Mark Coberley 2023 NATA Hall of Fame Inductee
It is with great enthusiasm we celebrate Mr. Mark Coberley being inducted into the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) Hall of Fame. Mark is incredibly deserving of this prestigious honor and fully embodies what it takes to perfect the craft of being an athletic trainer. His dedication, passion, determination, and knowledge do not go unnoticed among his peers, staff, and athletic training students. He has shown up day after day in his 35-year career with the health and safety of the student-athlete in the forefront of his mind, the drive to help move the profession forward, and a selflessness that allowed him over 25 different volunteer positions among numerous associations and committees. We can think of no one else who is more deserving of this high recognition and humble honor.
Currently, Mark serves as the Associate Athletic Director for Sports Medicine at Iowa State University (ISU), a position he has held since 1999, but his journey truly began when he discovered what the profession of athletic training was as a attendee at a summer sports camp many years ago. He started his education at ISU with a Bachelor of Science in Biology while working as an athletic training student in the then “Internship Route” to certification. From there he pursued a Masters of Exercise Science with emphasis in Athletic Training from the University of Arizona and worked as the Head Athletic Trainer as Sunnyside High School in Tucson. After graduation, Mark spent three years as an Assistant Athletic Trainer at Wichita State University as the Head Baseball Athletic Trainer before returning to his roots at ISU. In 1993, Mark returned as an Assistant Athletic Trainer to work under his highly respected mentor, and now good friend, Frank Randall. In 1999, Mark assumed the helm of ISU Athletic Training and has grown it into the renowned Sports Medicine Department we see today.
Mark embodies everything it takes to be an exceptional leader and professional—this is one of his greatest gifts he brings to his staff and the department. He has an incredible understanding of the numerous current issues facing medical providers, while never losing sight of the potential future needs and competitive possibilities within the collegiate health care setting. This tenacious drive and vision have propelled the sports medicine department into what it has become today. When Mark started his journey as the Head Men's Athletic Trainer in 1999, he worked alongside three other full-time athletic trainers who provided care to the entire student-athlete body. Fast-forward to today, Mark has grown the sports medicine team to include 22 interdisciplinary professionals —17 full-time athletic trainers, four registered dietitians, and one licensed mental health provider. In addition to his staff, Mark continuously strives to remain ahead of the curve with regards to health care facilities, treatment and rehab equipment, and medical technologies available to the ISU staff with the goal of providing top-notch sports medicine services to the student-athlete. His success in this endeavor is a prime example of his steadfast focus always prioritizing the wellbeing and safety of the student-athletes he and his staff serve. This student-athlete centered care is at the root of his mission, has always remained at the forefront of all his decisions, and will be a large part of the legacy he will leave. Additionally, Mark cares deeply about his staff as professionals and humans. He places enormous energy and resources in every individual’s personal growth through support and encouragement during professional volunteerism opportunities, as well as rich continuing education endeavors. He respects, understands, promotes, and values the importance of equality, work-life balance, family, and their quality of life outside our facilities.
Volunteerism has been one of the largest ways Mark has given back to the profession of athletic training. He understands the importance and personal responsibility of leading, giving back, educating, and empowering the future generation of young professionals. He is a passionate visionary and has placed his experience and expertise on committees and in positions at all levels of service—NCAA, Iowa State University, Iowa Athletic Trainers’ Society, Mid-Atlantic Athletic Trainers’ Association, and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. The impact of such selfless mentorship roles is unquantifiable and to list all his accomplishments as a professional volunteer, leader, and educator is impossible. To highlight a couple, Mark was paramount in drafting the State Practice Act and the State of Iowa Licensure. He helped lead the reform of the NATA’s College University Athletic Trainers’ Committee (CUATC) into the Intercollegiate Counsel for Sports Medicine (ICSM) which is what it stands as today. Through this reform, he helped to streamline the speed and quality of communication between key stakeholders within collegiate athletics, ensuring there are immediate safeguards on the standards of current medical care and safety provided to thousands of collegiate student-athletes every day. Mark was also the coordinator who led the Big XII Concussion Data Analysis, which is a published study that has sparked conversations amongst administrators and sports medicine providers to promote changes that ensure a safer game. For the University, Mark was the point-person leading the COVID-19 response and ensured ISU athletics were able to successfully participate and compete through the pandemic. There are very few people who have this level of selfless character, passion for their profession, and dedication to the volunteer time it takes to master their craft while giving back at the same time.
Giving back doesn't end at volunteering for Mark. He understands one important responsibility to the future of this profession is being a strong clinical role model and instructor to future athletic trainers. This unique emphasis on student development is something that he has inherited from one of his biggest mentors, Dr. Gary Delforge, and places a focus on the education of the young professionals who will carry the torch into the next chapter. He has instructed numerous courses through the Bachelor’s, and now Master’s, of Athletic Training Education Program. Through this servitude he has been able to teach thousands of past, present, and now future athletic training students. One of Mark’s greatest attributes as an educator is his respect and reputation within the industry combined his uncanny ability to transfer didactic knowledge parallel with his pearls of first-hand wisdom. His athletic training students do not just learn about clinical facts, or diagnostic truths; rather they are challenged to unearth the “whys” of sports medicine and combine this with the leadership skills needed to successfully understand the holistic embodiment of what the profession truly is.
Of the 40,000 athletic trainers in this profession, there are few who are as deserving of this honor. Mark Coberley has spent the entirety of his career leading, pushing, driving, and progressing the image of athletic trainers and our status within the healthcare field—he is a true ambassador to the field of athletic training. From all your staff, we thank you for your leadership, mentorship, and friendship. Congratulations on this outstanding accomplishment!! Please enjoy the day you have tirelessly earned.