JATO Japanese ATC Interview Series Vol.12

The temperature rises rapidly from a chilly day and starts feeling early summer. How are you all doing? By the way, on the 15th of every month, we have introduced the members of JATO who work worldwide on the Facebook and Homepage (Blog section) as an introduction relay project.

We interviewed Mr. Ichihara last month who does a variety of work. For this month, we interviewed Mr. Daisuke Yamaguchi, whom Mr. Ichihara recommended. Please enjoy reading an interview of Mr. Daisuke Yamaguchi, who had worked as an athletic trainer for many years at NBA's San Antonio Spurs!


--- Please tell us how did you become an Athletic Trainer (ATC) ---


I like playing basketball, and there may be the root of being addicted to the NBA since I was a junior high school student. Also, when I was a senior of middle school, about 20 students who were the same age as me visited my middle school from New York. They were there for about a week for the purpose of exchanging culture and playing basketball together. It was a great experience that two of them stayed at my house. I communicated with them in English that I did not think I could do at that time. This experience made my desire to go to the United States stronger. I decided to study in the United States from the idea of "I want to work with basketball" and "I want to speak English." After that, I chose ATC because I wanted to work in the sports field and wanted to be able to support the players by changing the wrong movements or postures. There might be a choice of being a strength conditioning coach, but I also felt that my characteristics or physical strength do not fit it. (laughs)


--- Have you had any difficulties or hard time when you are a student in the United States (or good and happy experience)? ---


During the first two years, I struggled to get used to culture and language in particular. The conversations with international students were fun, and I didn't feel uncomfortable since we were in similar situations. However, I remember that I was strongly hit with the feeling of "a man who cannot do anything" because I was not able to follow communication of American people at all, and I had tended to hesitate. However, I was able to get used to the environment and to communicate with them because I was forced to enter such environment (the path I chose by myself, but as a curriculum). After all, I learned culture from these experiences, and by improving my communication skills, I was able to make friends, play favorite sports, drink alcohol, and make many good memories. Also, since I attended Indiana State University (ISU), which was a university that valued 'professionalism' more than any technology or knowledge. I jumped in with a rough image of 'freedom America' and I was educated about my life and attitude at first. I thought that "the athletic trainer is not the interesting field" many times, but when I went to the outside of ISU as a student intern, the professionalism raised my evaluation from the ATC. After leaving ISU, I still get rough in everything, but I am still working as an ATC because I understand what it means to work as a professional at the very bottom.


--- As an Athletic Trainer (ATC) in the United States, please tell us if you have any events that have impressed ---


 There are a lot of things.... If I have to choose one, it may be a significant failure in the physical check (physical ) of the team before the season when I started working as a full-time ATC. I was working as a Head Athletic Trainer at Austin Toros in the NBA Development League (a minor league of the NBA). My job role included equipment management, travel coordination, strength conditioning, and coordination for the apartment where the players stayed asleep. In the minor basketball league, some players who join the team are decided about a week before the season, so I had a hard time for all preparations.  Moreover, those who were athletic trainers of the previous team did not leave any information about the job (I think that it was just after the team of San Antonio Spurs of NBA just bought Toros because it was also in the period of league change), so I had to work from scratch.

The minimum examination content that has to be performed with physical has been defined by the league, in which the electrocardiogram was required. When I told the hospital and manager about a physical day, who had seen the team since Toros was formed and said, "I've done so many things so far. It's all right.” I arranged the planes for all the players, and I got all the tools for practice starting on the day after the physical. On a physical day,  I was very busy with bringing players to each examination room since physical time zone was only 2 hours for the convenience of the hospital and the cost of the apartment, the team was able to bring the players just on the physical day. Although it passed two hours scheduled, the examination of all the players has ended with the help of the staff at the hospital. After sending the players to the apartment and checking completed documents with doctor and staff,  I said appreciation to staffs and I was able to take a rest. When I saw the clock, it already passed at 9:00 pm.

