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Copyright 2018 The Arizona Daily Star Jun 12, 2018

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)


Shea Oliver arrived at Hillenbrand Stadium four hours before the Arizona Wildcats' final home softball game of the season. There was plenty of work to do.

Oliver had to make sure each dugout, the umpire's room and the media hospitality tent had enough water, Gatorade and cups for a long, hot day. Players warming up on different ball fields got water and supplies, too. Oliver also had to stock ice towels and ice for injuries.

Oliver then helped trainer Bruce Johnston as he taped Wildcats players, preparing them for the final day of the NCAA Regionals. After the game, she pitched in with the ice and applied the NormaTech compression boot that keep swelling down.

It was a long day for Oliver — and a common one for the dozens of students who assist the UA's athletic trainers. Whether they're washing uniforms or mastering new equipment, the student assistants are a constant presence throughout campus.

The long days don't bother Oliver, who started by working with the football program. Her mom, Leah, has been a fixture among athletic trainers for years.

"Shea doesn't mind sitting there for long, hot, dirty days," Johnston said. "It's not a big deal for her. I've had other students who don't want to come. She's been around sports and has a better insight into it. It's early in the morning to late at night. The job has many hours. It's part of the deal. I think it helps that she understands it. Growing up with a mother who is an athletic trainer and being exposed to it gives her an advantage. She's done it as a young kid, and for her this is a continuation of it."

Leah Oliver is, in fact, one of the area's best. Mountain View High School's longtime trainer was the first woman inducted into the Arizona Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame. Last year, she won the National Athletic Trainers' Association Athletic Trainer Service Award — one of 34 nationally to earn the honor. She leads a student program at Mountain View that has served as a pipeline into the profession. Twenty of her students, including Shea, have won the Lanny Williams Arizona Student Athlete Trainers of the Year award.

"I definitely have big shoes to fill with her," Shea said.

"One of her students has won it the last 10 years and being her daughter and winning it was huge for me. It was awesome; one of my biggest achievements in high school. I got the call during a soccer game and missed it because I was playing. I called back when I was in the car with my mom. We both teared up, we were so excited."

Shea's decision to attend Arizona seems as destined as the one to follow in her mom's footsteps to become an athletic trainer. She grew up around McKale Center as a little girl, attending UA women's basketball games and camps. She still has photos of former UA star Shawntinice Polk hanging in her bedroom.

She is still working with Wildcats athletes and says she enjoys being on-site, interacting with the players. Shea and Arizona's other support staffers have front-row seats to sporting events and often find themselves interacting with athletes at their highest — and lowest — moments.

"I like to be in the action, see what happens, be there for the girls when it happens and after," she said. "Like Bruce, I am here for moral support.

"If they want to talk, he is always open and very approachable. If they are hurting, they can talk to me and get what they need. I like that they feel they can talk to me."

Shea is gaining a new perspective, too. The old prescription of ice and rest doesn't fit every injured athlete.

"There is always more than one way to do something, what works best for one person, doesn't work for another," Johnston said. "I am a big believer of hands-on. Do it, experience it. I have gone through it all — whether it's a treatment, a workout — I've done it or had it done to me. So, I know what it's like."

Shea follows suit. She has been Johnston's test case multiple times this season. She's happy to try it out.

"I want to know what it feels like," said Oliver. "If I do cupping or scrapping on the girls I can tell them this is what happens and how it feels. It's not awful, yet it's not pleasant."

Oliver shares the new ideas with her mom. They recently attended the National Athletic Trainer's Association conference together in Houston.

"When I first started I would call mom and tell her she needed to get some new equipment. It had deeper massage and she finally ordered it," Oliver said. "She said, 'My kid loves it. It's awesome!'

"She still is trying to figure it out. So, she calls me and asks when I have free time to show her how to use it better. It's a lot of fun."

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June 12, 2018


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