Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)
Donley first trainer in county Hall of Fame
There have been innumerable quiet moments of validation during Phil Donley’s lengthy career.
WESTCHESTER>> There have been innumerable quiet moments of validation during Phil Donley’s lengthy career, but it went to a whole new level when he was lauded on national television in the mid-2000s when the Philadelphia Eagles were playing the Dallas Cowboys and quarterback Donovan McNabb rolled left, turned, and threw a 65-yard bomb on the money for a touchdown.
“(Fox analyst) Troy Aikman said, ‘ That’s the toughest play a quarterback can make and I’ve never seen it done better,’” Donley recalled. “The play-by-play guy (Dick Stockton) said, ‘I heard that they have a guy that worked with Curt Schilling and he is helping (McNabb) out with his shoulder.’
Donley is that guy, and his days of toiling in relative anonymity are over. Nearly a half century after he became the head athletic trainer and physical education professor at West Chester, Donley is now getting recognized for being a giant in his field. And on Nov. 8th, he will become the first athletic trainer/physical therapist inducted into the Chester County Sports Hall of Fame.
“The joy of helping somebody who is gifted to begin with do better is really what athletic trainers and physical therapists do,” Donley said.
“I hope this (induction) is a signal how important athletic trainers are at the secondary school and college level. So many of the early trainers are graduates of West Chester, and that is encouraging to me because it means we’ve been able to not only educate a cadre of people to do this kind of work, but also that the schools and parents are beginning to recognize their importance.”
Following a 26-year reign at West Chester, Donley became a highly sought-after consultant for professional teams and athletes, and he immersed himself into research, lectures and publishing, but it was his time at
WCU that set the stage for everything.
“I came from West Virginia, where there were no women’s sports,” Donley pointed out. “I was just overwhelmed with the enthusiasm and quality of women’s athletics at the high school and college level here.
“The (West Chester) health and physical education program was just absolutely dominant. Every school in southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and South Jersey has at least one West Chester graduate on their faculty. To walk into that as an athletic trainer, and five years later start an athletic training education program, the place was ripe. It could not have been better for someone who wanted to do that.”
Soon after he arrived at West Chester in 1965, head football coach Jim Bonder died of a heart attack on the sidelines during the season’s third game. His predecessor, Bob Mitten took over.
“Mitten had a doctorate from Temple in safety education,” Donley said. “We worked together like a hand in glove. We completely and dramatically changed the way we trained and coached football.”
After attending the 1980 Olympics, Donley started a private sports physical therapy clinic in West Chester to provide advanced services for muscular skeletal care for the general public. And then soon after leaving WCU in 1991, he branched out into the rehabilitation of professional pitchers, including work with Schilling (CCSHOF Class of 2009).
“In 1998 Curt said, ‘let’s bring Phil down, make him a consultant to the Phillies and let’s see if we can do something about improving the gen- eral health care system for the Phillies organization,” Donley reported.
Almost immediately, Donley began interviewing players and developing strategies for pitchers and prospects. For nine years he collected data on 2,300 pitchers and 450 position players.
“From that databank, we learned so much,” Donley said. “Over the next eight years, we only had one surgical elbow of a player we had brought up through the organization. The rest were from players acquired from other organizations.”
Those successes led to his involvement with the Eagles, which continues to today. He recently worked with Eagles backup quarterback Mark Sanchez, and his latest project is former Octorara High School star and current San Francisco Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong.
Now aged 79, Donley still sees patients three days a week.