Brodhead's Peggy Olsen helps students win on the field and in the classroom
Occupation: Physical therapist
Family: Two sons, Garret, 23, and Conner, 17.
Wait, how many kids? Olsen took a player to the chiropractor and filled out his medical paperwork. "I think I probably adopted him, and he's on my insurance by now," she said jokingly.
On "kids these days": To people who worry about where society is going to be with the current generation, she says, "I'm excited. These kids are great." Her former role as school board president allowed her to hand out diplomas to the kids she worked with for years in sports. "You're thinking, 'We're going to be OK. I'm not worried about it.'"
Motivation for rehabbing athletes: "There's nothing better than to see that kid back in the game two days later, and they know you're in the stands … they know you're watching them." The football team made it to the state championship game last fall, which made for an extra special season, Olsen said, because her son, Connor, also was on the team.
Favorite hobby: "I love to go antiquing," she said. Gambling—playing the slots—also tops the list.
Favorite movie: "Dirty Dancing"
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite music: Country. Her "not-favorite" music? "What they play in that locker room before a football game. Have you heard that stuff? … Mmm, that's bad stuff. I can't understand a word of it. It's shouting, screaming, loud."
Favorite place: Disney World
BRODHEAD Extracurricular activities are what bring some kids to school, whether people like it or not. Peggy Olsen has seen that.
Success on the football team or wherever it might be, she said, can translate into all kinds of positives in a student's life.
"If we can keep them in the game, competing, happy, and they succeed in school, it's good for them and good for us," she said.
That's all the motivation Olsen needs to volunteer her nights and weekends to get injured athletes back into the game.
She's a physical therapist in Janesville by day. After hours, she's working injured Brodhead athletes through rehab, pushing them to achieve academic success and creating a trusted sounding board for students.
Until last year, Olsen also served nine years on the school board, six of those as president.
"She just really cares about Brodhead, obviously, and really cares about the athletic program, and most of all, about the kids," said Jim Matthys, Brodhead athletic director and football coach.
"We're able to get kids back on the field or back in playing shape a lot faster with her around," he said. "She certainly has a lot of experience (in physical therapy), but the biggest thing is all that stuff is done voluntarily."
Olsen's father coached Brodhead basketball for 25 years while she grew up, so she knows a thing or two about high school athletics. As a spectator for years, many of them watching her two sons play, she saw kids with sprains on the sidelines for too long.
Her start on the sidelines began in 2004 when her neighbor, a former track coach, asked if there was anything she could do to help a top runner who had pulled a hamstring.
"It was the first time I worked with an athlete at school and just got a really good taste for it," she said.
Now she stops by football practice every day and comes in as needed for basketball, track and other sports, depending on injuries.
She worked with the booster club to buy an ultrasound, two whirlpools and other rehab tools for the training room.
She helps the kids through rehab, writing their instructions on her official letterhead: paper towels.
Her hours of volunteering have saved parents hundreds of dollars in doctor bills. And she has helped decrease athletes' recovery time by providing treatment immediately after an incident.
"I can't say enough about what she's done for our athletes the last few years," said Brian Kammerer, head boys basketball coach. "When I got hurt, she even treated me. That's the type of person she is."
But she tells students, "Don't waste my free time."
If students are ineligible to play (low grades, athletic code violation), she tells them to come back to her when they are eligible.
"There's some accountability," she said.
Her one-on-one work fosters give-and-take relationships. She can guide students to make good choices while they can share things they wouldn't tell a coach.
Olsen has been able to cut some athletes' recovery times almost in half, Kammerer said.
"She's also someone they feel comfortable with," he said.
That trust allows Olsen to communicate with coaches about how they should treat athletes from a coaching standpoint, he said.