John Atkins - Athlete - 2007
Fresh out of high school, John Atkins was drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam. While thumping the jungles of Vietnam as a combat medic and learning martial arts there, John was first introduced to the complexities of the manner in which medicine and sports interact. That interest led John on a life dedicated to motivate and train athletes. In 1978, after returning from Vietnam, John became a Certified Athletic Trainer at the University of Utah, where he was first exposed to the sport of skiing while working with the university’s NCAA national championship ski team. From there, Atkins’ talents were quickly recognized by the U.S. Ski Team, which hired him as head trainer and conditioning coach, primarily for the women’s alpine team. During his tenure with the team through the 1980s, the women’s team posted some of its best results ever, including an overall World Cup title by Tamara McKinney – the only one ever for an American woman. Atkins’ year-round conditioning program and his motivational coaching style, in conjunction with Drs. Richard Steadman and Topper Hagerman, made him an integral part of the first fully integrated sports medicine team that became a model for future Olympic teams. In 1988, Atkins was named Director of Conditioning for the entire U.S. Ski Team. Known as JA, John has motivated ski racers and fostered team spirit in a sport that focuses on individual achievement. After a six-year stint with the team, John joined Dr. Richard Steadman at this clinic at Lake Tahoe as an athletic trainer. When Steadman moved to Vail, John did too, along with colleague Topper Hagerman. Once in Vail, John and Topper founded the Howard Head Sports Medicine Center, where he served as co-director and president. John Atkins has always been a team player, first with the U.S. Ski Team, next with the Steadman Clinic, and finally with the Howard Head rehab team. Through his passion for motivation and his skills as an athletic trainer, Atkins has kept thousands of skiers on the slopes.