Coberley named Trainer of the Year

Darrin Cline

Mark Coberley came to college with a passion. He turned that passion into a career. Now that passion has led him to be named the National Athletic Training Association Trainer of the Year.

“I can’t take all the credit for it. My staff is great. The people I get to work with are great, said Coberley. “It’s just a full reflection on our staff, not just me in particular.”

Coberley came to Iowa State in 1983, after turning down multiple invitations to play college athletics. Though he chose not to participate, Coberley still wanted a connection to sports — and found it through athletic training.

When it came time to choose a college, the Iowa native selected Iowa State. The university employed trainer Frank Randall, who mentored the young Coberley and taught him much of what he knows about sports medicine.

“He was way ahead of his time. He was thinking about things to get athletes better — and also help protect athletes — long before other people in sports medicine were doing it,” Coberley said.

“He pushed the envelope … and pushed the people who worked for him to do the same: to think outside the box and look at the problems that are coming down the road.”

Following his graduation from Iowa State with a degree in biology, Coberley headed to the University of Arizona for graduate school. The Cyclone head trainer said Arizona was the premier university for graduate-level education.

Iowa State came calling once more. In the fall of 1993, Coberley returned to his alma mater. He became a trainer for the baseball, basketball and football programs.

His original plan was to spend a few years monitoring and healing Cyclone athletes before moving on to direct his own sports medicine program. However, the training program at Iowa State met Coberley’s standard of excellence.

His legendary predecessor Frank Randall moved to an administrative role, allowing Coberley to assume his former position. In 1998, Coberley became head athletic trainer for Iowa State University.

Over the following decade, Coberley would see many of his projects come to fruition, as well as the further progression of Iowa State’s top-tier program.

“We just try to do the right things and do everything we can to give our athletes the best chance to get healthy. We put mechanisms in place to allow the people on our staff to be successful at what they do,” Coberley said. “You have to have people in place, you have to give them the tools they need to be successful. And if you can get that done, typically good things happen.”

During that time, he has overseen the development of new technologies and methods for prevention and safety. Two things that Coberley has taken great pride in throughout his tenure are the growing sports medicine education program at Iowa State and the people he has had the opportunity to interact with.

“One of the most rewarding things for me is the people I’ve gotten to meet, from Johnny Orr to Dan McCarney to Paul Rhoads to Tim Floyd to Larry Eustachy, I’ve got to know them and we’re an integral part of what’s going on with their teams,” Coberley said. 

Though the glass plaque he received from the National Athletic Training Association may be engraved with his name alone, Coberley credits those who came before him, those who work alongside him, and those who will follow as the equal recipients of the award.