In middle school, Joey Kopp suffered a hamstring injury that temporarily shut down his ability to play sports. The injury led the 2014 McFarland High School graduate to pursue a life in athletic training.
“When I got to high school, I reflected on that and wanted to help people not to make the mistakes I did when I got hurt,” said Kopp, who recently graduated from UW-La Crosse and has passed his examination to become a certified athletic trainer.
He is now pursuing jobs where he can put his talents to work.
Kopp’s education was enhanced in May and June when he served an athletic trainer internship in Spain with FC Barcelona, an organization consisting of various sports including soccer, basketball, handball, roller hockey and futsal, which is an indoor version of soccer.
Kopp rotated among the different sports for two months and learned a lot from his mentors on the proper use of massages and other techniques to treat sports-related injuries.
He lived in an Airbnb and enjoyed the experience of living in Barcelona.
“I was taking the subway everywhere and walking in beautiful weather where it is 75 to 85 degrees with no rain,” Kopp said.
As Kopp tries to get his career off the ground, he fondly remembers his days as a student athlete at McFarland, where he participated in soccer, basketball and tennis. The connections he made with the other athletes were special.
“The biggest thing was the friendships. When I played soccer, basketball and tennis, that was the best camaraderie I ever had in my life,” Kopp said. “Every day you go to practice, and you practice hard and talk with your friends. You don’t want to leave your team.”
In 2013, Kopp was a member of the first McFarland boys soccer team to reach the state tournament in Milwaukee under head coach Brett Ogorzalek. The Spartans had an overall record of 19-7-1, and despite missing some games due to injuries, Kopp scored two goals and contributed one assist and earned a spot on the All-Rock Valley Conference North honorable mention squad.
The Spartans lost in the semifinal game, but Kopp still considers the chance to play for a state title to be one of his biggest rewards.
“You can make so many excuses, but at the end of the day, it just wasn’t our day,” Kopp said of McFarland’s 3-0 defeat to Ashland.
Several months later, Kopp helped the McFarland boys basketball team under coach Jeff Meinholdt win the WIAA Division 2 regional title with victories over Elkhorn and Fort Atkinson. The Spartans fell in the first round of the sectionals to Greendale, but Kopp learned from Meinholdt how hard work and commitment can pay off in the end.
“It’s the sport with the longest year, and you have to show up every day with a good attitude,” Kopp said. “Otherwise it’s going to be a long season.”
He ranked fourth on the team with a 6.8 points per game average, and was named all-conference honorable mention.
Kopp qualified for the boys state tennis singles tournament as a senior after finishing fourth in the sectionals and compiling a 16-7 record. He won his first match at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium but was eliminated in the second round. After playing team sports such as soccer and basketball, Kopp enjoyed learning about tennis from head coach Tod Lacey.
“I got to do it at my own pace. It’s one of those games where you are going to win or you are going to lose. There’s a 50-50 chance,” Kopp said. “You can play until you’re 80 years old and can’t pick up a racket anymore.”
After graduating from McFarland, Kopp went after his dream to become an athletic trainer. It turned out to be quite a commitment for him as he trained six or seven days a week and rotated among UW-La Crosse’s different sports teams.
He would be with the teams before, during and after practices and during games, learning something new each day.
As he pursues his career in athletic training, Kopp is grateful to Ogorzalek, Meinholdt and Lacey, and strength and conditioning coach Doug Peterson, for helping build his character and providing encouragement.
“I want to give a huge shout out to all my coaches,” Kopp said. “I’m happy to see they are still around doing the same things five years later. They are not just good coaches, but they are good men.”