Strength coach Carl Kochan earned the Commissioner’s Trophy alongside the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 and 2012 World Series. Pathologist Shelly Frazier powerlifted her way to six women’s world records. Adrienne Berman double-times it as a fitness trainer and firefighter/paramedic. Some of America’s greatest athletes trained with Matt Kee, and the excitement of Sunday night fuels David Jantzi’s NFL career with the Chicago Bears.
From ballfields and weight rooms, ATSU’s power people share unique sports healthcare experiences. Connected by the desire to be better and help others go faster and get stronger, they provide healthcare to competitive athletes and are athletes themselves. And like those they train, they don’t like to lose.
On Oct. 29, the San Francisco Giants made World Series history. Narrowly beating the Kansas City Royals 3-2 in Game 7, the Giants secured their third championship in the last five seasons. It was a great night to be a Giant. And, according to Carl Kochan, second-best was never an option.
The 2014 Fall Classic wasn’t Kochan’s first brush with the crown. When the Giants dominated the 2012 World Series after sweeping the Detroit Tigers, Kochan knew he had the coolest job in the world. Kochan, the Giants’ head strength and conditioning coach, literally took his last final to complete his human movement degree at ASHS one day before the World Series.
Kochan admits it was not easy keeping up with 18-hour days of spring training while working on his degree at ATSU. © San Francisco Giants
With a smile on his face and excitement in his voice, Kochan, MS, ’12, recalls that other than his wedding day, winning the World Series—twice—were the best days of his life.
The 2012 win came during his first year in the Major Leagues, but it’s not a victory he takes for granted. Alongside the players, a competitive Kochan works seven days a week from Valentine’s Day to Nov. 1. There are no holidays. No weekends. No sick days. He’s on the field, working all 25 ball players individually and as a team to improve their craft.
He explains that at this level of professional ball he can’t treat an outfielder the same as a catcher; he can’t treat a starting pitcher the same as a closer. A 32-year-old player has different requirements than a 23-year-old player. Kochan goes through a needs analysis and looks at everyone’s prior health history. He always thinks about how he can keep his team healthy. Sometimes, he says, it’s not even about strength training. Sometimes, it’s about flexibility, seeing a massage therapist, and sometimes, it’s about rest.
The all-time constants in Kochan’s world are baseball and fitness. Prior to joining the Giants, Kochan served in the same capacity in the minors with the Fresno Grizzlies. He spent a year with the Boston Red Sox organization and two years with the Seattle Mariners. Further back, Kochan was a starry-eyed kid from Chicagoland, playing outfield for the SIU Salukis while earning a BS in exercise science. His personal experience means the world’s best athletes can trust Kochan not only to provide the best healthcare, but also to catch a 90-mile-per-hour pitch.
Facing the grind of 162 games always hits mid-season. The sport is mentally, physically, and emotionally challenging. Add to that performing on national TV in front of millions of fans. It becomes Kochan’s challenge to keep players functioning at their highest levels. As their strength coach, he says he has to pick and choose when to motivate the guys or step back and let them do their thing.
A grueling schedule has Kochan at the clubhouse for 12-hour days. Some nights it’s midnight before he calls it quits. But, he says, that’s what it takes to win. The Giants’ hard work continues to pay off.
And he wouldn’t change a thing.
“There are only 30 of my job in the world, and I have one of them,” Kochan says. “I don’t drive to the office. I don’t drive to a gym. I drive to a baseball field every day. And I get paid for it. It’s the coolest thing in the world.”
Pink and powerful
Adrienne Berman is the epitome of modern day fitness. A personal trainer at a popular fitness studio in Arizona, her super-sporty lifestyle is filled with anything and everything outdoorsy—snowboarding, wakeboarding, and riding quads. Oh, and she also is a firefighter and paramedic for the Tempe Fire Department.
Berman was a high school athlete, playing fast-pitch softball and badminton and running track and field. © Billy Aguire
By appearances, Berman, MS, ’10, is the poster child of health and wellness. But her journey hasn’t always been picture perfect.
Just a few years ago, Berman was an undergraduate, fervently studying, and living off junk food. She had gained 40 pounds when she decided she needed to get fit fast. She joined a gym, stuck to a clean diet, and set her sights on the NPC Western Nationals, a bodybuilding competition.
She shredded the weight, but it wasn’t easy.
Five years prior, Berman broke her back in five places during a four-wheeling accident. Her doctor said she would never be able to do strenuous activity again. As if that wasn’t bad enough, during her recovery her doctor discovered she was facing an even bigger challenge—kidney cancer. Her dreams of trying out for the fire department seemed dashed by setback after terrible setback.
