SAN ANTONIO — In the shadow of football drills at Brackenridge High School, student athletic trainers wait to serve.
"We're referred to as the team behind the team," Samantha Armijo said.
Armijo is the Head Athletic Trainer. Her assistant is Chris Haley. They work with 24 student trainers who help them cover every sport at the school.
"We have two of them who are football players, three of them are volleyball players," she said. "We have some in color guard. So they kind of do everything they cover when their sport is not active."
Arynei Nance joined their ranks this year. She is a senior trying to decide if her career should lean toward corporate law or NBA trainer.
"At first, this was just something to just have fun with," she said. "But as I slowly started doing it more and more, it's becoming something I love."
The 17-year-old Brackenridge student figured out signing up was more than an extracurricular duty.
"It's a lot of dedication," she said.
Sarina Aguillon believes her natural desire to help others made joining the student trainer team easy.
"I just love helping people," she said.
What the 20 girls and four boys do may not get the full view of the athletes they serve.
"Game set up; practice set up, game and practice coverage," Armijo said. "They help me with rehab and treatments."
Football is the most demanding sport. It may look like the trainers are hydration assistants, but the group does much more. When athletes are hurt, the trainers are assigned to follow the injured athlete through recovery.
"We don't want injuries, but when we get them, the kids get excited because then they have more to do," Armijo said. "So, that's where their learning comes in."
Even so, the depth of the spotlight is athlete-focused – which makes the trainers more like hidden figures.
"We're always in the background. No one pays attention. No one really knows what we do," Nance said.
The group got nominated recently in the inaugural San Antonio Student trainer program spotlight through a partnership with University Health and Dave Campbell's Texas Football. BHS got the program of the week.
"I was so happy about that," Nance said. "It really made me feel like I hard work was like paid attention to."
For the nomination, the program got $500, the recognition, and a chance to win the year's top program with a $2,500 payday.
"I think it shows that we have dedication to what we love to do," Aguillon said.
According to Armijo, the Brackenridge program is strictly voluntary. The school's program does not offer academic credit like most schools.
"It's a lot more than just athletic training," Armijo said. "It's a lot more than just sports medicine and physical therapy."
For the wife and mother, an injury as a student-athlete sparked a passion for pursuing this as a career.
Aguillon wants to become a physical therapist. Her time as a trainer is helping, she believes. It is also building bonds.
"We'll all help each other when we're in need, and if anybody needs anything, we're right here," Aguillon said.
That trust came in handy for members of the team who need healing too.
"We have a few kids who lost parents within the last year, so they come to Chris and myself," Armijo said. "We have a lot of kids who are just dealing with stuff here at school that, you know, they don't want to talk to their parents about, but they need somebody to vent to."
Team Brackenridge will go for the year's premiere program against Harlandale, John Jay, Holmes, Burbank, Southwest, Judson, McCollum, Highlands and Brandeis.