BEVERLY, Mass. – Formulas for success: Everyone has one. And everyone wishes they knew the exact one that works.
For Aaron Karkow ’12, who just got promoted to be the Charlotte Hornets Assistant Athletic Trainer, his formula involves something often overlooked.
“Having a solid network around you is really important. Find a mentor in your field, someone you can bounce ideas off of and learn from,” said Karkow. “Breaking into the field can be tough, to that I would say learn as much as you can on your own outside of the classroom, work relentlessly, and have a fun/good attitude. Being likable is very important and often overlooked – the Hornets will travel over 41,000 miles this upcoming season, so you have to be enjoyable to be around.”
Karkow’s journey to his current position with the Hornets started during his time at Endicott, as a member of the men’s basketball team and also as an athletic training student. Throughout these experiences, Karkow’s model for success was born.
“Endicott was the foundation for me and where I really made a turning point in my life athletically, academically, but also socially,” said Karkow. “Playing for Coach [Phil] Rowe taught me time management and discipline. We had to turn in weekly time sheets, and each day was broken up into 15 minute blocks from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM and by filling those out each day for three years I learned how to really look at my day and get as much out of it and out of myself as possible. If I wasted 15 minutes, I could see it right there on the paper in front of me when I filled it out. I really learned how to prioritize, plan ahead, and manage my day, which was essential as I got further in my Endicott career trying to balance various activities, athletics, and my responsibility as an athletic training student. I no longer need to use the weekly sheets but I still plan out each day and each week so I know what is ahead and what needs to get done.
Karkow furthered his point.
“Beyond the classroom and as an athlete, Endicott was the best place for me to develop as a young man. My freshman year was very typical as I learned how to be a college student, but I mostly kept to myself. As a sophomore, I was invited to join the LightHouse Leadership Society – a new program on campus and no one really knew what it was. But from that experience I learned how to communicate with my peers and gained confidence,” said Karkow. “After that, I was a SAAC representative, an orientation leader, taught an EC 101 course with Brandi Johnson, volunteered with LifeChoices and the athletic training club, twice volunteered on ASB with habitat for humanity, and went to London to work with the Youth Sport Trust. I would not have done any of those things without the people at Endicott who gave me an opportunity and gave me confidence. Everything I learned from those experiences during my four years helped shape me into who I am and the position I am in now.”
After his time at Endicott, Karkow went on to serve as an assistant athletic training at the University of Mount Olive for two years and one year with the NBA D-League’s Greensboro Swarm. His experiences with the Swarm were also as important as his undergraduate years at The Nest.
“It was a perfect fit for me at that time in my life and I was fortunate they took the chance on me. Working in the D-League is unlike any college or high school position – these are high-level college basketball players trying to make the NBA,” said Karkow. “But in minor league sports the support staff has to wear many hats and fill many roles. I was working with guys who played at Duke, Kentucky, Kansas – where they are used to having the best of everything – and I was working as the athletic trainer, strength coach, equipment manager, assistant travel coordinator, I drove the team bus to the airport, and I did the team laundry on the road. It was a lot to manage, but honestly, I loved it.”
Karkow continued to discuss in further detail his time with the Swarm.
“The D League is a grind. Each team flies on commercial flights so there were times we would leave the hotel at 4 AM for a flight, have a layover, at times deal with delays, and then try and play a game that night. Getting the guys ready to compete was always an interesting challenge. We would lift in the hotel weight rooms, or if they didn't have a weight room we may go in a meeting room and do a mobility/ stretching session to get some movement in after a long day of travel. I learned some invaluable lessons. Guys like Damien Wilkins (now with the Pacers), who was 37 years old and had played in the NBA for nine years really taught me what it meant to be a pro. We had eight rookies on our team, but I was a rookie too. We were all learning together, and fortunately, we had a veteran like Damien who was a willing mentor and shared his experience with us. He was a rookie in Seattle and relied on guys like Ray Allen to teach him the way, and so he would share his knowledge with those that wanted it.”
WHY ATHLETIC TRAINING?
“I got into athletic training because I have a passion and love for sports, but knew that playing sports wouldn't pay my bills for the rest of my life. That was probably the main thing. Although, athletic training was a way for me to be involved in sports and to help people. But the best part of working in a field like this is that no two days are alike, I get to interact with people all day long, and it is a very mentally stimulating profession in which you must constantly learn and adapt to new research and methods. I have always had an interest in anatomy and biomechanics and so athletic training was the perfect way for me to combine several interests.”
WHAT WAS YOUR STUDENT-ATHLETE EXPERIENCE LIKE AT ENDICOTT?
“My experience on the Endicott men’s basketball team was a tremendous period of personal growth. When I came in as a freshman we didn't make the CCC playoffs. As a sophomore, we were eliminated in the first round. Junior year we lost in the semi-final. And as a senior, we won the conference and nearly won our first round NCAA game. I didn't have the individual career I think I was capable of, but I have always looked at team success first. I think we started the culture change in the basketball program that led to the most recent group of graduating seniors lifting the program to the next level.
The guys I played with are people I will consider lifelong friends. Lance Greene was a groomsman in my wedding. I spent a month in Australia with Bennett Knowlton and Lachlan McGee. The relationships were the best part of being a student-athlete.
Professionally, one of the greatest benefits to my time on the basketball team was the exposure to Tim and Scott DiFrancesco, as they conducted the strength and conditioning for our team. From them, I learned a different way to approach training and movement. The things they were having us do back in 2010 was so ahead of its time- now a lot of that stuff is becoming more commonplace and widely accepted, but they were doing it 8+ years ago. I still have my TD Athletes Edge training logs, and I refer to them all the time. I think that was huge in my progression as an athletic trainer.”
SO… MICHAEL JORDAN’S YOUR BOSS NOW?
“I feel extremely grateful that my hard work in Greensboro has been acknowledged and I am blown away by the opportunity to join the Sports Medicine staff with the Hornets. They have a great staff, each with a lot of NBA experience and I look forward to the start of the season and the opportunity to learn from them and work with them every day. There is a lot of excitement in Charlotte leading up to this season, Kemba Walker was an All-Star last year and now with the additions of Dwight Howard and Malik Monk, I think the expectation is that this is a playoff team. I also think it is pretty cool that now my boss is Michael Jordan.”