Out of all the athletic training graduate programs Dylon Grzenda M’24 applied to, he said Merrimack was the only one that treated him like a person during the process, not just a name on a spreadsheet.
“Other schools spammed me with the traditional copy-and-paste emails (after applying),” he said, “but with Merrimack, Dennis Fontaine, the program director, was the one who actually responded to me.”
The two discussed Grzenda’s education as a pre-med undergraduate student at the University of New Haven and his reasons for pursuing a master’s degree. This personable exchange, Grzenda explained, was what convinced him to enroll at Merrimack.
“I appreciated that Merrimack’s website had the information on when and how to apply,” he continued. “Other schools in New England said you had to give an email for (that information). For Merrimack, they made (the application process) simple and personalized.”
Grzenda is currently in his fifth and final semester of the athletic training master’s program. One of the highlights, he said, was getting clinical hours out in the field. His first rotation was working with student-athletes at the Noble and Greenough School in Dedham, Mass. After that, he worked with the men’s lacrosse team at Brown University.
“All the information that we need to be taught has been taught, so this last semester is a fun one,” he explained. “We get a whole class on mental health, which is huge. We’re also taking another class entirely on sports nutrition. Being able to take courses like that right before we graduate and the fact that we got a whole semester of it, I think it’s really awesome.”
As an undergraduate student Grzenda had his eyes on eventually getting a doctorate in physical therapy. But, while playing shortstop on the University of New Haven’s baseball team, the team’s athletic trainer, Kristopher Friend, introduced him to a new career path.
“The interactions I had with him affected my life and my athletic career,” he explained. “It quickly turned my passion from PT to AT. I’m a chronic knee pain guy, so I spent a lot of hours with him. He pushed me to work on my knees and showed me I didn’t just have to live with knee pain. I want to be a mentor for others just as he was for me.”
After graduating from New Haven, Grzenda worked as a head trainer at a small one-on-one studio called Fitness Together in Medfield, Mass.
“We worked with a few ATs as well,” he said. “Working with them side-by-side, seeing what they did and how passionate they were, I was like, ‘I got to get back to pursuing this and get my master’s.’”
With graduation right around the corner, Grzenda said he hopes to find work training collegiate lacrosse and hockey players.
“I want to work my way up and start leaving my mark as a mentor,” he said.