I found problems when I sent documents to the league and tried to prepare for the next morning practice! There is an echocardiogram document but no ECG document! They might make a mistake between Echocardiogram (echocardiogram) and EKG (Electrocardiogram: electrocardiogram)? !

When I checked a little quick, I was right. The hospital is already closed. When I asked the leader of the league, he said that players would not be able to practice without ECG record! I prepared to be fired from the team immediately. My flop sweat came out. The idea of "I pretend to not to notice with the document and let them practice the next day normally" has passed through my mind many times  ....  After a long conflict (5 minutes or less?), I made up my mind and contacted the GM on that day (who decided to hire me).

Then GM said "Thank you for telling it honestly. I think that it was tough, but did you talk to the head coach? Talk to him and think about the next step what you can do now. You are fine, it will be alright.

And when I contact the head coach, "Oh, it should be hard for you. There is nothing wrong with it. This is a test of how the person "Dice" gets over this challenge. Losing practice time is very painful as a coach. I want to practice in the tomorrow afternoon, can Dice somehow arrange to finish the required exam in the morning? You can do it, I believe you.

My heart was shaken. Thanks to the words of these two people and the help of the doctor and staff at the hospital, I was able to finish the physical the next morning and start the first team practice from the afternoon.

It was a significant failure that I was able to keep in mind that "I cannot leave everything to people; I am responsible for everything." I could get over the difficulties after that because of that.

By the way, GM of those days is currently working as GM of NBA's New Orleans Pelicans, and a head coach of Toros is working as head coach of Utah Jazz. I appreciate that I was able to work with wonderful people! 


---Please tell us the process of how you get to your current job. ( Story of job hunting? etc...) ---


One year after I decided to come back to Japan, I spent a lot of time studying, taking many seminars which I wanted to take. Because I did not know what I could do in Japan, I was thinking about how to bring the evaluation system used in the US to Japan as a business. However, it became difficult to bring as a business to Japan. I was wondering what to do, and I had an opportunity to meet Mr. Koji Murofushi, whom I wanted to see before. My friend from college introduced him to me. When I met him, it turned out that he was looking for an athletic trainer and I was able to get the current university position.

It's not a hardship story (laughs).

I am lucky! 


---What is your current job--- 


Along with teaching training for athletes with the purpose of injury prevention and performance improvement, I summarize and conduct research with Mr. Koji Murofushi.


When I have time, I also instruct at a workshop (training session) focused on basketball for elementary, junior high, and high school students.


--- Please tell me your schedule of the day ---


I usually work on weekdays. Depending on the day, I teach training for athletes about 4-5 hours. After that, I read literature, conduct researches, and have meetings.


--- What is  JATO for Mr. Yamaguchi? ---


I think that it is a place where you can connect with people who had similar experiences and can share similar cultural backgrounds. There is enthusiasm for my work, sometimes it's too much, but there are lots of people who can do something other than that. A comfortable place for me to enter without too much restraint.


--- Please give a message to student who are trying to be athletic trainers ---


We live in a convenient environment by the development of internet and SNS which made us easier to get various information anywhere and anytime. Due to the fact, I feel that we are judged more with what you can do and what you know than before. It is important to get knowledge with our field, and it is an easy tool to measure our ability. However, I believe that the most important thing is “your quality as a person” which cannot see easily.

The attractive point of an athletic trainer is to be able to discuss and plan the treatment with athletes, clients, and patients. The connection is more important than knowledge. There are many people with a different background in the world, and it is necessary to have excellent quality to communicate with them.

Please cherish things you are interested in, things you like, things you enjoy, and experience you get as well as study. After I came back to Japan, I feel that we are able to earn knowledge as an athletic trainer in Japan. But I believe whatever I experienced in the United States such as learning English, failures, and culture improved my quality as a person. I think that the quality which I have is my weapon which others do not have.


The key is “to enjoy!”


Mr. Yamaguchi, thank you for telling us everything about professionalism and valuable experiences which you learn from a big failure. I felt great human power from him.  We will interview a female athletic trainer whom Mr. Yamaguchi says, "She is an impulsive woman, but she is a woman with a stalwart heart." Please look forward to it! !