Matt Hoskins gives the thumbs up on the day he learned about his new athletic trainer position. He is with his daughters Ella and Maya. Hoskings traveled to Billings and back after school to receive his masters in athletic training.

Over the course of three years, Matt Hoskins logged more than 33,000 miles on his car while driving to and from Billings 109 times.

All the dinners on the road and time away from his family paid off, though. Now, Belgrade High School students have access to a nationally board certified athletic trainer. The long-time BHS physical education teacher officially began his training duties at the start of this school year, filling a new position school officials have been mulling for several years.

“During my 12 years as a teacher, I also coached football for seven years, spent two years with girls basketball and one year with track and field,” Hoskins said. “I saw the gap that was there for medical need.”

Because he’s always been interested in medicine, he decided to take a leap. At MSU Billings, he found a master’s program in athletic training that was willing to work with a student of his unique circumstances.

“You can’t get the degree online, it’s a lot of hands on work,” he said. “I would teach all day, drive to Billings for a 6-9 p.m. class and get back home late at night. I did that three times a week.”

He also took a lot of summer classes to make up for the courses he couldn’t fit in during the school year. After he finished up classes, he did 1,000 clinical hours with local businesses like Lone Peak Physical Therapy and Bridger Orthopedics. He even spent a season working with the Bobcats football team.

“I did that because I want to be here,” Hoskins said. “I’m not looking to move away to a full-time athletic trainer somewhere else, I did it to add to my first passion, which is teaching.”

Belgrade High School officials were thinking about hiring a trainer for even longer than Hoskins has been there. Principal Paul Lamb said he and Activities Director Rick Phillips have been talking seriously to the school board about adding the position for the past six years.

The school board has been hesitant to spend the money, though. Over the past several months, Lamb and Phillips were asked to bring further information to the board to justify the position and show how it could fit into the budget.

“I think they were ready to vote for it at any time as long as we had the money in the budget,” Lamb said. “Mr. Phillips and I finally reconfigured the athletic budget so we can afford an athletic trainer. We reduced supplies orders in most sports with the help of the head coaches. They were all for it.”

While school officials tossed the idea around and shuffled the budget, Hoskins was ready and waiting. He began pursuing his degree in 2012 so he could be the one to provide Belgrade’s student athletes with the necessary medical care. BHS has contracted with Bridger Orthopedics in the past, but Hoskins knew a trainer of the school’s own would be needed at some point. Last school year, he provided some training care to students for free.

The benefits of having an in-house trainer don’t stop at quick treatment for concussions or sprained ankles, Hoskins said. Belgrade’s entire student body now has easy access to a medical professional. He’s taught a very popular sports medicine class for three years now.

“It’s not just parachuting in at three o’ clock and treating athletes,” he said. “It’s so much more than that. Kids can job shadow me after school now. I truly want Belgrade to be a trampoline to help kids jump into the medical field.”

He can also be a huge help to parents and families. Hoskins said one of his favorite parts of his new gig is explaining injuries to parents and providing “advice with knowledge.”

“Parents are scared when their prized possessions are hurt,” he said. “I love being able to be the point man and help them decide what their next step should be.”

He can also save families a lot of money by providing key treatment at school and saving kids a trip to the doctor’s office.

Lamb said the high school’s entire athletic community is “very happy” to have Hoskins on board as both a teacher and a trainer.

“My own daughter is a freshman on the volleyball team and she recently sprained her ankle,” he said. “It’s pretty key to be able to have someone always right here to take care of things like that.”

Hoskins provides his training services after school during practices and at home events. Lamb said the position comes with a stipend of about $15,000 a year.