EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Derek Butler is nearly done restoring this classic 1962 lemon lapside wood Thompson boat, which was built in Peshtigo.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Derek Butler is nearly done restoring this classic 1962 lemon lapside wood Thompson boat, which was built in Peshtigo.

MENOMINEE — A commitment to the youth of the community has made Derek Butler much more than an athletic trainer in Menominee.

Butler has been the athletic trainer at Maroon sporting events since 2002, and he currently serves as the Athletic Training program manager for Bay Area Medical Center (BAMC). He leads three other athletic trainers who cover Marinette, Stephenson and Crivitz athletics for BAMC. 

His job is much more than going to Maroon games though. He also co-leads the orthopedic services line at BAMC and covers a bevy of youth events and tournaments. 

One of the trainers who works for Butler, Mike Shampo, said he owes a lot of his career to his boss.

Butler was his trainer when Shampo was in high school at Stephenson, and when Shampo was an intern for BAMC, Butler gave him the motivation to make athletic training a career.

“I was an okay student, but he’s who really got me to bear down and make this happen,” Shampo said. “I’ve modeled my career after him.”

Shampo has been Marinette’s designated trainer for six years now.

Butler’s not from the area, but after 15 years in Menominee, he might as well be.

He grew up in Elk River, Minn. and graduated from Winona State University. Menominee is a similar size community to Elk River when Butler grew up there, so the area feels comfortable.

Butler has made the area home with his wife of 10 years, Deb, and kids Darrent, 9, and Daly, 5, and their dog Dax. When he gets time away from work he restores old cars and participates in the Interstate Car Club.

“It’s a very unique city in my opinion, because everybody is your neighbor,” Butler said. “I’ve been here long enough now that a lot of people believe I’m from here. I think that’s a good thing. I try to treat everyone I interact with like they’re a part of my family.”

Butler has been working with Menominee’s current athletic director, Jamie Schomer, and football coach Joe Noha since he began covering the Maroons in 2002.

“Derek is not just the athletic trainer, he’s a friend,” Noha said, “and he’s a major piece of our operation as coaches. He’s obviously a great trainer, but he has other skill sets too. He’s great at building relationships with the kids.”

Butler said that is as much a part of his job as treating injuries.

“It’s not part of the job description, but I think in our society, the more you invest in young people, the more you get out of them as adults,” he said. “The one thing I really try to do is give individual attention to every student. Not just with injuries, sometimes they just have a bad day. It’s like anybody else, they just want to be listened to.”

Noha and Shampo both said Butler makes himself available at all hours for anyone who needs him.

“When he says ‘call me if you need anything,’ he means it,” Noha said. “He’s reliable, honorable and has integrity.”

Trainer’s jobs can be difficult because of pressures from players and parents to play, and Butler said walking that line can be tough.

“The greatest challenge within my job is the disassociation between the scoreboard and what’s important, which is the health and safety of the young person,” he said. “How I approach it is, if I cannot quantify to the parent or the athlete why they shouldn’t play, they probably should be playing.

“Working with the staff here as long as I have, you build credibility with every interaction. What it all comes down to is trust. Does the student trust me, does the parent trust me and does the coach trust me?”

Butler has also helped the community by spearheading affordable sports physicals for athletes at Menominee.

“We have volunteered doctors, nurses, physical therapists, physical trainers. We ask for a $20 donation, and we give 100 percent back to the school,” Butler said. “For kids who don’t have insurance or can’t afford (a physical), it gives them the opportunity to have a cost-effective sports physical, and on the back end we’re trying to support the schools as best we can.”

He also runs a program where BAMC trainers work with emergency responders to prepare for situations at games.

“That has been really important for us,” Shampo said, “and Derek has been ahead of the curve with a lot of those procedures.”

Butler coaches Darrent and volunteers in other ways for the Menominee Hoops Club as well.

“It’s great to get to be a dad and be associated with that,” he said.

The Hoops Club is only in its third year officially, so it works with varsity coaches to build fundamentals at an early age. Butler coached the third-grade team last year and will handle fourth-grade duties this year.

“(Butler) volunteers a lot at the clinics along with the coaching,” Hoops Club President Tony Hofer said. “He leads drills, and he mans a lot of our open gyms.”

Hofer also has two daughters who participate in Maroon athletics, and he said having a trainer like Butler around gives parents peace of mind.

“It’s really nice to have that kind of professional on site,” Hofer said. “As a coach and a parent, if one of my kids gets hurt we go to them first, and we know they’ll get good care.”

That care extends to youth athletes as well, with BAMC covering M&M youth hockey, soccer, baseball and softball.

“That doesn’t happen in a lot of places. My goal when I got here was to have a K-12 umbrella taking care of kids,” Butler said. “I’m fortunate to work at Bay Area Medical Center, because they invest in that.”