Craven's impact a lasting one
Aug. 24, 2011
Nick Youngblood, Texas Media Relations
Charlie Craven has earned the respect and affection of thousands of student-athletes during his more than 40 years working with UT Athletics. That adoration is still quite evident in the training room as everyone who enters makes a point to seek out Craven and say "Hey, Doc."
Craven's living legacy is the tens of thousands of athletes who are now healthier, better prepared and better cared for as they compete on fields and courts across the country. Craven is responsible for the modern strength and conditioning program at The University of Texas, and he has had a profound impact on the development of other collegiate, professional and high school training programs as well.
He first began studying kinesiology because he "wanted to coach and be in the sports field, and strength training was just beginning to blossom," said Craven, who was just granted an honorary membership into the National Athletic Trainers' Association.
Craven's in-class and on-field assessments showed him a "flawed" sports medicine philosophy, when "all schools used salt tablets and most didn't allow water-breaks." Those practices were unacceptable to Craven, and his first chance to create change came in 1963 as the coach of the Del Valle high school football team. There, Craven made the rules.
"Players had water any time they wanted it, organized breaks, and weren't given salt tablets," Craven said.
Simple changes such as these were met with resistance from traditionalists in the world of sports, but Craven was persistent. Only two years later he began the non-mandatory strength and conditioning program and a small rehabilitation program for the football program at The University of Texas under head coach Darrell K. Royal.
Craven did most of the work with his own two hands, clearing a room using only his pickup truck and bringing in training equipment he found while visiting medical conferences around America.
After only two years and a national championship, Royal decided to continue and expand Craven's program as other schools were beginning to take note of it. To Craven, it wasn't the success of the football team that fueled him.
"It was the joy of starting to see our guys returning (from injury) ... something that had never happened before," Craven said. "There was nothing more rewarding to me than seeing a guy whose career and whose hopes had been just totally dashed come back and succeed."
After almost 50 years of work, Craven's influence on the world of sports medicine and sports themselves is indelible. Thanks in part to him, all schools including public high schools and universities must have certified athletic trainers on staff and on site, and the conditions student-athletes play under are no longer the "Spartan" unhealthy ways they once were.
Craven continues his work for UT Athletics as a rehabilitation specialist, and dedication and kindness remain his trademark traits.
"I'd be the happiest guy in Texas if I was still coaching high school sports. I love the kids, and seeing young people come in at one level then go out at another," Craven said. "Can't put a price on it."