Getting athletes back in the game

Certifying world class athletic trainers from La Verne

Leading by example, Daniel Bonilla, an athletic training graduate from the University of La Verne but now a professor at Loyola Marymount University, shows James Clevenger, an LMU natural science major, the fundamentals of ankle taping techniques and the reasons for taping certain areas to stabilize the ankle. / photo by Nicholas Mitzenmacher

by Pui Lok Choi
photography by Nicholas Mitzenmacher

The ball is snapped. The quarterback immediately sees that it is a six-man rush and sprints out of the pocket. Just before connecting with a wide open receiver, he is leveled by a 6-foot 3-inch, 225 pound outside linebacker. As he attempts to get up, he collapses. Dazed and confused, he lies there. First to his aid is the familiar face of the athletic trainer—perhaps one who learned her craft at the University of La Verne. Certified athletic trainers are usually there at most of the practices and get to know the athletes on a personal level, says Paul Alvarez, Athletic Training Education Program director and professor of Movement and Sports Science. “This allows the athlete to build trust with the ATCs, and they know whether the athlete is hurt or injured.” Often, it is the trainer who initiates the questions, “Are you OK; What’s your name; What day is it?” Athletic trainers are more than just first response; they treat injuries immediately, rehab with athletes, consult with coaches and, in time, send players back to the field ready to compete, but only when they are game ready.

The University of La Verne’s Athletic Training Education Program (ATEP) has produced about 30 successful graduates since its October 2003 accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education. “We’ve averaged five or six graduates from the program a year,” says Marilyn Oliver, ATC and professor of Movement and Sports Science. Kim Detwiler, assistant professor of Movement and Sports Science, Joanna Engel, head athletic trainer, Josh Davis assistant athletic trainer, and Keith Savage, graduate assistant athletic trainer complete the ensemble that has led to the program’s acclaim. “The success of the students allows the program to grow; ULV is a great place to learn; students buy in, and when the students do well, the program does well too,” says Oliver. Among its many alumni, three individuals capture the Department’s impact in the athletic arena.

Daniel Bonilla

Daniel Bonilla graduated from the University of La Verne May 2007. The 2003 Covina Northview High School alumnus played football, baseball and wrestling in high school and then baseball at La Verne under Coach Scott Winterburn. Danny, as he prefers to be called in conversation, says since he was 14-years-old, he knew he wanted to be an athletic trainer. “When I watched football on TV, I always thought they were doctors, and I wanted to be one of them.” Following, ULV graduation, Danny matriculated as a graduate assistant in the Kinesiology & Rehabilitation Science Department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He taught two college courses and later became the head athletic trainer of a local private Hawaiian high school.

With his May 2009 degree, Danny returned to California with the intention of starting medical school. But a teaching position opened at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and he accepted the opportunity, starting as a visiting assistant professor. There, he teaches a human anatomy/physiology class and lab, a strength training and conditioning class, and a career development course for juniors and seniors in the Department of Natural Science.

He attributes his early achievement in higher education to his educational foundation at the University of La Verne. “Marilyn Oliver, Paul Alvarez, Joanna Engel and Coach Winterburn have played a tremendous role in where I am today,” Danny says. “I’ve been blessed to have these amazing people in my life, and I will always be grateful for their life lessons. Collaboratively, these people prepared me for the ‘real world’ by teaching me the values of hard work and determination.”

Danny says he leads students at Loyola from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and has an open door policy because he has never forgotten that he was once a college student himself. Hard work, determination and sacrifices are the qualities it takes to become successful. He says he lives by the following two quotes: “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” (Henry Ford), and “He who dares to teach must never cease to learn” (Richard Henry Dana Jr.). “Your reputation is everything in life. Instead of telling how much I like to work hard for my students, I show my students that I care for them every chance I get. If I were to rewrite this quote, it would read, ‘You can build a reputation on what you do.’” Danny says. Regarding the second quote, Danny says he loves teaching, but just teaching someone is not enough. “My job is to show them how to be good students and how to learn, rather than just lecturing and handing out exams. Because I dare to teach, I will never cease to learn.”

