participate in athletic competitions. Additionally, they provide support for student-athletes who participate in high-impact, high-intensity sports.

Aside from the work she does for the Rams, what she has done outside of the coaching room is arguably even more important.

A 2003 graduate of the University of Connecticut, Barber earned her Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine and Masters in Kinesiology at URI.

Among other things, she has been active in researching athletes who have been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (i.e., this is a term used to describe disorders that involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease).

“That was the subject of my master’s thesis,” Barber said. “One of my exercise science classes involved research and I found that there was a large amount of research in people who had been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease.”

Barber’s research has confirmed that various forms of treatment involve the use of anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and even a nutrient-dense diet.

URI Associate Athletic Coach Michelle Barber works with members of the football team at training camp last week.

Barber has also conducted research on hydration status in adolescents which has been published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Journal.

“It was with study camps for young people,” Barber said. “We went to the camp and got permission from the parents, collected urine samples and asked what their thirst level was compared to what their urine samples were telling us.

“Put simply, we found that teens’ thirst levels were not an accurate indication of their hydration status.”

change of heart

Due to her affinity for athletics, Barber changed her major after enrolling at Connecticut.

“Honestly, I started with an undergraduate degree in physical therapy,” Barber said. “Honestly, my older sister [Christine Levereault] is a sports coach. She was in school at the same time as me.

“Our family would go to the games where they were. She would come home and practice her recording skills. That’s when I decided [being an athletic trainer] would be a more desirable profession for me.

Prior to being hired by URI, Barber volunteered with the fall sports teams at Manchester High School in Connecticut and the Hartford Family Clinic. After graduating, she received the Doug Casa Award for her ongoing research. (Casa is a professor in the Connecticut Department of Kinesiology).

“That research was for the hydration work I did with him,” Barber said. “What I did in Manchester and at the Hartford Clinic was part of the sports training program.”

In 2005, Barber was recognized for “Outstanding Graduate Research” based on her thesis and research work. She has also helped conduct research sponsored by Gatorade, the National Safe Kids Campaign and UConn.

“It came more from my work with UConn,” Barber said. “In graduate school, my graduate advisor, Doug Casa, asked me to come back and do research with him for two summers. We’ve been to summer camps for youngsters and looked at their hydration status.

“Doug Casa is the head of the Korey Stringer Institute at UConn. Getting this award was amazing.

Stringer was an offensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings who died of heatstroke during training camp in 2001.

Initially, Barber was a graduate assistant trainer at UConn. She thanks her sister Christine for inspiring her.

“She was the No. 1 influence in my transition from physiotherapy to athletic training.”

Eventually, Barber became a certified strength and conditioning specialist.

“I took a semester-long course at UConn and took that exam in 2005,” she said. “This involves submitting additional course units in order to maintain certification.”

The “fun aunt”

In Connecticut and Rhode Island, Barber worked with a variety of teams including soccer, men’s and women’s soccer and basketball, women’s hockey, softball, and men’s track and field teams.

“I don’t think I treat them differently,” she said. “I think later in my career, now that I’m a mother, I feel like the male athlete sees me as a comfortable mother figure.

“I like to call myself the ‘fun aunt’. ”

Highlighting his proficiency in his field, Barber received the Rhode Island Trainers Association’s Award of the Year.

Criteria for receiving this award include being a highly qualified and versatile healthcare professional who renders services or treatment under the direction or in conjunction with a physician in accordance with his or her education and training and statutes , rules and regulations of the state. Services provided by athletic trainers include primary care injury and illness prevention, wellness promotion, emergency care review education, therapeutic intervention, and injury and injury rehabilitation. medical conditions.

To say Barber was humble when she received this award would be a major understatement. “I think it was just a way to show their appreciation for everything I’ve done for the association,” she said.

Beyond scopes of practice

Barber has served as secretary/treasurer and secretary of the Rhode Island Athletic Trainers Association since 2006 and has also served on the Rhode Island Department of Health Board of Licensure for Athletic Trainers.

In this role, she helps ensure applicants have proof of graduation from an accredited college or university and have met the minimum athletic training program requirements established by the board in fulfilling specific course requirements including human anatomy, human physiology, first aid and CPR, nutrition, personal health and sports training techniques, etc.

Barber is in the middle of his 19th season at the URI and, understandably, has derived great satisfaction from his work.

“First, in the eight years I raised my son [Jaxon], it was in the middle of college athletics,” she said. “My staff are super supportive of working with a working mom. When I take my son to work, coaches and athletes love to share their sport with him. For me, it’s amazing to see.

“But most of all, seeing an injury from start to finish and seeing the athlete return to the sport he or she loves is so rewarding.”