Despite a grim prognosis, a resilient Berman persevered. Robbed of one of her kidneys, she recovered from surgery, rehabbed, and one year later had a spot with the City of Tempe.
With a boost of confidence, and more determined than ever, Berman was dedicated to fitness training and competed in the 2012 NPC show. Although she didn’t place as well as she hoped, she reached her goals. Her physical transformation was so inspiring, Berman pursued another dream of becoming a personal trainer so she could help others reach their own fitness goals.
Berman now manages a tough schedule between two careers. At the fire department, she works a 24-hour shift every other day for six days followed by four days off. When she’s not at the firehouse, Berman is at the gym. Days at the fitness center are 12 hours long. On weekends, she runs boot camps at the park or high school. In addition to juggling work, clients, and on-the-job stresses, Berman recently married and found out she is expecting her first child.
“I don’t want to be ‘the’ best, I just want to be ‘my’ best and better than I was yesterday,” she says on how life’s challenges motivate her.
As for her human movement degree, Berman uses her ascertained skills daily—on clients, co-workers, and herself.
“I use my degree on myself constantly by preventing injuries,” she explains. “And if I do happen to injure myself, I know how to rehab myself back to health, as well as when to take it easy or call it quits.”
With pink athletic gear and blonde hair blazing, Berman may look every bit the girly girl. But make no mistake, she is capable—mentally and physically—to overcome any obstacle set in front of her.
Cool fall nights, gridiron lights, two battling football teams, and millions of fans. There’s nothing like a Sunday night NFL game to get your adrenaline pumping—especially when you’re standing on the sidelines with the Chicago Bears. With a watchful eye on the team, assistant athletic trainer and physical therapist David Jantzi’s week has been building up to this moment.
Jantzi makes a sideline decision during an August game against Philadelphia. © Bill Smith/Chicago Bears Football Club
Good thing Jantzi, ATC, PT, DPT, CSCS, ’06, isn’t a big fan of the regular 8-5 job. In the NFL, you don’t leave until the work is done. At the team headquarters at Halas Hall in the suburbs of Chicago, Jantzi strolls into the gym at a coffee-demanding 4:30 a.m. He is dedicated to getting his own workout in before the Bears show up.
Following his workout, his typical day begins with treating injured players. At 10 a.m., players head to practice. After lunch, Jantzi treats more players, goes to meetings, and finishes paperwork. His evaluation of players helps the head ATC determine if physicals, MRIs, or X-rays are needed for the injured. On Thursday nights, the players get massages.
Five hours before game day kick-off, he helps set up the field. With three hours to go, players come in for treatments, taping, and warmups.
The rush starts when the game begins.
“I am driven by the sport and the setting,” says Jantzi. “I have something to be prepared for every week.”
Monday after a game, he says, is the most hectic day of the week. The big questions: Are these guys going to be out? Are they ready to go? Is this long term?
Jantzi assesses the damage and reports to the head ATC who gives the coaches the best prognosis about where players are going to be before the next game. Between MRIs, treatments, and getting seen by specialists, Jantzi grabs as much information as possible to help the head ATC decide if a player needs moved.
“I love the rehab portion,” he says. “I like being able to take a hurt player to getting back on the field. In the clinical setting you don’t get that. You get them to a certain point, but then they have to take their program and run with it. Here, we’re directly involved with getting them back on the field.”
Thankfully, though, rehab isn’t the norm. Jantzi happily reports that the majority of his work revolves around prevention and education.
Although he’s only been with the Bears since spring, Jantzi says he already loves his job. More than anything, he’s found his competitive nature pushes him to always be better.
“I don’t want to get stuck in my ways,” he says. “I want to keep learning and develop my skills so I can offer the best treatment and prevention for these guys.”
The Dr. Kee way
Bring-your-kid-to-work days are common for Matt Kee. With nine years in as the physical therapist and athletic trainer at Texas A&M football, Kee, PT, DPT, LAT, ATC, ’05, says spending time with his 4-year-old daughter in the athletic training room helps him keep the all-important work/life balance that makes his hectic seven-day-a-week schedule manageable.
Dr. Kee assists an injured Aggie off the field. © Texas A&M athletics
Not to be misled by his affinity for fun, Dr. Kee is dual-credentialed with athletic training and physical therapy degrees. Trying to be the best, staying current, learning new things, and never reaching complacency are his goals. dr. kee’s way His work ethic is evidenced through long days at some of the country’s best training facilities.