Manny Escalante

Manny Escalante, graduated from the La Verne ATEP program May 2001. His job trail has stops at Disney, high schools that include Pleasant Valley in Chico, Westridge School, San Marino, Baldwin Park, Gladstone, and San Dimas; plus area colleges including Chaffey, and all of the Claremont Colleges. He traveled with the Claremont Women’s Rugby Club in national championship contention. As a volunteer, Manny has worked with the Atlanta Braves organization and Professional Bull Riding.

Presently, Manny is fitness manager for “24-hour Fitness” in Glendora. He has authored 130 articles for web publication, spoken at a large fitness conference and has two books in development. “Both books are geared toward health and fitness professionals so that they may better serve their clients. One book discusses business development, and the other is about training a person to complete his/her first triathlon .” He resides in La Verne and leads as an integral part of the Leo ATEP network, having employed eight La Verne alumni in the health/fitness field.

He says that much of what he has learned at La Verne has helped him in his jobs, citing especially the heavy focus on hands on experience with an emphasis on independent thinking. “I was just thrown in there as a student, and we had to learn on the fly,” Manny says. “Marilyn and Paul both have helped me a lot.” His departmental experience has not only helped Manny succeed but has helped him personally. Since graduation, he has lost 50 pounds and 25 percent body fat. He remembers running a mile from the ULV Oaks Residence Hall to his parents’ house. And since graduation, he has become a proud self-proclaimed vegan athlete. “I have completed three Ironman Races, Ultra marathons, several other endurance events and two bodybuilding shows.” Manny says at La Verne, he gained confidence so that he became successful in his career. “Without a doubt, my time at La Verne was memorable, and extremely beneficial. Great professors come to mind and my biggest thank you goes to Paul Alvarez and Marilyn Oliver for creating such a wonderful learning environmental and for fostering success.”

Stephanie Dreyer

Stephanie Dreyer, 2006 ULV graduate also has won great career success. Stephanie was on the swim team and played water polo at Rancho Cucamonga High School, graduating in 2002; following, she joined the ULV swim team. However, it wasn’t until her second year at La Verne that she realized she wanted to be an athletic trainer. She was originally a history major entering college but says her love for athletic training grew from her love for sports. “Athletic training combines my love for athletics and desire to work as a health care professional. Almost every day, I get to help someone.” Stephanie was also the 2006 recipient of the prestigious “Mine and Ganske Ito Scholarship,” given by the Far West Athletic Trainers’ Association. Rachel Cunningham, a 2007 graduate of La Verne’s ATEP also was a recipient of a Far West Athletic Trainers’ Association scholarship. These scholarships are based on GPA, volunteer experience and letters of recommendation.

After ULV graduation, Stephanie earned a master’s degree in kinesiology with an emphasis in biomechanics from California State University Fullerton. There, she served as a graduate assistant and covered women’s basketball and soccer. “It was a lot of work, but it was worth it, and I enjoyed it,” she says. Presently, Stephanie works for St. Joseph Hospital in Orange where she is contracted to work at Disneyland as an athletic trainer. She says Disney is a great place to work, and she loves what she does. She observes resort areas to identify possible body motion safety hazards, develops and implements injury prevention programs and works with staff member injuries.

Stephanie has not forgotten where she started, and the people who helped her along the way. “Paul and Marilyn were wonderful influences and were always there for me when I needed guidance, or if I had any questions. Paul was great at introducing me to new people and helping me learn to network. Joanna had a tremendous influence helping me decide where to go to grad school and continues to be a close friend of mine today.”

The University of La Verne Athletic Training Education Program continues to help its students succeed and prepares them as certified athletic trainers. It opens the door for a multitude of careers in the health care field.

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