Former GC Athletic Trainer Awarded to Hall of Fame

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By Charlotte Joiner

Former GC athletic trainer Paul Higgs achieved a spot in the Georgia Athletic Trainers’
Association Hall of Fame, along with only eight others.

Higgs’ passion for athletic training began in high school. Although he didn’t participate in sports,
he enjoyed helping others and being able to hang out with his friends.

Higgs later graduated from Valdosta State where his career began to take off. He learned the
ropes quickly.

“In the beginning, you wanna save everybody but over time you realize that you can’t save
everyone,” Higgs said. “They have to take ownership too. At the same time, you have to be
professional, honest and care for these people. You have to learn how to have fun with it too,
but not lose the professionalism.”

The connection Higgs built with student-athletes was unmatched.

Though his job description called for helping athletes get better physically, Higgs often dealt with
the mental health aspect as well. The athletes he worked with trusted him and were able to
open up to him about things they may not want to disclose to their coaches or parents.

Breakups, not being able to pay rent or having trouble with school and family were all topics of
conversation that the athletes discussed with Higgs.

Along with this, Higgs worked with over 30 graduate students in his tenure at GC. The
challenges of mentoring new students in addition to the athletes’ rehabilitation process taught
Higgs valuable lessons. He added that one of the hardest parts about the rehabilitation process
was being able to keep the athletes involved.

Another challenge for Higgs was being able to help injured athletes find their identity again.
Higgs added that oftentimes injured athletes asked themselves, “If I’m not playing, then who am
I?” This part of the rehabilitation process allowed Higgs to really connect with the athletes and
guide them through the healing process. The connection that Higgs built with the athletes
became the constant reward that kept this passion alive.

Higgs recalled that over his entire career, the most rewarding moments were when he saw his
work pay off. He added that students often don’t remember who won the game, but they
remember when he helped fix them up. Being able to see the students and athletes grow helped
him grow as both an athletic trainer and person.

 

“Coming back for alumni day is when I know I did it right,” Higgs said. “I took care of them
forever ago, the people I help are able to do the things they love on a daily basis. They’ll thank
me, however many years later, it’s just the best feeling.”

Over two decades as the Head Athletic Trainer at GC, Higgs continued to keep his passion
alive. Higgs amassed several awards, such as the Warren Morris Sports Medicine Person of the
Year (2006) and named Distinguished Alumnus for the College of Nursing and Health Sciences
at Valdosta State (2014). Higgs has twice served as both the GATA Vice President and
President, along with stints as the Treasurer and Parliamentarian for a total of fifteen years in
official service to the state.

Though Higgs has a place in the Hall of Fame he said that the biggest reward was being able to
be available for his children. Higgs was able to invest in both the growth of his staff and family.

With an amazing staff, Higgs added that he was able to go to all of his children’s events as they
grew up. Higgs knew he had to be a dad first and his career allowed him to do that.