United States Sports Academy alumnus Dr. Richard Hardy’s positive interactions with athletic trainers when he played high school and collegiate sports led to his nearly 20-year career working in the field.

Hardy earned his Doctor of Education degree in sports management with a sports medicine emphasis from the Academy in 2017. In 2001, he began his career working at Heartland Orthopedic Specialists in Minnesota, where he provided athletic training services and classroom instruction for the University of Minnesota Morris. He provides training services for 17 varsity sports and teaches in the school’s sports studies, biology, and athletic departments.

“My first contact with an athletic trainer occurred when I played high school football,” Hardy said. “I suffered a minor injury and our school’s athletic trainer helped guide me through the rehabilitation process.  Furthermore, during my freshman year of college, I suffered a shoulder injury that required me to be sidelined from football.  As I worked with both the student athletic trainers and the head athletic trainer to rehab this injury, it became evident that I wanted to pursue a career in athletic training.

“Sports have always been important to me,” he said. “In high school I played both football and basketball.  I continued my football career in college which, unfortunately, I suffered a shoulder injury my freshman year and I herniated two discs in my back my sophomore year.  These injuries forced me to end my football career and focus on academics and pursue a career in athletic training.  This career allows me to remain part of a team and assist young adults reach both their sport and academic goals.

“The part of my job that I enjoy the most is working with an athlete that has suffered a significant injury, such as an ACL tear, and rehabbing them until they return to sport.  Watching them participate again is very gratifying.”

Since earning his Academy doctoral degree in 2017, Hardy has also worked as the coordinator of research at Heartland. He was also recently elected as a member of the editorial board of the international, peer-reviewed publication Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery.  Hardy previously served as a peer reviewer for the journal and has co-authored several peer-reviewed studies and articles himself.

Hardy credited his Academy education with helping to improve his research and writing skills, which led to career advancement.

“The biggest improvement that I noticed as a result of my education at the Academy was my research skills,” Hardy said. “This improvement allowed me to become the first coordinator of research at Heartland Orthopedic Specialists.  Furthermore, I am publishing research at greater frequency and with more confidence.  This education has allowed me to reach beyond my career goals. Furthermore, I serve on the editorial board for Arthroscopy: Journal of Arthroscopic & Related Surgery. This would not have been possible without the education that I received from the United States Sports Academy.”

Like many of the Academy’s students at every degree level, Hardy took advantage of the institution’s flexible scheduling options and continued working full time in the field while pursuing his degree.

“I appreciated the online learning environment as it allowed me to continue to work full-time and raise a family all the while I was going to school,” he said.

Hardy graduated in 1997 from Northern State University after which he obtained his board certification as an athletic trainer (A.T.C.). He provided athletic training services consisting of injury evaluation, rehabilitation, prevention, and emergent field care. He continued his education at the University of Nebraska at Kearney earning a Master of Arts degree in Exercise Science.  After graduation, he provided athletic training services at Osseo high school before he moved to west central Minnesota.

He is an active member of the Minnesota Athletic Trainers Association serving as a member of both the continuing education and the secondary school committees. His certifications include Certified Athletic Trainer, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and American Heart Association Professional Rescuer.