SPARTANBURG, SC - Sports has always been a part of Madison Leonard’s life. When unfortunate joint pain cut her high school athletic career short, she knew decisions had to be made for a way to keep her connected to the game. The Dutch Fork senior became interested in athletic training, and ever since her junior year, Leonard hasn’t looked back.
In October during a mid-week football practice, a meeting was called and Madison had no idea what was going on. “They announced that two of our players had been selected for the Shrine Bowl,” Leonard said. “I wasn’t really even paying attention, and then all of a sudden I hear my name called and they tell me that I’ve been selected, too.” Madison was chosen as one of two Student Assistant Athletic Trainers to represent the South Carolina team in the 2016 Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas game.
“This is such a tremendous honor to be selected as just one of two students to represent the training staff for the South Carolina team at the Shrine Bowl,” Leonard said. “It has been really exciting to build relationships with the staff here and the players. And just in the few days of practice we have had, I have already learned so many new taping techniques and training methods.”
Head athletic trainer for the South Carolina squad Barry Atkinson knew right away Madison would be the perfect choice when he saw her resume. “Madison has been outstanding all week,” said Atkinson, who has 41 years of athletic training experience. “This is such a special opportunity for the students because they have grown up around one athletic trainer. Everyone does things differently so it is a good experience for them to see other perspectives.”
Madison’s Shrine Bowl experience will be a bit different than others. She will continue to attend practices and events with the team, but will miss the game on Saturday—for good reason. Dutch Fork plays in the AAAAA football state championship on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, and she didn’t have a choice. “The boys made it clear before I headed to Spartanburg that I was not allowed to miss state,” Leonard laughed. “I hate I’m having to miss the Shrine Bowl game Saturday, but the experiences I’m having during the week are ones I’ll never forget.”
Dutch Fork High School head athletic trainer Mack Harvey was so proud of Madison’s selection saying, “It is such a special honor for Madison to be selected as a Student Trainer for the Shrine Bowl,” Harvey said. “This is a great honor for our school and it says a lot about our program that we’ve been able to get her to this point. We are very happy for Madison.”