Everything for a reason
Rob Dicks, Director of Athletic Training and Compliance, is a firm believer that
things happen for a reason.
This year he was invited by the Rev. Blair Tolbert, Director of Student Ministries,
to accompany students on an Alternative Spring Break trip to Orlando. He had no
idea what his presence would mean.
"Looking back, there were several things that occurred that made us wonder what
would have happened if I hadn't been there," he says. "It was plain that God was
Even meeting Tolbert proved to be fortuitous.
"We found out that we are kindred spirits," he says. "We both love to help people
and have been able to come up with some ways to help our students together."
One of those ways was the ASB trip.
When Tolbert approached him about it, he didn't hesitate.
"Without a doubt, without thinking about it twice, I said yes," he says.
And the timing was perfect.
"It worked out that all of our teams were going to be off until the end of that
week, so I was able to take advantage of the opportunity. It was my first mission
Dicks didn't know what to expect.
"I knew we were going to help people, but I didn't know how much work it was going
to entail," he says. "I was just ready to go. I knew most of the kids who went
because some of them were athletes, so I was just ready to get down there and help
He was moved by his experiences at the Community Outreach Grocery Store &
Thrift Shop and the Stop Hunger Now warehouse, both in Orlando.
"It was very interesting to hear those people talk about the programs they offer,"
he says. "(Community Outreach) has just started a new program to offer medical
The customers are not just the homeless.
"It’s the working poor they are trying to help out the most," he says. "It was
very gratifying to be able to talk to the people, to hear their stories and for
them to see us helping them."
But the best part for Dicks was watching the students at work.
"I see these kids during their seasons, and they complain a lot about hard days
at practice or their injuries," he says.
"But to see them go in, day in and day
out, and working so hard the entire day without complaining – that was awesome.
And it was wonderful to watch the students interact with people in a way that preserved
their dignity. I was very proud of them all."
Throughout the trip, Dicks found himself stepping in to help in unexpected ways.
"Blake Shuler and I helped build a big shelving unit at the warehouse, I helped
fold T-shirts and I drove the van wherever we needed to go."
But it was the last day when it was brought home to Dicks that he was exactly
where he needed to be.
"We had just packed up this big 26-foot truck to take the food packaging supplies
to a church in Winter Park, Fla.," he says. "It had air brakes and everything."
But the director ran into a bit of a problem when she got the truck stuck on a
"She was frantic and didn't know what to do. Without thinking, I jumped into the
truck, got it unstuck, turned it around and got it parked so we could unpack everything.
I have experience driving all kinds of vehicles and my dad used to be a truck driver,
so I knew what to do."
It all goes back to things happening for a reason, he says.
"There was a reason for me to meet Blair and a reason for our conversations to
continue. All that set up her asking me to go on this trip. I feel like if any
of the kids or even myself wondered why we were doing this, it was clearly answered."
Helping people is what Dicks is all about.
"That's why I do what I do," he says. "That's why I'm in the allied health field."
Dicks jokes that he is "probably one of the most invisible staff people on campus."
"A lot of people see me on campus and know I've been here a long time, but they
don't understand what we do."
He says his staff's job is to take care of the student-athletes.
"If they get an injury or sick or whatever the case may be, our job is to help
them get back to health, so they can go out and perform their skills on the court,
on the field or wherever they play."
The hours are long – often 10 hours a day and weekends.
"There are no real days off," he says. "There are long hours that a lot of people
don't understand, but when you love what you do, it doesn’t really feel like work."
Dicks says some perceptions are that his department is like a nursing station.
"If someone needs a Band-Aid, they come to me," he says with a smile. "Sometimes
it is as simple as that, but sometimes it is as tough as calling a mom to tell
her when her child's surgery is scheduled."
No matter the hard parts, Dicks says it is gratifying to watch an athlete go through
the healing process.
"They come in on day one with an injury," he says. "We work with them through
the surgery and the rehab until they are ready to return to play. We have done
something to help that person, and it's an awesome feeling."