Athletic trainer's influence reaches far beyond the training room By Audrey Hettleman

The training room is overcome with a flurry of activity as soon as the last school bell rings. One after another, athletes come in for treatment from athletic trainer Americ Alvarado, who trades jokes with them while attending to various injuries. The small room is soon packed, with players lounging on examination tables, awaiting ankle wrapping and poking fun at each other so loudly that the J Boog Pandora radio station playing in the background is nearly drowned out. Alvarado bobs his head to the music while blending into the conversations around him, seemingly energized by the cacophony of sound and motion.

“That’s why I love athletes,” Alvarado said. “All that built-up energy can come out.”

After 10 years on the job, Alvarado’s original passion for helping athletes has only grown with experience. With students and fellow faculty members alike describing him as both qualified and inspiring, it is clear that Alvarado is an integral part of the Redwood community.

Alvarado got his first taste of athletic training his junior year of high school when he attended a sports medicine regional occupation program. He continued those studies through higher education as well, earning his bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University and a graduate degree from San Jose State University. After completing school, he held a two-year internship at Stanford University before finding a home at Redwood, where he has been for the past 10 years.

After experiencing athletic training at both a collegiate and high school level, Alvarado says he prefers being involved in high school athletics because the competition isn’t based on money.

“At this level, no one gets paid. It’s all for fun, just about enjoying the sport. The excitement and the motivation is definitely here, so it’s definitely good to be at this level where these kids are just playing because they love the sport,” Alvarado said.

Although the worst injuries Alvarado sees on most days are twisted ankles and skinned knees, he has had to deal with harsher injuries in the past. Once, during a boys’ soccer game, a Redwood player slammed his head into an opposing player’s jaw while attempting to head the ball, causing the student’s maxilla, or upper jaw bone, to shatter.

“He came in all bloodied down to his shirt, with blood coming out of his mouth, which is pretty common for that kind of injury. Now that I think about it, it sounds pretty intense, dude,” Alvarado said.

Alvarado usually appoints an intern to help him attend to injuries such as these, as well as to be an extra hand in the regular afternoon rush. This year, senior KelseyRose McNair has taken on the position.

“I’ve always been interested in the medical field, the body, the cardiovascular system, the muscles and everything like that. I don’t want to go be a doctor or anything like that, but I love sports, so with athletic training, you get the whole medical aspect and you also get to watch sports,” McNair said.

McNair first met Alvarado while still enrolled at Marin Catholic when she needed to get her ankle taped during a soccer game against Redwood. She didn’t think anything of the interaction at first, but by that time next year, she would be spending three to four days a week in his office.

“When I came here on my first day [interning], I was so nervous, because everybody loves Americ. Americ has one of the best reputations on campus. He’s just the nicest, funniest guy ever. I came in super nervous but he made me feel super at home,” McNair said.

After high school, McNair wants to study kinesthesiology and possibly follow athletic training as a career. Working with Alvarado, she says, is one of the factors that convinced her to pursue this field.

For those like McNair that are looking at athletic training as a possible career path, Alvarado said that the best advice he can give is to gain experience as soon as possible.

“The number one thing is [to] experience it. Get out there, do some internship hours, reach out to your local athletic trainer or physical therapist or sports doctor, and just see what they do and see if you like it,” Alvarado said. “It’s good that we have [opportunities at Redwood], just like KelseyRose had the opportunity to experience it. Either she comes away with a good experience or a bad experience, at least that experience can tell her, ‘This is where I want to take my life,’ or ‘No, I don’t like it.’ She’ll know by getting hands-on experience.”

In addition to his welcoming nature, Alvarado’s professionalism is recognized by many, including Athletic Director Jessica Peisch.

“[Alvarado] knows his craft. He works well with students, well with coaches and parents,” Peisch said.

Peisch and Alvarado began working at Redwood the same year, and Peisch says that her opinion of Alvarado has only improved since then.

“One of his good qualities is that he is very calm in tense situations. If we have a player that has been injured or needs more medical care, he has been very calm about it over the years. He is very clear, he directs people and the kids are always safe and the scene’s always safe,” Peisch said.

Not only is Alvarado successful at interacting with athletes, he is also a team player. Peish remembered a time about seven years ago when Alvarado joined in with the PE department for the Halloween skit.

“We did gold trophies, the ones you get when you’re a little kid. The PE department spray painted themselves and he was one of the poses. I think he was ‘basketball,’” Peisch said. “He is definitely a team player. We needed another [trophy] and he jumped in and totally helped out.”

According to Peisch, there is no one that could live up to the standard Alvarado has set as an athletic trainer.

“He’s organized, he’s clear with the coaches. He’s respectful with the students. When they have injuries, I think he makes everybody feel comfortable. He works with coaches, parents, and the student athlete to get back on the field,” Peisch said. “He’s just perfect for the position here.”

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