Ideally, Bernie Stento's job as a certified athletic trainer at Chesterton High School would be like the old Maytag repairman.

The reality of it is, it's sports and injuries are going to happen, so Stento endeavors to make the experience as pleasant as possible.

"Usually, I'm not the bearer of the best news," Stento said. "There's going to be an apprehensiveness. It's a huge thing for kids to make them feel good, to bring them a positive word when they're having a rough day. You want to give them some hope, some reassurance, a plan of action for them to do, to make them more confident in handling the injury and getting better."

That personal touch coupled with professional expertise is a reason why Stentohas been named a regional nominee for the 2017-2018 Newell National Athletic Trainer of the Year award. William E. “Pinky” Newell was widely recognized as the "Father of Athletic Training," Newell was the founding member of the National Athletic Trainers' Association and was instrumental in formalizing education programs specific to athletic training.

"It's a great honor," Stento said. "I certainly appreciate the people I'm close to with the Duneland School Corporation who spoke on my behalf for thinking of me in that light. A lot of award winners don't think about winning awards. You're just out doing your job every day, being the best you can be at it. My philosophy in life and work are the same. Life throws you enough curves, you just have to have a positivity about it, enjoy it, as I do."

That carries over into the athletic venues and training room for the popular Stento, who shares a rapport with the student-athletes that goes well beyond the tape and ice.

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"I spend more time with athletes than anybody else," Stento said. "I like to be around people, around kids, to joke with them, but they know when I'm serious. It builds a rapport from that trust. Kids are in tune with people. They know if you're authentic or fake. They can tell if it's genuine. If that's consistently how you are, you can develop that closeness. When you have that connection, they're more likely to buy into what you're doing with them."

An unexpected offshoot of Stento's job has been a plunge into social media, where he posts video clips from Chesterton athletic events.

"I never thought I'd be one of those kind of people," he said. "I'll put something out there, a big play, the end of the game, and people will say, how cool is that? They'll tell me they knew something was coming up, so they'll follow me, waiting for me to post a video. It's nice to be able to be there."

Stento joins the other regional nominees from across the U.S. who will be considered for the national award, to be announced at a banquet in May. Anyone who knows will tell you the recognition won't change who Stento is or what he does.

"If the accolades come along, wonderful, they're much appreciated," he said, crediting his work environment as a contributing factor in his job performance. "If they don't come along, that's OK, too. I'll just keep learning, trying to be a good example."

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at james.peters@nwi.com.


Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.