TRAINER TO THE CHAMPS
Japanese Woman a Pioneer in Her Field (March 22, 2006)
There is a Japanese female trainer employed by an American pro football team in the NFL. Her name is Iso Ariko. It is rare enough to have a female trainer looking after the physical condition of the athletes who compete at America's most popular sport, but being Japanese makes Iso doubly unique. As a member of the staff that supports the Pittsburgh Steelers, winners of the 2006 Super Bowl on February 5, Iso received a shiny Super Bowl ring, awarded to players and staff of the champion team.
|Iso Ariko (Kyoko Watanabe/NFL JAPAN)
A Double First
In the 2002 season, the Steelers hired Iso, then a trainer for Portland State University, as the first full-time female trainer in the team's 82-year history. Iso was originally a basketball player in Tokyo, but after a knee injury ended her playing career, she decided to use her sports background to study sports medicine.
She did her graduate studies at San Jose State University, followed by a one-year internship with the Steelers. During her internship, her skills were recognized, and she became a member of the team's staff. Though Iso was the first woman to work as the team's trainer, not to mention the first Asian, neither she nor team affiliates showed any hesitation in making the move. A member of the training staff praised her excellent medical knowledge and her passion for her work and said that she is widely liked by everyone in the Steelers organization.
An Important Behind-the-Scenes Role
Iso's main work involves treating injured athletes and helping with their rehabilitation. She is always close at hand and running around without rest. Some may have seen her on TV passing out sports drinks to the players. During the season, her schedule is hectic and she gets no time off. After games, she massages each of the players as they come into the training room. She also records the details of the athletes' treatment process in the computer, administers injections, and accompanies players to MRI examinations.
"Getting players who don't want to come to the training room to do so is tough, but when players I've treated heal and are able to get back on the field, I truly feel glad to be doing this work," said Iso.
Thanks in part to the addition of star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh's record has improved over the four years that Iso has been with the team. At the Super Bowl, an event that draws global attention, the Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks to win their first championship in 26 years. Though the team was fraught with injuries earlier in the season, they were virtually injury free heading into the Super Bowl, evidence of the significant role played by Iso and the training staff.
Around the time that Iso joined the Steelers, there were around 30,000 trainers in the US, including high schools and universities. Of this number, some 1,500 were women. However, the only full-time female trainers other than Iso active in the four major sports (baseball, football, basketball, and ice hockey) were the few working in the NBA. Iso is the first to be a part of a championship team. "I don't believe it. I was happy just to be able to get to the Super Bowl, but to actually win… My father came from Tokyo to watch the game, and was happy for me. I'm a happy person," said a tearful Iso.
If she keeps working so hard to help the Steelers' players stay fit, it may not be the last time that Iso tastes success.
Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.