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GRCC Athletic Trainer Mike Roche earns national honor for his work keeping students safe and physically prepared during pandemic

June 4, 2021, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Athletic Trainer Mike Roche has earned national honors for his focus on athletic training, pandemic wellness protocols and keeping Grand Rapids Community College student-athletes safe and physically prepared during a season both historically challenging and successful.

Roche this week was named National Athletic Trainer of the Year by the National Junior College Athletic Association, which goes to an athletic trainer “who best exemplifies the overall purpose of leading an institution, athletic department, and student-athletes through athletic training.”

The honor comes in a year where five of GRCC’s eight teams participated in national tournaments while following strict protocols aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“This past year has been a rough one for everyone, but especially our student-athletes,” Interim Athletic Director David Selmon said. “Mike has taken the time and effort to make sure our athletes have been as safe as possible in order to participate in their sports. He has been the lead of our COVID team within the department and has done an excellent job keeping everyone as safe as possible. Without him, none of our athletes would have been able to even step foot on the court or field.”

Roche has served as GRCC’s athletic trainer for 26 years, supporting about 150 athletes each year in partnership with physicians and medical specialists. He also oversees student trainer interns, NJCAA compliance requirements, equipment and uniforms for all of the college’s teams.

This year he was in charge of leading the Athletic Department’s COVID protocols, which included daily screenings, social distancing and face coverings, with testing added mid-year through a partnership with Ferris State University. 

“Mike took on the responsibility and far exceeded even the best of expectations given the initial unknowns of the pandemic,” Women’s basketball Coach David Glazier said.

“His determination and clear plan to keep athletes and coaches safe so the 2020-2021 season could happen cannot be overlooked. The plans and policies he recommended for GRCC became a benchmark for the MCCAA and Region 12. On top of his steadfast leadership to stay the course, Mike was also a leader when the moment called for us to take additional steps to provide the safest possible environment possible, which included the midseason addition of testing protocols. There is no doubt in my mind that the historic 2020-2021 season for the GRCC Athletics Program would not have been as historic without the guidance and leadership of Mike Roche,” Glazier said.

Roche is a 1986 University of Nevada Las Vegas graduate and worked through Spectrum-Butterworth Hospital, NovaCare, and Professional Physical Therapy Services as an athletic trainer assisting eight to 10 local high schools with sports medicine needs.

Roche teaches first aid and Introduction to Athletic Training classes in GRCC’s Exercise Science Department in addition to his athletic trainer and equipment manager roles.


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