Keeping UH Athletes In The Game

Bobby Curran
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Friday - January 13, 2006
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UH trainer Melody Toth says basketball coach Riley Wallace ‘really cares about the players’
UH trainer Melody Toth says basketball coach Riley
Wallace ‘really cares about the players’

How does this sound as a career?

Sixty hours of work each week, on call every day, no weekends or holidays, must keep up with advancing techniques on prevention and rehabilitation of injuries, and deal with distressed athletes and demanding coaches.

No, it’s not for everybody. But for UH athletic trainer Melody Toth, after 31 years in the business she wouldn’t go back and change a thing.

Toth, 54, currently works with the UH men’s basketball team. Keeping the modern athlete healthy and able to compete is a constant challenge, and we visited about her start in the business.

“I’m from Indiana and went to Indiana University,” says Toth proudly. “I was there when Bob Knight had the young players that would eventually become the 1976 undefeated NCAA champions. I was a student trainer majoring in sports training, taping ankles on Scott May, Kent Benson and that gang.”

After graduation, Toth became a full-time member of the training staff at San Jose State, remaining there for three years. Then, in 1977, Toth accepted a position at the University of Hawaii where she’s been ever since. She has watched as the job has changed over three decades.

“The degree is much more technical than it used to be,” says Toth. “It’s much more specific medically.”

One thing that hasn’t changed is the list of virtues you need to be successful in a sports training career.

“You have to love people, be ready for very long hours, and have a sense of humor,” says Toth. “And you’ve gotta believe that you can get the athletes better.”

Mel, as she is known to just about everybody, was the trainer for Wahine volleyball for many years, and says among the satisfactions are relationships that continue long after playing careers end.

“I still get Christmas cards from just about everybody on the 1986 championship team,” says Toth. “Martina (Cincerova) calls from Czechoslovakia a few times a year.”

Trainers are required to take CEUs - continuing education units - to keep abreast of advancing technology.

“The blend of Eastern and Western medicines has been one of the fascinating developments,” says Toth. “Alternative medicines like acupuncture, shiatsu, titanium products, noni and chiropractic all help to keep athletes healthy or help them heal when they get injured.”

The expertise Toth brings to her job is not lost on the basketball coach.

“Mel is a very good trainer; she loves basketball and understands it,” says Riley Wallace. “She also really cares about the players. She told me I’ve ruined her as a trainer and turned her into a mother.”

Toth has never been one to shy away from extra responsibility. A veteran traveler with more than a million miles flown on United, Toth books the travel for the basketball team. When a team meal is scheduled on the road, Toth often does an advance scout, making sure the team won’t be held up by getting lost.

When I came down with the flu two years ago on a road trip to El Paso, it was Mel knocking on my hotel room to make sure I had medicine and plenty of fluids. When you’re part of the group, Mel is involved.

Her current plan is to retire in December of this year. So what’s next?

“I’m going to build a log cabin near State College, Pa.,” says Toth. “I’m going to work as an administrator at a youth camp there. And I’ve got some part-time offers for training if I can’t stay away. That’s the plan - two acres, the cabin with three fireplaces and a lap pool with Jacuzzi.”

Toth is also working on a book chronicling her career working with UH athletes due next September.

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