MARYVILLE, Mo. — It is rare these days to find anyone with a 100 percent approval rating at his or her jobs. But if you spend much time around Bearcat athletics, it quickly becomes apparent that is the kind of esteem Kelly Quinlin and her husband Joe Quinlin are held in.
Joe has been the Bearcat strength and conditioning coach since 2008, while Kelly is the head athletic trainer and has been a part of the Bearcat staff since 2003.
“The biggest reason that I love my job so much is the relationships that I’ve been able to build with the athletes and my co-workers,” Kelly said. “... The athletes — I learn more from them than they learn from me to be honest with you. I felt like I grew so much from being around them.”
The Quinlins have been mainstays around the athletic department over the years, impacting athletes across a variety of sports with Joe overseeing all the strength training for all 15 sports and Kelly overseeing the whole sports medicine department since 2008.
“Joe is amazing at his craft, amazing at what he does, is amazing with the student-athletes and has amazing relationships with them,” Kelly said. “It made it easy for me because I had someone who really cared about them and their health and well-being. ... I would make a joke that when somebody would get hurt in the weight room then Joe would sleep on the couch, because it made my job harder.”
The COVID-19 pandemic over the last year changed a lot and for the Quinlins, it meant that they weren’t able to go to work everyday with their Bearcat athletes. While that was a huge change, it allowed Kelly and Joe to spend a lot of time home with their four children as their oldest, Derek, was preparing to begin high school.
Having the opportunity to spend so much time with Derek, Kori, Austyn and Kendyl, caused Kelly to have to weigh a very difficult decision and in May she announced that she would be resigning her position with her last official day coming on June 30.
“Big decision, definitely thought about it a lot,” Kelly said. “Honestly, it came down to COVID, because honestly, that was the first time I’d ever been home with my kids and had that time with them, and I didn’t know what that was like.
“I started traveling with basketball again shortly after COVID was over and that was 4-day trips every other week. I was just on those trips like, ‘I’m not supposed to be here, I’m supposed to be with my kiddos.’ I was honestly like, ‘what happened to me?’ I’ve always been like a go, go, go type of person and that is all I’ve ever known.”
Kelly has specifically worked with women’s basketball, golf and the Bearcat Steppers in recent years. Those athletes see Kelly as more than someone who just tends to their injuries when they get hurt.
“It is going to be tough not having her around,” Northwest women’s basketball senior Mallory McConkey said. “She is just a second mom to all of us. I know that all of us are so excited for her to be able to spend more time with her family, but we are definitely going to miss her. She has just been the person who if we had anything going on in our lives at all, we would just go talk to her. She was so many different things to all of us girls.”
McConkey underwent a significant injury as a junior when she broke her ankle.
“She always knows what to say to make someone feel better,” McConkey said. “Getting injured is really tough, especially like ACL tears and those sort of things. I know that girls would go talk to her if they are having trouble with classes or just needed somewhere to vent to.”
The Maryville High School graduate’s career at Northwest has included being named the 2017 D-II Head Athletic Trainer of the Year by the NATA College and University Athletic Trainers’ Committee. The same organization also recognized her in 2008 for care she gave a student-athlete who suffered severe burns in an apartment fire. She has twice received Northwest’s Tower Service Award for outstanding service and contribution to the university.
“I don’t really have any regrets at all,” Kelly said. “I am very content with how my path has gone so far. I felt like this was the right time.”
Kelly was the primary athletic trainer for Bearcat football for 10 years and was a part of the staff for three of the Bearcats’ six national championships.
“2013 was probably the craziest because I was nine months pregnant and three weeks from having a baby,” Kelly said. “I was swollen after flying down to Alabama, but I was going to go no matter what, no one was going to stop me. That was a pretty crazy one.”
Despite stepping back from her role in the athletic department, the sports-loving Quinlins will still be heavily involved in Northwest athletics with Joe remaining as Northwest’s strength coach. And Kelly is still going to be plenty busy with her kids getting to the ages where they are in a lot of activities.
“I’m like an Uber driver, but it is awesome and I love it,” Kelly said. “Honestly, I feel bad because I feel like I should have paid my sitters a lot more money over the years.”