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Keasha Russell, left, works on soccer player Jordan Dolbin’s injured leg muscle. Photo by Kelly Lacefield

Kick-Starting Career

Student Heals From Sport Injuries, Pursues Athletic Training Future

May 5, 2009

By Mimi Ko Cruz

Keasha Russell

Age: 22

Current residence: Fullerton

Hometown: Riverside

Favorite quote: Nike’s logo, “Just Do It”

Philosophy: “Be bold and brave and go for what you want in life.”

Hobbies/pastimes: Hiking, swimming, playing a random game of soccer and spending time with family and friends.

A star soccer player in high school, Keasha Russell was ecstatic when she was offered a spot on UC Riverside's soccer team. But, before her freshman year, she underwent two knee surgeries and had second thoughts about continuing to play her favorite sport.

“My surgeon asked me if it was worth it to play college ball or if it was more important to be able to run around with my children in the future,” she said. “My knees were already developing arthritis and hurt every time I played. If I had continued to play competitive soccer at such a high level it would progress a lot faster. Plus, there was always the chance that I would injure my knees again. So, I decided that having the ability to walk in my future was more important than playing another four years.”

She remembered the athletic trainers who helped her through rehabilitation at the S.P.O.R.T Clinic in Riverside and decided that was the career for her.

Russell said she was impressed by her trainers’ skills and knowledge and became intrigued about the profession. One of her athletic trainers was a Cal State Fullerton alumna who told her about the university’s 4-and-a-half-year program.

“So, here I am,” said Russell, now a senior preparing to graduate in January with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, emphasis in athletic training.

Q: Why are you in the athletic training program?

A: I am here to become a certified athletic trainer. Once I complete the program, I'll sit for the national exam to gain that designation.

Q: Upon graduation and gaining your certification, what do you plan to do?

A: I hope to go on to complete a master’s degree, get a job at my old high school and build an athletic training program there because it has never had an on-site athletic trainer. Later, I hope to get involved with working in either professional soccer or professional football.

Q: What is your sport experience?

A: I did some ballet when I was younger but, I played competitive soccer — club soccer and varsity high school soccer — for about 10 years. I also ran track my freshman year in high school.

Q: How did you injure your knees?

A: I tore both of my ACLs (anterior cruciate ligaments), which is one of the main ligaments in your knee that helps to keep it stable. I had reconstructive surgery to fix both knees and went through nine months of rehabilitation before I returned to playing soccer again.

The first knee that got injured was my right and I was playing in a State Cup soccer tournament. A girl from the opposing team kicked me from behind in my leg. It was instantly a complete tear. My left knee was injured when I was in another soccer tournament. I planted my foot to cut and run into a different direction and my foot got stuck in the ground while the rest of my body went with the motion.

Q: What are some skills you’ve learned in the athletic training program that you didn’t expect to learn?

A: Some things that I definitely did not expect to learn in the program are all of the things I am learning about administration. When I came into the program, I did not expect to learn about things such as building an athletic training room, budgeting, dealing with insurance, managing a staff, etc. It is a big part of athletic training.

Q: What's so appealing about athletic training?

A: The part that is appealing to me is the simple fact that you are able to be with an athlete for his or her whole season. If that athlete gets injured, you get to be the first one to provide medical attention on the field or court and see him or her through the whole injury and recovery process.

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