Aiken native Catherine Tisler didn’t stick very close to home after high school. She’s about to be even farther away.
The 2009 Augusta Prep graduate did her undergraduate work at Appalachian State in Boone, N.C., about 240 miles from Aiken. That’s where she got a degree in athletic training. Soon she’ll be headed more than 2,300 miles away for her graduate degree from Boise State University in Idaho.
She said that during her time as a dancer and volleyball player throughout high school, she suffered injuries on multiple occasions and found the rehabilititation process intriguing.
“The biggest draw to Appalachian was definitely the athletic training program,” Tisler said. “I got to shadow some athletic trainers when I was in high school and was really drawn to the field.”
Once at Appalachian State, she got into her chosen program and the associated clinical rotation system, which found her on more than one occasion working with head football trainer Justin Smith. The highly competitive nature of football, particularly for the three-time FCS champion Mountaineers, made those particular assignments compelling.
As a result, she developed a working relationship with Smith that paid off in the long run.
“He’s really become my mentor over the years at App,” Tisler said of Smith.
As she neared the end of her bachelor’s degree work, Tisler said she began to look into her post-graduation options. That involved both online research and converstaions with Smith and other professionals.
“It’s all about networking,” she said. “I knew I was ready to go to grad school.”
Tisler got her chance when one of Smith’s former colleagues mentioned available graduate assistant positions at Boise State. The Broncos have made a name for themselves on the football field, knocking off Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2006 season and finding an annual spot in the top 25 rankings since. They’ve done that despite often being in a less prestigious conference, either the Western Athletic Conference or the Mountain West Conference.
It’s that “really competitive football program” that has Tisler excited about her opportunity to gain her master of science degree in kinesiology from Boise State. She’ll do it while serving as an athletic trainer for the football team for two years, “which is really like a dream come true,” she said.
In addition to the football team itself, Tisler said she was also drawn to specific aspects of the master’s-level work.
“I’m really interested in learning about the psychological part of sports and the injury process,” she said, adding that she’s looking forward to more opportunities to mentor younger students.
Another aspect of Boise’s athletic environment stood out to Tisler in her search for a graduate program.
“The first thing that comes to mind is the infamous ‘smurf turf,’ the blue field,” Tisler said.
The Broncos, whose colors are blue and orange, play on a synthetic turf field that is the same blue as one of their uniforms. This has drawn the criticism of opponents but is also a unique aspect of the program.
Tisler won’t be the only area native on campus in Boise. Silver Bluff grad and Butler Community College product Demarcus Lawrence will be a redshirt junior defensive end for the Broncos, after starting 11 games last season with 48 tackles and a team-best 13 tackles for loss and 9½ sacks.
Tisler said that she doesn’t think she’ll have an issue adjusting to the weather in Idaho because of her time in North Carolina. But she said there was an adjustment from Aiken’s climate to the conditions at Appalachian State. Boone, with an elevation of 3,333 feet, is actually at a higher elevation than Boise (2,730 feet).
“You know, I do think the weather, it’s going to be kind of the same,” she said. “I think that my four years has prepared me for the elements that I’m going to face.”
Once she’s done with her two years in Boise, Tisler said that she likely sees herself working in college sports, particularly football. That’s where her passion lies, but she hasn’t ruled out the potential of working as a trainer at the next level one day.
“The thought of working professional sports is definitely in my mind,” she said. “I always want to reach those goals.”
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.