From August to January, Dr. Kee’s busiest day is typically a Tuesday and begins at 7 a.m. First are morning treatments, followed by rehabs, then the pre-practice routine: taping, bracing, treatments. Then it’s more rehabs and practice from 4-6 p.m. Post-practice treatments take nearly another hour. But the days get shorter as the week goes on and the Aggies gear up for a Saturday game.
“I love being around athletes,” Dr. Kee says. “It’s rewarding to help athletes recover from injury and watch them return to a high level of competition. And, if they are fortunate enough to play at the professional level after coming back from injury, it really makes me feel good to watch them succeed.”
Dr. Kee has worked with many great athletes— those who have excelled at the college, professional, and Olympic levels. He recently spent three years working with 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel (the first freshman ever to win the award), who is now an NFL quarterback.
“Working with Johnny was something else,” says Dr. Kee. “He is a fantastic athlete and is one of the most competitive athletes I have ever worked with.”
Having himself been a competitive athlete in high school (ice hockey and soccer), Dr. Kee easily empathizes when players are hurt. It’s also easier to share in the joy of winning, which, he says, also helps ease the time commitment it takes being on staff with the Aggies: “When your team wins, it’s worth it.”
From the bleachers of Kyle Field, fans go wild for the maroon and white. With all the game day excitement in Aggieland, it’s easy to forget how much time and effort the players and athletic department devote to the sport. Training, rehab, class, practice. Repeat.
When he is searching for motivation and inspiration, the fun-loving Dr. Kee holds tight to these words of wisdom: Don’t be afraid to fail. He was taught by his parents, whom he says he owes most of his success, that you can do what you want as long as you work hard and don’t give up; failure is one of life’s best lessons.
Fun and hard work—it’s the Dr. Kee way.
It’s 8:15 a.m. and Shelly Frazier gets an emergency call to rapidly diagnose an OR biopsy. She calmly excuses herself from conversation and promises her pathology residents she’ll be back in 10.
Dr. Frazier bench pressed a world record 70.5 kg (155 pounds) for her age, gender, and weight class (up to 122 pounds) at the World Drug-Free Powerlifting Federation in Boston in October 2012. Not just a competitor, Dr. Frazier also is an international judge for the WDFPF. © Rob Hill/University of Missouri
As director of surgical pathology and associate residency program director of pathology at University of Missouri (MU) in Columbia, Frazier, DO, ’98, is used to doing the heavy lifting—and not just in the lab. Dr. Frazier, who bench presses more than her body weight, has humbly amassed six official women’s powerlifting world records.
Dr. Frazier splits her days between the gym and her job. For the past 10 years, she has gazed through a microscope, searching for signs of disease hidden within tissue blocks smeared categorically on a glass slide. MU operates a large cancer center, so it’s up to Dr. Frazier to make significant clinical decisions every day. Oftentimes, she provides a patient’s final diagnosis. It’s that kind of mental pressure and cerebral exercise that motivates Dr. Frazier for 5 a.m. cardio workouts and after-work weight lifting. Sports are her outlet and always have been.
Running and lifting weights increased her sports performance, and perform in sports she has—volleyball, basketball, softball, soccer. But, weightlifting itself is Dr. Frazier’s strength. Since 2012, she has earned six women’s powerlifting world records in the World Drug-Free Powerlifting Federation. She also holds 20-plus American records, all weight and age class restricted.
Dr. Frazier says her athlete’s brain pushes her to finish well, whatever the cost. She has, however, battled joint problems stemming from early onset arthritis and a 2009 injury. In spite of the agony, she has completed an ultramarathon, numerous triathlons, qualified for three Boston Marathons, and ran two—including the 2013 race, finishing just 10 minutes before the terrorist bombings.
Her incessant joint pain led to a partial knee replacement in June, but Dr. Frazier is confident her athleticism and committed lifting provided several additional years of activity.
While she’s excited to have transformed into a “bionic woman” of sorts, she says she is more “jazzed” about a unique fitness group with which she works called Older Women On Weights (OWOW), a cohort of age 40-plus women who compete in powerlifting.
Forget diamonds—squats, bench presses, and deadlifts are apparently a girl’s best friend. According to Dr. Frazier, OWOW’s unofficial physician, the women are not only adding substantial physical activity to otherwise sedentary lifestyles, but also have successfully increased their bone density at a time when it’s especially important.
Dr. Frazier’s medical knowledge matchlessly intersects with her love of strength training. It’s something Dr. Frazier has known all along—women look and feel better when they’re stronger. And, an active lifestyle means a better quality of life, particularly in the later years.
“Cardiovascular fitness and strength are so important to keep you moving the rest of your life,” Dr. Frazier says from the humming laboratory while daydreaming about the weight bench. “Weightlifting allows you to have a good quality of life.”