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GRCC welcomes a new athletic trainer

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GRCC Athletic Trainer Mackenzie Ondersma. (Courtesy of GRCC Athletics)

By Mia Kerner

This semester, GRCC brought on a new athletic trainer to add to the faculty roster. Mackenzie (Kenzie) Ondersma is now on-call to address all student-athlete injury concerns. 

Born and raised in Grand Rapids, Ondersma grew up as a multiple sport athlete, excelling at basketball, volleyball, soccer and golf while attending West Catholic High School.

While competing on a golf scholarship that took place in Indiana, Ondersma decided to take an intro to athletic training class “as a joke” but immediately discovered that she had found her calling.

“It was like that lightbulb moment went off when we were taping an ankle and I thought ‘this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,’” she explained. 

Upon discovering her dream career, Ondersma had plans to attend Grand Valley State University, but was encouraged by her grandfather to attend GRCC. 

Student advisor Fred Zomer then introduced her to the student athletic training position offered to students in that area.

She began working with Mike Roche while he was student athletic trainer. Roche told her about the program at Central Michigan University, where she would end up earning her bachelor’s degree. 

During this time, she would still return to GRCC to help out, eventually inspiring her to complete her internship at GRCC during her last semester at CMU. 

After she graduated and passed the board of certification exam, Roche and Ondersma discussed an opportunity that had presented itself to her in Kentucky, working as an assistant athletic trainer.

She moved to Kentucky, where she earned her master’s degree online through Indiana Wesleyan University. She then promptly returned to GRCC after being gone “too long.”

“It made sense to come back here,” Ondersma said.

She was especially thrilled to return to her mentor, Mike Roche. “Roche really inspired me,” she said. “He’s really good at what he does.”

When Roche led her toward the head athletic trainer position, she was more than willing to take the opportunity.

“He wanted me to be here, and I wanted to be here,” she shared. “This is my favorite place, it’s home.”

When asked if she had professional aspirations past GRCC, Ondersma said she didn’t.

“When I went to Central, everybody kind of laughed at me because I would only ever talk about CC,” she said. “They would ask me what my dream job was, and I would say head athletic trainer at Grand Rapids Community College.”

Ondersma now has seven years of athletic training education under her belt, and strives to provide every athlete with the best possible care they can receive. 

GRCC Athletic Director Lauren Ferullo said of Ondersma’s return: 

“We are excited to have her back. We missed having someone full-time in her role last year. She will be able to establish better relationships with our student-athletes and provide a high level of care to them. She will also be able to provide rehab for those who are injured daily to help speed up their recovery process.”

“Athletic trainers get a bad rep, we always seem like we’re the bad guys,” Ondersma said. “We’re the ones that seem to be pulling people off the court all the time. But it’s an old Roche saying: ‘my job is to keep you on the court, not take you off.’”

Ondersma is a true player for Raider Nation, working tirelessly to keep the athletes healthy and school spirit overflowing. The most important sentiment that she wants student athletes to understand is the necessity of trust. 

“I want students to know that I’m on their team,” she said. “We’re in this together. I’m going to do everything I can and use everything I went to school for. I’ll use everything in my toolbox to get you back in the court as fast as possible.”

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