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Head Trainer more than ace bandages

by Chuck Cordill, Sports editor


Yulynn Ellison is having a rough week. She’s nursing a strained hamstring. She’s also working on a bruised thigh, a hyper-extended ligament, sore ribs, tennis elbow, sprained ankle, stiff neck, and another ailment that can’t be explained: “it’s just there.” Add to that a family crisis, and she works another job as well.

Ellison deals with these injuries on a regular basis as part of her job as HPU’s Head Athletic Trainer. After four years, she is an integral part of the Sea Warrior’s winning formula: a healer, a confidant, and a pep coach as well.

Yulynn Ellison


“I see my role as making sure our athletes are safe and healthy, both physically and mentally,” Ellison said. “I try to treat the whole person. Whether it be injuries or life issues, I work along side the coaches in a team effort to address the needs of our student athletes.”

Ellison earned her Masters Degree in School Counseling, and has also worked as an athletic trainer at UH-Manoa, Chaminade, and private practice. When offered the position of HPU Head Trainer, Ellison was allowed to choose her own assistant. She selected long-time associate Jason Mitnick.

“There’s no way I could keep up with all of this on my own,” said Ellison. “Jason is a great partner and helps to balance the workload.”

Ellison and Mitnick aren’t medical doctors, and don’t pretend to be. Ellison calls it the first line of defense. “I’ve never had to call an ambulance, knock on wood,” said Ellison. “The worse I’ve had to deal with is an ACL (knee ligament) tear. Jason probably dealt with the most serious injury so far, a broken jaw. We provide first aid on the scene, but if it’s serious enough, we refer them to a doctor. We can splint fractures, but they must be set by medical staff. We don’t prescribe medicines either. That’s up to the doctors.”

According to Ellison, particular sports are prone to particular injuries. Baseball and softball players tend to have more shoulder and arm related injuries due to overuse, especially with a lot of double-headers and extended series. Volleyball players suffer a lot of shoulder injuries, as overhead kills take a toll. The most common injury? Ankle sprains, said Ellison.

Treating bodily maladies is only the first step. A trainer can manipulate aching muscles and bones back to health, but there’s a mental aspect to an athlete returning to the field of play. Overcoming an injury is a traumatic experience, and a lack of confidence often accompanies the pain.

“We look at their progress and work them into team drills,” said Ellison. “It’s important that the [injured] athlete still feels a part of the team, and teammates see that the person is actively working back into the lineup. It might be something as simple as retrieving balls during a workout, but it helps everyone involved. If they have to undergo physical rehab, we try to do it visibly during routine drills, so the others can see the effort of coming back.”

Ellison takes pride in helping the athletics staff field competitive squads. She can be seen at the sidelines of any game, shouting encouragement, helping with logistics, doing her part. She’s the first one to treat the nasty scrape, the aching joint. But days after the game, when the contest is but memory, Ellison is still focused on treating the individual. She hears about the pressure of academics, the trials of human relationships. She is the ear for someone who doesn’t feel comfortable talking to coach. She sees athletics much as does head volleyball coach “Tita” Ahuna, as more than points and standings.

“Tita is adamant about teaching ‘life lessons’ through sports,” said Ellison. “Some athletes might have life issues that need to be discussed. I’m not the coach, I don’t pose a threat, so they might respond to me a little differently. I work with the coaches and we have mutual trust. In the end, we end up helping people both on and off the court.”




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