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Tiffany Franklin: Facing Challenges Head On

I have known Tiffany (I call her Tiff) since freshman year of college. It was basically love at first sight, I am not even kidding. We are two extremely passionate and silly human beings, we just clicked, became roommates, and the rest is history. She is one of my closest friends and someone who I can sit and talk to for hours; she also has made me laugh so hard I cry more often than just about anybody else. She is one of the strongest people I know, life has not always been fair to her, there have most definitely been challenges along the way, but she is a fighter. If you had told me when we graduated almost twelve years ago that even after all of life’s twists and turns we would eventually be back in the same city I would have been so excited, but living it has been so much better. Being around her and getting to experience firsthand the woman and mother she has become has been more than I could have ever hoped for. There is no question that Tiff is a woman who has already done and will continue to do amazing things.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I grew up in Indianapolis and was mostly raised in a single mom household until I moved in with my dad in high school. I did my undergraduate in athletic training at Franklin College and my masters in exercise science at Ball State. I spent five years of my professional career in Indy as an athletic trainer in the high school and college settings, and then I shifted gears and moved here to Louisville to be the Clinical Education Coordinator at Spalding University for the MSAT program. I have been here for three years now and I’ll be finishing up my EdD in December.

I am the oldest child; I have three brothers, and would consider myself a tomboy growing up.

Maybe most importantly I am a mother to my son Hunter who is 7 years old. We live in New Albany with our dog, two cats, and two rats!

In your early years as an athletic trainer in the more ‘traditional setting’ what were some of the challenges you faced?

In my first year as a graduate assistant I had to deal with a very difficult coach, who was known to push athletes beyond their physical and emotional capacity. He didn’t seem to care about the well-being of the athletes as much as he should have. It was very difficult and there were times that I was in tears and wanted to leave. What I learned through all that was to not back down. I learned that there would be times that I was the only advocate for the athletes and therefore there was no choice but to stand my ground. That is a part of working D1 athletics, or athletics in general that you aren’t always taught how to deal with in your schooling. What I did learn and what I knew above all else was that my job was to be the advocate for the athlete so I made sure to make that my priority.

Would you tell young women to pursue a career like yours?

Absolutely! I think it is unfair to tell a female you shouldn’t do something because it is not conducive to having a family. And the truth is athletic training can be one of the greatest environments for families. As we have progressed as a profession some settings for athletic trainers have developed ways to better balance between work and life. But you do have to understand that there will still be some settings that just aren’t going to be able to accommodate certain things at certain times, especially while you are in season. That is when you have to be realistic about what you are getting yourself in to.

Are there any difficulties associated with being a woman in your career?

For me personally, it ties back to that moment when you realize you are going to become a mom, there is something that happens to you. That motherly instinct that you may not have known was there before. When I had Hunter I was a D1 Athletic Trainer and I loved it. But as he grew I realized that I wasn’t able to do both at the capacity that I wanted to so that’s when I knew I had to make a change.

In regards to the job the one issue I have had is that it can be difficult when your athletic training room is located in the locker room and/or shower room area. This can be common especially in semiprofessional sports that don’t have the same kind of money other teams do. I will say that the teams I have worked with have made sure that this wasn’t an issue for me personally. But I know that can be a barrier if you aren’t dealing with teams that treat you the right way or coaches/administrators who don’t support the job you are doing.

How has having a child changed your perspective about your career and also your life?

It has been a rewarding experience, far more than I could have ever imagined before I became a mother. There is a change because you aren’t just responsible for yourself anymore. You have to think about how your professional career will work with the ways you hope to parent your child. And that can be a huge internal conflict, especially for someone like me who is still very professionally driven. I continue to learn how to handle those two very important aspects of my life and it is always evolving.

What are you passionate about?

