By Jessica SHUMATE, intern
After years of success with their athletic program, the athletes and coaching staff of Crescenta Valley High School have finally revealed their secret weapon. Junko Nakayama is the school’s athletic trainer and can be seen alongside the teams, ready to aid an injured player at a moment’s notice.
Her intentions of becoming an athletic trainer were not very clear when she first began her studies in college. Nakayama explained that she started out as a teacher in Hokkaido, Japan. For five years she taught English and home economics to middle school students, but she had bigger goals in mind.
“I had wanted to come to the states for a really long time because I was curious about what was happening here. I asked my parents for help and they told me, ‘Why? We just paid for your college,’” Nakayama said laughing.
After five more years of teaching she still could not give up her dream to live in America. “I was afraid of growing up and saying ‘What if?’ so I quit my job and flew to California.”
When she started as a student in Cal State Northridge, she chose kinesiology as her major. With a history of being a basketball player and a coach, she realized that she didn’t know how to help players if they got injured. With that in mind, she studied the science of sports medicine and worked with the Northridge training program.
“I never wanted that job where you sit on the computer typing numbers and answering the phone,” Nakayama confessed. “I wanted to be on my feet and do something. And the more I did kinesiology the more I liked it.”
Fortunately, Crescenta Valley gave Nakayama the opportunity to be its athletic trainer. Starting at sixth period, students crowd her office for help on their injuries, whether new or old, or simply greet her on their way to practice.
CV’s varsity football coach Paul Schilling spoke on behalf of the staff.
“Nakayama is here every day and stays even later on game days, always working overtime,” Schilling said. “But I know it’s because she really loves the kids and we are so, so grateful.”
Senior varsity softball player Kendall Ebert explained how Nakayama has helped her and her teammates since she was a freshman.
“I remember back in freshman year she used to wrap my shoulder in ice after pitching every game,” Ebert said. “If we had any other complications we would go straight to her because we all trust her so much.”
Another varsity senior, Evan Nelson, feels that she had a large impact on his football career at CV.
“I can’t really say enough about Nakayama,” he said. “I know she doesn’t get paid a lot for being here, yet she’s here every day. She’s here before all our football games putting Gatorade in the locker room and taping any of the varsity players before she goes off to the JV game.”
Although it seems that Nakayama is constantly busy helping the Falcon family, she still finds way to make time for her hobbies. Outside of her work at CV she enjoys running the Disneyland half marathons. One of her friends from Glendale Adventist Medical Center suggested she run to raise money for the Leukemia Society. Because many cancer patients had visited their clinic, they thought it would be a great way to raise awareness.
“I had to raise $2,200 my first year and it was very overwhelming. My second year I only had to raise $800. I decided to run the Dumbo Double Dare registered under the Special Olympics,” Nakayama said.
The Dumbo Double Dare consists of a 10K on a Saturday and then running a half marathon on the following day. She completed the weekend-long marathon with her fastest time of two hours and 15 minutes.
“After each marathon, Disney awarded us big medals and I’ve never gotten one in my life. I was so happy and wore it around all day,” she said. “The best part about the marathons is not just raising awareness but it keeps me in shape. Training for them gives me the motivation to go run.”
Coming from a small rural city of Hachinohe, Japan to a small urban town of La Crescenta, she was able to achieve her goals that she had back from when she was a teenager. On or off CV’s campus, Nakayama is a role model for all the students in the community. With her optimistic personality and her go-getter attitude, many credit her with being a main reason for athletic success at Crescenta Valley High School.