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What is Advocacy?

  • Grass roots advocacy and how it differs from lobbying

  • Becoming a key contact (NATA toolkit, see Government Affairs resources)


There are at least three maxims that dominate the political process, and successful advocacy operationalizes these three. They are:

  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

  • Get to know them before you need them.

  • All politics is local.


Advocacy means active verbal support of a cause or position. The term is derived from the Latin word, advocare, or “call to.” Advocacy has at least three levels—self, patient or client, and professional. Self-advocacy is the ability to speak up for oneself about what is important. Patient or client advocacy puts the primacy of the patient’s needs before others’ needs and involves speaking out for our clients sometimes regardless of the consequences. Professional advocacy involves speaking out for issues that are important to the profession.

ATs have an obligation to practice all three forms of advocacy, and this section of the website is devoted to professional advocacy. Here you can find information on the basics of professional advocacy at the state level including things you should have learned in civics if you were paying attention, the how-to’s of professional advocacy to public policymakers at the state level, and information about bills of interest to ATCs before the Virginia General Assembly.

Finally, you’ll be able to access information about the Advisory Board on Athletic Training and other information on negotiating professional advocacy with the executive branch of Virginia’s government.

Becoming an advocate extraordinaire, a key contact


The Virginia General Assembly delegates and senators are citizen legislators. That means, they either have “day jobs” or are retired persons. The Commonwealth compensates them at approximately $17,000 per year; obviously they are not legislators “for the money.”

That said, our legislators are in influential positions to create policy, enact laws, raise money, and allocate funds for core government services and other projects. ATs, on the other hand, are in influential positions because each AT represents a vote. That means that legislators listen to their constituents who vote for them, because they want to be re-elected.

Legislators vote on thousands of issues during each session of the General Assembly. They count on their constituents and lobbyists to provide the information they need to make an informed decision on which position to take. Your role in this effort is to help provide them with the information that will help them make informed decisions about our issues of interest.

Citizen activists who become excellent grassroots advocates have much in common with their Virginia legislators. They live in the same area, may know some of the same neighbors, and may attend the same churches or synagogues. Their children may go to the same school as the legislator’s kids. Or they know someone who knows the legislator him/herself or spouse or children. You get the idea.

Why is knowing this information important? It’s important because you may already have an “in” with your legislator that you can use to increase your visibility and influence with the legislator. Furthermore, unless the legislator is an AT, married to an AT, or has close contacts with present and former ATs, he or she is not likely to know very much about what ATs do. You can provide information on the subject from your perspective—as an AT. As a grassroots advocate par excellence, your aim is to become your legislator’s “best friend” when it comes to this information.

Grassroots activists also work to get their legislators re-elected (or elected, as the case may be). They contribute money to campaigns and agree to work the polls, distribute literature, walk the beat, and make phone calls on behalf of the legislator/candidate. So they put their time, talent, and money where their mouth is.

How do you know you’ve become a key contact?

  • You call your legislator’s office, are greeted enthusiastically by his/her aide by your first name;

  • You can reasonably expect a return call by the legislator (if not getting to talk at first blush) within 30 minutes; and

  • Your legislator calls you when he/she has a question about ATs or issues of concern to ATs, athletic injuries, and other subjects surround physical activity.

Aim high! And work to become a key contact!

Public Policy/Advocacy Agenda

VATA is dedicated to the health and well-being of Virginians who are physically active. The Association focuses on enhancing the professional development of Virginia’s certified athletic trainers and on communicating between all persons and agencies invested in the health and well-being of athletes and the physically active. VATA supports the advancement of the athletic training profession through legislative and educational endeavors that promote and ensure the highest standards of professional practice.

Access to injury prevention and accurate and timely assessment and treatment of injuries and illnesses for Virginia’s athletes and the physically active. Support legislation and regulations that:

  • Promote the use of athletic trainers as the appropriate health care providers in prevention, recognition, diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of injuries and illnesses caused by physical activity.

  • Include ATs as providers within collaborative models of health care delivery design integral to health care reform.

  • Ensure that Virginia’s athletes, the physically active and their support systems receive education regarding prevention of injuries and illnesses.

  • Reduce the risk of injuries associated with athletic competition and physical activity through adequate physical, psychosocial, and nutritional preparation of the physically active.

  • Reduce the risk of sports or physical activity related injury and illness through assuring that the performance environment is safe.

  • Support funding for athletic trainers in public secondary schools.

  • When billing for services, ATs should be reimbursed by insurance for services within their scope of practice.


Promotion of excellence in athletic training education to ensure an adequate workforce to meet the needs of Virginia’s student athletes and the physically active. Support legislation and regulations that:

  • Adequately funds athletic training entry level and post-professional education.

  • Support continuing professional education sufficient to maintain the expertise of certified athletic trainers.


Participation of VATA members in policy-making and advocating for the profession.

  • Increase VATA membership and participation in coalitions whose goals are consistent with VATA goals.

  • Increase numbers of VATA members with skills in grassroots advocacy.

  • Increase numbers of legislators with VATA members as key contacts.


VATA Public Policy Priorities

The Public Policy Agenda reflects our association’s public policy priorities. The document guides us in determining our positions on bills before the General Assembly. It also serves as a template for information that VATA members can share with their legislators when contacting them and developing their relationships with legislators.

There are six components to our public policy priorities: supporting policies that provide access to injury prevention and adequate assessment and treatment of injuries of athletes and the services of ATs. This means that we want to emphasize the following:

  • Athletes should know how to prevent injuries.

  • ATs can help athletes in gaining the competence they need to prevent injuries.

  • ATs are concerned with minimizing athletic injuries through careful assessment of environmental risks and safety.

  • ATs are the preferred providers of care in preventing, recognizing, and treating athletic injuries.

  • Every public secondary school needs an AT.

  • When billing for services, ATs should be reimbursed by insurance for services within their scope of practice.


While we may think these priorities are self-evident, each of the priorities needs adequate explanation to our legislators through data and examples. For each, there is an opposing viewpoint, and we must be prepared to state why our position is preferred—through truthful explanations and without disrespecting the opposition.

ATs Making a Difference on Capitol Hill!

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