Amato and Summers recognized by MAATA


SUMMARY: Over their long careers at JMU, both Herb Amato and Sherry Summers left an indelible mark on the Athletic Training program's success. The Mid-Atlantic Athletic Trainers' Association (MAATA) recently honored that legacy by naming them to the organization's list of the 2016 Most Distinguished Athletic Trainers.

Brett Seekford
Creative Services Student Writer

Herb Amato and Sherry Summers receive award

Roughly 27 years ago, a relationship began that would transform JMU’s athletic training (AT) program. When professor Herb Amato came to JMU in 1988, he offered the fledgling program a faculty member with a background in higher education. Upon his hiring, he partnered with an active group of athletic trainers already sharing their clinical expertise in the classroom, among them Sherry Summers. This team developed an athletic training curriculum which would become the first accredited program of its type in Virginia.

Over their long careers at JMU, both Amato and Summers left an indelible mark on the program’s success. The Mid-Atlantic Athletic Trainers’ Association (MAATA) recently honored that legacy by naming them to the organization’s list of the 2016 Most Distinguished Athletic Trainers. The honor is conveyed to MAATA members for their notable contributions to the profession.

Summers’ path to a career in athletic training was indirect. She tried out for basketball during her freshman year but did not make the team. This setback proved a blessing, for she went on to serve as the team manager and worked alongside an athletic trainer who introduced her to the profession. She also took a course called Care and Prevention of Athletic Training while at JMU, which further spurred her interest in the field.

Herb Amato and Sherry Summers with other Athletic trainers

Lower left - Sherry Summers and Herb Amato in 1979-80

“By my senior year, I knew I wanted to be an athletic trainer,” Summers said. “I began applying for graduate assistantships, but I ultimately remained at JMU, later accepting a position as the university’s first female athletic trainer.” Over her 35-year career, Summers worked with many sports including field hockey, lacrosse and volleyball, but women’s basketball was always her primary focus.

Amato, who received his M.S. from JMU before obtaining his doctoral degree from Middle Tennessee State University, began his career working as a high school athletic trainer. After accepting a teaching position at JMU, NATA approved JMU’s minor program in athletic training. He served as the director of the athletic training program for 18 years, watching it grow from a small minor program to a robust and competitive undergraduate major.

“Our [athletic training] students were successful and the university liked the idea of being the first in the state,” Amato said. “The need in the area also played a major role in the growth of athletic training at JMU. There are athletes in high schools and middle schools, which led us to reach out and establish a presence.”

“JMU doesn’t really do anything average,” he added. “If they have the potential, they’re going to seize it and see it through. I think that’s what you saw with the athletic training program.”

Both JMU veterans remain invested in the program’s continued success. After announcing her retirement in 2010, Summers began working to chronicle the history of athletic training at JMU. Amato currently serves as the interim department head of health sciences, where he oversees many fields of study including the athletic training program.

They have both clearly left a legacy, and the MAATA saw fit to reward their many years of service to the field. Going forward, they hope JMU continues contributing to the evolution of the athletic training program and the field itself.

“It was an honor to be named one of the distinguished athletic trainers,” Amato said. “Many JMU graduates now occupy positions of leadership with MAATA, which likely helped our nominations.”

“It’s wonderful to see my students, who now have their own careers, recognize the impact I had on them. This award lets me know I made significant contributions to JMU and athletic training,” Summers added.

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Published: Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Last Updated: Tuesday, November 17, 2020

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