KU News Release


May 20, 2011
Contact: Jill Jess, University Relations, 785-864-8858

Graduation stories: Megan Cole puts her athletic training skills to use with bull riders

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LAWRENCE — Megan Cole came to the University of Kansas with a goal: to work with the men’s basketball team.

The athletic training major saw a place alongside the team as her way to work with elite athletes, to learn to be the best from working on the best. In 2008, she reached her goal as an athletic training student employee with assignments to cross country, track and field, football and — yes — men’s basketball.

Megan Cole (photo by David McKinney/University Relations)

“I got a lot of good experience and learned a bit of everything,” said Cole, a senior from Olpe who is graduating May 22 with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training. “I taped ankles, assisted with evaluation of injuries. I packed training supplies for road games.”

But a piece of her was missing the sport she grew up with. Her father and brothers competed in amateur rodeo and that life seemed distant in Lawrence.

“I grew up on a farm, and I didn’t realize how much I would miss it until I moved here,” she said.

She discussed her options with David Carr and Phillip Vardiman, both assistant professors of health, sport and exercise sciences. That’s when she realized there was another group of elite athletes with whom she could work — professional bull riders. In 2009 and 2010, she observed with the Professional Bull Riders sports medicine team during events at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

“It’s crazy how much training goes into bull riding,” Cole said.

Her next steps are directly related to that experience. She will attend Auburn University to pursue a master’s degree in exercise science with a concentration in biomechanics. While at Auburn, she will work as a graduate assistant athletic trainer for the equestrian team, as well as women’s tennis and cheerleading.

She credits Carr and Vardiman for helping her find her direction in athletic training.

“They are the best at finding out what each student wants and what they want to achieve,” she said. “They really pay attention to our needs and help you explore different options.”

After life in a small town in Kansas, Cole found KU and Lawrence a bit of an adjustment. McCollum Hall, where she lived during her freshman year, housed twice as many residents as live in Olpe. But she quickly threw herself into school, work and volunteering.

“I’ve really opened my eyes to all the options that are out there,” she said. “But growing up in a small town helped me to succeed and make smart choices. I have roots that are deep.”


The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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