Athletic trainers heal wounds of defeat

Greg MacDonald, Spots Illustrated Editor
Greg MacDonald, Spots Illustrated Editor

A championship team takes nothing for granted: its coaches, its opponent, its practice, its mindset, its equipment and its trainers.

That’s right, its athletic trainers. They are the ones who tape, brace and warm up the athletes prior to competition. They are there when injuries occur, making sure further damage does not happen. Just like the rest of the fans in attendance, the trainers want to see their team win.

Here at the University of La Verne, the athletic training department meets all of that criteria – including the enjoyment of being an essential part of a team’s success.

“It becomes worth it when you watch a team, which you have cobbled together all year long, win,” acting head athletic trainer Paul Alvarez said. “Thinking back on national championship type of teams, volleyball a couple years ago had a couple key injuries, so I would like to think the athletic training contributed toward them having a chance of getting there.”

But the health of the team is the first concern of the athletic trainers.

“We do try to stay on top of a team in a playoff chase,” said Alvarez, who has been a full-time trainer here at La Verne since 1989. “However, we don’t compromise the health of an athlete, but we are sensitive when we deal with the coach.”

“[The athletic trainers] told me that if I don’t get [my ankle] taped up every day, I can’t play,” said Jennifer Thompson, who is the designated hitter for the 2000 SCIAC champion softball team.

The athletic training department, which, on average, graduates five to six students a year, doesn’t just watch championships, it has achieved plenty of its own success.

Three La Verne alumni, Willie Sinon (1996), Todd Hutcheson (’81) and Paul Navarro (’94), have become certified trainers and work in the San Diego Padres organization.

But probably the most notable certified athletic trainer ever at La Verne still works here – Marilyn Oliver, professor of movement and sports science.

Oliver was not only the first athletic trainer at the university, but she also was one of the first female trainers in the country when she began in October 1978.

Oliver and Alvarez, along with all of the student athletic trainers in the program, have to be committed to their profession because they dedicate endless hours each day working for the Leopards.

“We are always the first here,” Alvarez said, “and the last to leave.”

Alvarez, however, admits all the hard work pays off, especially when La Verne is on the winning end.

“Sure, it is nice to be affiliated with a winning program,” he said. “It’s nice to have everyone happy.”

What may make trainers at other universities unhappy-athletes taking the athletic trainers for granted-does not occur here. And that is a direct reflection of the athletic program as a whole.

“It has been very nice to be associated with the coaching staff here at La Verne,” Alvarez said.

Athletic training is a tough job. Whether it is a taped up ankle or a medical recommendation, the athletes need around-the-clock care-that is, unless the Leopards are riding a wave of success.

“We joke about it,” Alvarez said. “When we win, everyone goes home and doesn’t need ice because they are so high on the win. On the other hand, if we lose, athletes say, ‘This and that hurts.’ ”

Ahh yes, the price of being a good trainer – healing the sting of defeat.

Greg MacDonald is a senior journalism major. Please e-mail comments about Spots Illustrated to

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