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The Virginia Athletic Trainers’ Association (VATA) Leadership Academy was started as an initiative, lead by the VATA, to engage professionally motivated and enthusiastic certified athletic trainers, licensed in the state of Virginia, with a desire to improve their knowledge, skills, and abilities for leadership with an interest in advancing the athletic training profession. This program is designed for athletic trainers who have a desire to serve the VATA, Mid-Atlantic Athletic Trainers’ Association, and National Athletic Trainers’ Association and make a difference in their community.  Participants are presented with a curriculum that provides for their development as a leader in athletic training.  The inaugural cohort began in July 2019.



Participants in the VATA Leadership Academy will have the opportunity to interact with athletic trainers throughout the state to further their development and preparation as leaders.  There will be regularly scheduled online meetings that will occur 1-2 times a month (about 1 hour), from March-December, occurring on Sundays evenings with a curriculum that will cover components of leadership in areas that address personal growth and skill development.  The number of participants is limited.  If you are interested in becoming a participant in the VATA Leadership Academy, please complete the application.  The deadline for applications is Friday March 1, 2024 at 11:59pm. Applicants will be notified of their admittance to the program in early March. Questions can be directed to

Heather Murphy.JPG

Heather Murphy, EdD, LAT, ATC

Heather Murphy is the full-time Head Athletic Trainer at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County Public Schools, VA.  This is her 23rd year as an AT at TJ and in FCPS. She studied Exercise Science and Athletic Training at Truman State University in Kirksville, MO.  She received a MS in Kinesiology from Michigan State University in 2001 and Master of Education from George Mason University in 2005. In May 2022, she earned her Doctor of Education in Health Professions degree from AT Still University. Her doctoral research project focused on increasing the emotional intelligence of Master of Science in Athletic Training students via two interventions focused on intrapersonal and interpersonal skills using the Genos Emotional Intelligence Model.

She is an adjunct instructor and preceptor for George Mason University Athletic Training Education Program. She has been a preceptor since 2010 and instructor since 2013. Her passions are mentoring students and preparing them to transition to professional practice.


Heather was named National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s Preceptor of the Year in 2018, was Fairfax County’s Region 2 Finalist and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology’s Outstanding Leader for 2018-2019, Virginia Athletic Trainers’ Association’s Secondary School Athletic Trainer of the year in 2019, and named an Adjunct Teacher of Distinction from George Mason University in 2021.

In her free time, she enjoys bird watching, spending time with her cats Sunny and Leo, keeping her school related social media accounts updated, listening to Taylor Swift and binging shows on all streaming platforms. Need advice on a new show to watch, send her an email?

Example Topical Outline (2019-2020):

  • Identity

  • Leadership

  • Models

  • Mentors

  • Reflection

  • Practice

  • Gratitude

  • Resolution

  • Transactional and Transformational Relationships

  • Motivation and Inspiration

  • National Athletic Training Month

  • Accountability and Responsibility

  • Debriefing and Reflection

  • Trust

  • Characteristics of a Leader

  • Delegation and Collaboration


“The VATA Leadership Academy will help you develop personally and professionally into a better leader. It doesn’t matter what your age is or how much leadership experience you have the VATA Leadership Academy will enhance your soft skills.”

-Matthew J. Gage, PhD, LAT, ATC


“The VATA Leadership academy has affected me and the way I practice athletic training. I have been rewarded beyond measure by the profession of athletic training and I so want to give back. The interactions within the Leadership Academy have given me different perspectives on the professional organization, which in turn has changed the way I interact with my patients, student athletic trainers, and other professionals.”

- Paul G. Rupp, MS, LAT, ATC


“If you have wanted to give back to the athletic training profession but have had difficulty getting connected with other ATs in Virginia then the VATA Leadership Academy is for you. It will provide you with a network of ATs that want to learn together and make a difference in the profession.”

-Matthew J. Gage, PhD, LAT, ATC

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