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The athletic trainers behind the success of UCLA sports teams

Members of the UCLA baseball program are pictured in the dugout watching the game. Included in the staff are students in the Sports Medicine Internship Program, who are on hand to help treat athletes. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

By Cecilia Schmitz, Alexis Hinkle, Ira Gorawara, and Felicia Keller

Jan. 18, 2024 12:49 a.m.

The number 121 echoes with significance in Westwood.

It’s tied to the tireless work of Bruin players and coaches alike.

But on the periphery of the spotlight lies a dimmer constituent, the ones anchoring UCLA’s winning engine – athletic trainers.

“They’re very important to us, and they kind of just keep our bodies right, which is obviously very crucial to us in our season,” said UCLA baseball senior infielder Daylen Reyes.

Athletic trainers remain the backbone of UCLA Athletics’ health and wellness, working around the clock to optimize performance and results for student-athletes.

UCLA’s Sports Medicine Internship Program – which is open to sophomores and above – sifts through applicants to sculpt a team capable of top-notch treatment for athletes.

Matthew Brandt, a professional athletic trainer working for UCLA men’s soccer, oversees many of the student athletic trainers. He said student athletic trainers’ hours vary from 15 to 25 hours a week, depending on their year and respective sport.

Injury prevention and treatment lie at the forefront of the program’s objectives, striving to evaluate students’ knowledge and provide them firsthand experience in medical care. With proper expertise under their belts, student athletic trainers are ultimately assigned to UCLA teams.

“We’re the day-to-day health care managers for the athlete,” Brandt said. “We are the day-to-day people to keep the athletes on the field.”

Fourth-year biology student Abbey Redding works with UCLA baseball six days a week to help take care of the athletes.

“What we do in the training room is a lot of hands-on muscle groups, trying to get them looser, feeling better, adding more range of motion, specifically for baseball when they throw,” Redding said. “Then the post-surgical side would be rehab, getting them back to where they can play. Because our goal, obviously, in any way shape or form, is to protect them, but also to get them where they need to be for their future goals.”

(Ella Greenberg-Winnick/Daily Bruin staff)
Fourth-year biology student Abbey Redding smiles from the camera in front of Acosta Athletic Complex. Redding is now in her third year of the UCLA Sports Medicine Internship Program and has worked as an athletic trainer for both UCLA men’s soccer and baseball. (Neha Krishnakumar/Daily Bruin staff)

Reyes said the work student athletic trainers put in is invaluable.

“They know what we’re going through, and they know exactly what’s going on between being a student-athlete, because honestly, they’re student-athletes, too,” Reyes said. “They deal with the same time constraints and time management that we do.”

Beyond their cardinal role of facilitating physical health, UCLA’s athletic trainers endeavor to forge camaraderie with athletes.

Reyes said the relationship between student athletic trainers and athletes relies heavily on trust.

“They’re as important to me as a teammate,” Reyes said. “The most important thing is communication between us and being able to talk to them and me knowing that I can speak freely about what’s bothering me.”

Many of the women in the Sports Medicine Internship Program occupy the sole female presence on the field for their respective sports. Redding, for instance, is one of few women in the Jackie Robinson Stadium dugout.

With an interest in sports since childhood, Redding’s experience in UCLA sports medicine illuminated the pathway of working in medicine as well as the sports industry.

The program not only offers students medical care experience, but also simultaneously builds integral skills applicable to all career paths.

“I wouldn’t be confident coming into work every day if I wasn’t confident in my abilities for what I can do to help them in their past and the future,” Redding said.

Redding added that the insight she has gained as an athletic trainer prepared her for entering what is often considered a male-dominated sports world.

Redding, now in her third year with the program, started as a student athletic trainer for UCLA men’s soccer before moving to baseball.

“Previously, I would have thought that going into a field that was male-dominated would be more terrifying than it is,” Redding said. “But it really is about a level of respect and knowing what you’re doing.”

She added that she aspires to join the burgeoning ranks of women sculpting the landscape of sports medicine.

“My goal, at least right now, is I really want to work in the NHL,” Redding said. “There are only currently five women who have ever been employed in a higher sports administration role in the NHL. … The very first one was over 25 years ago. But that’s where I’m hoping to break through.”

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Cecilia Schmitz | Assistant Sports editor
Schmitz is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the women’s soccer, beach volleyball, women’s golf and cross country beats. She was previously a contributor on the women’s soccer and beach volleyball beats and a staffer for the Outreach section. She is also a third-year political science and communication student.
Schmitz is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the women’s soccer, beach volleyball, women’s golf and cross country beats. She was previously a contributor on the women’s soccer and beach volleyball beats and a staffer for the Outreach section. She is also a third-year political science and communication student.
Hinkle is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's tennis, men's golf and track and field beats. She was previously a reporter on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats. She is also a second-year sociology student.
Hinkle is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's tennis, men's golf and track and field beats. She was previously a reporter on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats. She is also a second-year sociology student.
Ira Gorawara | Assistant Sports editor
Gorawara is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, men's tennis and rowing beats and is a Copy contributor. She was previously a reporter on the men's volleyball and rowing beats. She is also a second-year communication and economics student.
Gorawara is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, men's tennis and rowing beats and is a Copy contributor. She was previously a reporter on the men's volleyball and rowing beats. She is also a second-year communication and economics student.
Keller is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men’s soccer, swim and dive, women’s water polo, and softball beats. She was previously a contributor on the swim and dive and women’s water polo beats and a contributor in the News and Photo sections. She is also a second-year sociology student.
Keller is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men’s soccer, swim and dive, women’s water polo, and softball beats. She was previously a contributor on the swim and dive and women’s water polo beats and a contributor in the News and Photo sections. She is also a second-year sociology student.
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