In regards to my career, one of the things I am most passionate about is increasing diversity in our profession (athletic training). Recently, since working at Spalding University, I have become an advocate for increased diversity. Trying to figure out ‘why’ we lack diversity and then ‘how’ do we bridge the gap? At Spalding, we actually have a high percentage of diversity in our MSAT program, and we have had many great students who identify with different races and ethnicities, it is unfortunate that as a whole profession we don’t have more of this. Especially when you think about the athletic populations we serve and how important it is for them to work with and see people that reflect them on a daily basis.

Outside of my career I feel it is so important to set a good example for the younger generations and teach them how to be kind and compassionate and to refrain from judging others because of race, ethnicity, and/or sexual orientation. I think we are all charged with going beyond just what we think we are expected to do. If I can be a positive influence, not just for my own child, but other children as well, I want to do that. It is so important to teach kids about inclusion and diversity from a young age.

What is a difficulty that you have faced that looking back now you realized it made you stronger and/or gave you a better perspective on things?

Whether it is your professional or personal life, no matter what it is, there are challenges you are going to face that you may feel like you won’t be able to get through. You will be able to get through them. When you start to see what you have learned and how strong you can be in adverse situations you realize how much you have made it through. I have learned to listen to my gut. I have learned to let go of what other people think about me. I used to care way too much about that and I had to learn I can’t grow when I am worried about what other people think.

I also appreciate what Vanessa Shannon says which is to ‘embrace the suck’. I just love the idea that things may not always go your way but that doesn’t mean you can quit, and it doesn’t mean there aren’t great things that come after the challenge. You have to know that there will be difficult times but that doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish something, it just means there may be some barriers to overcome. There is a quote in my office that says “we don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges,” (author unknown) I reflect on that often.

Personally I have learned from my parents’ divorce, and when unfortunately my own marriage ended I drew from that experience to make sure Hunter didn’t go through the same things. I have learned a lot from what I went through as a kid and have tried to turn some of those negative experiences in to positives to create the best environment for Hunter since my own divorce.

Are there any women who have really helped inspire you during your career?

Kathy Remsburg. She was originally my academic advisor at Franklin but has become so much more. Initially she was there as a teacher but has truly become a lifelong mentor. She has become a friend since I graduated and I can count on her for professional and personal matters now.

Best advice that you would give a young female looking to enter in to your same career path

If you are going to do it, do it and be bold. You need to be confident and you need to know your shit.

Do you have an ultimate career goal?

TBD. (LOL) I will say four years ago I didn’t think I would be teaching but here I am teaching and loving it. My career trajectory has been nothing like I thought it would be 10 years ago and I like that. What is most important is that I keep following my gut and doing things I love. I am here for a reason and I know that, but I’m still finding my way. Once I finish my EdD, I will have more opportunity and career mobility in academia.

Worst Career Advice You Have Received

The example I would like to use isn’t necessarily a piece of career advice I have received, but relates to a situation I was in as a young athletic trainer. I was 22 years old and was sexually harassed by a physician. I was young and vulnerable; I was so afraid and didn’t know what to do. When I finally made the decision to tell someone I was basically told “if it happens again let us know, keep notes, and this is a known issue with this physician.” At the time, I felt there was nothing else I could do other than just hope it didn’t happen again, or escalate to a more serious situation. Now, I feel more knowledgeable and prepared to handle this type of situation if it ever happens to me again, or if I witness it. My voice will be heard, regardless if I have to keep reporting to different personnel. This has led me to make sure my students KNOW that I don’t care if you report it to the next person above you, if this is something you witnessed or happened to you, then you need to continue to report it until it is handled even if that means you have to keep taking up the chain.

Best Career Advice You Have Received

I was trying to decide what type of terminal degree I wanted to get and was unsure about what would be the best for me. Luckily when I was going through this I was at a conference and got to talk with a lot of women in my profession who I respect that recommended that I pursue my Ed.D. Initially I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but then I found that Spalding had that program and I am currently in my final year and it has been awesome. I have learned so much from the classes and from my diverse cohort of adult professionals I have the pleasure to be on this journey with. This has helped open up my scope of vision as an emerging leader.

Favorite Sports Teams

Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Steelers