Mike White keeps Akron Zips ready for action

By TOM NADER - Portage Sports Stories

Posted Mar 16, 2019 at 12:01 AM

Updated Mar 16, 2019 at 4:12 PM


March Madness has a buzz unlike anything in sports.

And players are not the only ones who feel the energy.

Fans stress over brackets, vacation days are filed at work for day-long tournament watch parties and everyone is anxious to latch on to the next Cinderella story.

If you are fortunate enough to be affiliated with a college team, that energy becomes part of your blood.

Simply put, the excitement cannot be escaped.

And nobody wants to escape it.

Mike White does not suit up and run out onto the court for the University of Akron’s men’s basketball team, but he has an important role in making sure every Zips player is ready to perform at their highest level.

White is a 2010 graduate of Waterloo High School, and he is in his second season as the Akron men’s basketball team’s athletic trainer.

“Everything you hear and read about March Madness and the excitement that goes along with it, it is all real. It is all true and then some,” White said. “I think as a fan of the sport, you feel it. But being a part of a team living it, it is such an awesome feeling. It is intense.

“Each day you know you could be one day closer to the end,” White said.

For the Zips, that day came on Thursday, when the top-seeded Buffalo Bulls defeated the Zips in the Mid-American Conference Tournament quarterfinals.

White’s role throughout the season was to keep the Zips’ players in optimal health to compete at the highest level possible.

From nutrition to post-operation recovery to daily treatments to injury prevention.

It is an opportunity that fulfilled White’s longtime dream to not only land a career as an athletic trainer, but to also do it in Northeast Ohio. Better yet, at his alma mater.

White was a two-sport standout (football and baseball) for the Vikings in high school and pursued a degree in athletic training at the University of Akron, earning a bachelor’s degree in athletic training in 2015, then continuing his education to earn a master’s degree in exercises physiology in 2017.

Following White’s bachelor’s degree in 2015, he was presented with the opportunity to join the Zips’ football staff as a graduate assistant. When he earned his master’s, a similar door opened for White.

The director of sports medicine at the University of Akron at the time was stepping down from his role with the men’s basketball program to further focus his time as an educator.

“I feel fortunate that I have made the right kind of impressions on people through my hard work,” White said. “I love Northeast Ohio, and I get to work with great people. I enjoy coming to work every day, and I feel grateful for my opportunity.”

White’s day starts early with 7:30 a.m. pre-practice treatment for players. He attends every practice to remain available for any medical care a player may need, then begins his post-practice work, including injury management, rehab strengthening and evaluations to keep all players ready for the next day or activity.

“I am focused on keeping the best interest of the student-athlete at the forefront,” White said. “The better they feel and the healthier they stay, then the more they will be able to give on the court. If they miss practices, they are missing reps and opportunities and they won’t be able to perform at the level they expect to be at.”

White said half his battle to achieving optimum performance is staying prepared and ready for when he is needed most.

For the MAC Tournament, White tripled his list of medical supplies in preparation for three days in Cleveland.

“I want to be ready for whatever happens,” White said. “That is the competitive spirit in me. I don’t want to let the team down. Ultimately, I want to be the best I can be.”