January 9, 2015 | 11 a.m.
By Jared Johnson, Sports Information Director
Jackson Smidt, who graduated from Bethel last spring with a degree in athletic training from the Department of Human Kinetics and Applied Health Sciences, is now serving as an athletic trainer for the University of Oregon football team as part of their graduate assistant program. He now also finds himself part of the football program’s intense preparation for the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship Game on January 12.
As a graduate assistant, Smidt gets firsthand experience tending to student athletes, while also working toward his master's degree in post-professional athletic training. “After completing my athletic training program at Bethel, my aspirations were to work at the highest level—whether at a Division I school or a professional sports organization,” says Smidt. “But I knew that in order to get there, I needed my master’s degree. So I sought a graduate assistant role as a means to getting more real-life experience and learning at the highest level. The fact that I received my degree from Bethel, which is accredited by the same organization as Oregon, helped me jump right into the post-professional route.”
Adjusting to new demands since moving to Oregon in late July has been exhausting for the Sioux Falls, S.D., native, but it has challenged him to mature rather quickly, he says. “This whole transition has been a huge change,” Smidt continues. “Never having lived outside the Midwest and never having been at a public school has made working at the University of Oregon both stretching and eye-opening. Not only have I been challenged to have a reason for my faith, but I’ve also been challenged to take a more adult role with several players who are my age. I quickly learned that this role is about more than big names and bright lights; it’s about building relationships with talented individuals so that they will trust me to serve them on a daily basis.”
Smidt says he would not be where he is, nor could he be as effective at what he’s doing, without proper training from Bethel. “I am so thankful that I had clinical mentors at Bethel who cared about my growth,” he explains. “They were the first to provide quality hands-on experience and a framework about how to interact with student athletes. That has been critical to my success here in Oregon.”
Smidt is one of a number of athletic training majors who have gone on to serve athletes at the Division I or professional level. But despite working with the highly-recognizable University of Oregon and often seeing his face on TV on game days, he says his Midwest personality hasn’t changed. He knows that this opportunity on the national stage is a “pinch-yourself” moment not to be taken for granted.