By Thea O’Dell
The age-old saying that behind every great athlete is a great support system has proven to be true time and time again at Cal Poly Pomona with the hard work provided from its team of dedicated athletic trainers.
Head Athletic Trainer Ruem Malasarn, Assistant Athletic Trainer Alexis Barnagian and Assistant Athletic Trainer Mike Anderson continue to follow their passion and keep every Bronco student-athlete healthy and ready to compete all while maintaining their longtime friendships with each other.
Malasarn, Barnagian and Anderson’s 20-year friendship has become a huge asset to the staff, and it shows in the success of the athletes from every sport on campus. The trio was part of the student athletic-trainer program together in their undergraduate careers at CPP, and even after parting ways for different job opportunities after graduating, they have come together almost by fate and are now back “home” on staff with each other.
“Honestly, one of the greatest parts about this job is being able to come in everyday and work side by side with my best friends,” said Barnagian. “It’s essential that we work well together and we are always willing to help one another in any way possible.”
Malasarn, who is on his 12th year in his current position, is responsible for the health and fitness of more than 200 student-athletes, along with supervising the drug testing and drug prevention programs on-campus.
In regards to his personal academic achievements, they are abundant and evident in his fieldwork. He received a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology with a minor in communication from CPP, a master’s degree from Fresno State University and earned his certification from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and was certified as a strength and conditioning specialist.
Malasarn discovered his love for the athletic training profession from a combination of life experiences.
Being an athlete growing up, he realized early on that he wanted to be a part of something that included sports as a lifetime career. Also, his mother, a nurse, continued to encourage him to do something in the healthcare world, and, while he knew that hospitals and doctor offices weren’t the environment he was looking for, he knew he could find a perfect combination of the two.
After further education on sports medicine, Malasarn found his calling in athletic training.
“I can’t say it enough how appreciative I am to be doing something that I love so much with the people I really care about,” said Malasarn. “It’s so rewarding to be able to see a team succeed and form such close bonds with them.”
He says that he fully realized the appreciation the athletes have for the trainers after a former student-athlete, who had recently been competing overseas, came back to CPP and visited him first.
Additionally, Malasarn has taken his passion for the wellness of athletes one step further by publishing an article on the characteristics of successful athletic training in the Journal of Athletic Training and spoke on the same topic at the National Athletic Trainers’ Clinical Symposium in 2001.
Anderson, who is now in his sixth year as an assistant athletic trainer for the Broncos, earned two letters while playing soccer for CPP before pursuing his current career. He earned his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology at CPP and a master’s in the same field from Chico State University.
As a former student-athlete, he knows the importance of staying in top condition while competing. He found himself wanting to be on the other side helping developing athletes as soon as he became involved in the student athletic training program on campus.
“It’s just so much fun being able to say that I’m back ‘home’ with my best friends,” said Anderson. “I find it to be so fortunate that we get to work with phenomenal coaches and athletes on a daily basis” We have such a tight-knit staff that I couldn’t even imagine leaving here.”
Anderson cannot stress enough how rewarding it is to see countless Bronco athletes make full recoveries and perform at their highest levels with their help on and off the field or court. While he served as a summer intern for the San Francisco 49ers in 2005, he also says that he could never forget how it felt to be a part of the success the Bronco men’s basketball team had in 2010 when they won the Division II National Championship.
As an assistant athletic trainer for CPP, Barnagian is entering her sixth year in her second stint on staff. Also a former student-athlete for the Broncos, Barnagian played two years for the women’s volleyball team and even became a defensive specialist on the 1994 NCAA West Regional team.
“There’s nothing better than being able to enjoy the two things that you love doing the most,” said Barnagian. “For me, it happens to be helping others and being involved in athletics and still feeling like I’m a part of the teams.”
She received her bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and health promotion from CPP and found herself taking multiple job opportunities in the field she loved at places such as the University of Nevada in Reno, a physical therapy rehabilitation center, the Reno Silver Sox, an independent baseball team in the Golden Baseball League and, of course, CPP.
She too, cannot express enough gratitude to be working with her best friends for as long as she has all while getting to be on and off the court/field with athletes that she’s helped make an improvement in on a daily basis.
As Malasarn puts it, “It’s incredible, being able to work with my best friends of 20 years. We’re not just staff, we’re family.”
Trainers play essential role behind the scenes
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