SHERIDAN — If you’re taking in a sporting event at Sheridan High School, it’s tough to miss Joanne Brewster. At the same time, it’s pretty tough to catch her.
The trainer for all things SHS athletics, Brewster is oftentimes the busiest person in the building or on the field — or often running in between. Her schedule is unique; her duties are heavy; and her job is often thankless, at least initially.
Brewster jokes with freshmen athletes that if she knows their names, that’s not a good thing.
“That means they’re either injured, or they’ve done something to make me mad,” she said.
You’d be hard pressed to find the latter at Sheridan High School. Brewster understands her job is a tough one. Telling athletes they’ve suffered injuries — typically something they’ve never experienced — is never fun, but she tries to make it more than just athletic training. She’s a coach — a crutch, to put it into medical terms — for athletes dealing with an array of emotions.
“To have (sports) ripped away from you for a little bit, it’s kind of traumatic,” Brewster said. “Every kid reacts to it differently, but I can be that reassurance for them; I can be that support system for them while they’re going through things.”
Coy Steel was one of those athletes. The multi-sport athlete, who Brewster said “lives for sports,” suffered a brutal ACL tear early in the 2015 football season. He was well on his way to setting multiple state records and adding another big piece to the Broncs championship run.
The injury was tough to fathom, at first.
“She had me stand on one leg, and she was pushing me around, side to side,” Steel recalled of the first tests Brewster administered after his injury. “I couldn’t keep myself up because of what I had done. I was just so frustrated that I was mad at her for pushing me. I kept saying, ‘Quit pushing me so hard!’”
A year later, Steel is back on the turf, returning punts and shaking defenders just as he did pre-injury. He credits the long hours — extra hours — with his school’s athletic trainer for making the grueling process a tad easier.
“All the stuff that I did with her was just extra stuff that she was willing to put in her time with,” Steel said. “She didn’t have to do any of it. I was getting treatment somewhere else. But she wanted to be a part of it. That was cool.”
Steel isn’t the only one, either. Not even close. If there’s a practice going on, Brewster’s around. A game, a tournament, Brewster’s on the sideline.
Her schedule is one that most nine-to-fivers wouldn’t envy. She’s at the school by noon for lunchtime rehab. She spends the rest of the school day in class or prepping for the athletes to trickle into her training room for rehab, ice and any and all other treatments. From there, she’s at practice or a game, or oftentimes both. She’ll tape a running back’s ankle, grab ice for a knee injury at volleyball practice and sprint up to Homer Scott Field to test concussion symptoms.
She works Friday nights and Saturdays. During the winter season, she’ll take care of athletes until the final basketball practice is over at 8 p.m.
“The work she does is tireless,” SHS athletic director Don Julian said. “People don’t come to you unless they’re in serious need, and they come asking for help. I don’t know if people realize the responsibility she has. I have a ton of respect for Joanne and the work that she does for us.”
Brewster puts in the time simply because she cares. The relationships she develops with her players is important to both parties, and she feels it’s her way to give back.
“It makes it all worth it to see (kids) succeed and go through the trials of sports,” she said. “To get to watch high school kids grow up. — these four years are pivotal in kids’ lives.”
Outside of the chaotic days at SHS, Brewster keeps herself just as busy. Recently engaged, her future husband has three young boys. She sprints from high school football practice to Little Guy Football games.
She’s also on the Sheridan WYO Rodeo royalty board. Brewster worked with Cheyenne Frontier Days growing up. She’s involved with her church and enjoys volunteering with the youth.
“It’s not just about sports to me anymore,” Brewster said. “It’s about helping these kids succeed.”