MODESTO — When Bob Boswell arrived at Modesto Junior College in the late 1970s, he sported curly brown hair. All these years later, its turned a wavy gray.
Maybe its all those injuries hes treated or the workload from tending to the medical and physical therapy needs of athletes from 21 sports, but Boswell doesnt regret a day.
If you like what you do, it will show in your work, he said.
Boswell, 59, thinks he will step down next spring after his 36th year as MJCs head athletic trainer. Hes the schools second-longest tenured faculty member, but it is his work with U.S. national athletic teams that has gained respect and attention beyond the city limits.
By his count, the Tulare-raised Boswell has traveled to 29 countries and has left the United States 48 times for international competitions. Most of those trips stemmed from his 20-year term as the lead trainer for USA Wrestling and his ongoing 15-year run with USA Gymnastics.
The walls of Boswells office are covered from top to bottom with photographs of sports celebrities such as Bela Karolyi, Larry Holmes, former MJC star Dot Jones of Glee and many others. Last summer in Las Vegas, he received the community college Head Athletic Trainer of the Year award given by the National Athletic Trainers Association.
That said, it is his work at MJC his base that gives him the most satisfaction. Forty-two of his students have become sports trainers at places like Clemson University, Texas, Tennessee, Boise State, UNLV and Pacific. Others have interned with the San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers, then springboarded to other positions.
Through all the summers on the road, he and wife Barbara, high school sweethearts, raised daughter Breane, 28, and son Brandon, 25. Missing some important family time is Boswells only regret.
Are you surprised youve been at MJC so long, and why didnt you move on when you had opportunities?
I could have never envisioned myself staying at any place this long. Everything in this profession is a steppingstone. You prove yourself, you meet people and you move forward. But for me, Modesto has been a special place. My opportunities have come because of me being here and doing 21 sports. Its because of MJC that has let me do all the fun stuff outside of MJC.
Youre very proud of your students whove accomplished great things. What has given you the most satisfaction?
Our Associate of Science in Athletic Training program is offered by only two or three other community colleges in the country. I love all those kids regardless of what they do or become people like Chelsie Morehead, the athletic trainer for the TV show The Biggest Loser, or Kim Detwiler, the trainer for the Texas softball team. I sound like a dad, but I feel that way for them. When you oversee the teams, some have down years while the other sports pick you up. Right now, weve been doing very good. Weve never been this plush success-wise in quite a while. These athletes keep me young. In my head, I feel like Im 19 or 20. Its definitely a fountain of youth. Im a little afraid when I leave all this. Im afraid that Ill become this grouchy guy whos sitting on the porch.
What was your first connection to the national sports scene?
I had been working with the Chicago Cubs developmental teams and I got some reviews from doing that and was asked to be the trainer at the track and field and equestrian events at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. They switched me later to wrestling, and that opened more doors for me. I was the host trainer for the world at those Olympics. It was a fantastic experience, one of the best of my life. I still get goosebumps when I hear the Olympic music. After the Olympics, I thought I could never come close to an experience like that again. But then I was asked to go to Monaco with USA Track & Field. I thought they had asked me to go to Santa Monica. I had not even left California until I was 23. It also started for me during the 32 Modesto Relays I did with athletes like Carl Lewis and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Ive always liked the underdog. Its great to see people like the Dot Jones of the world do so well in sports and entertainment. I was in touch with her during all her wrist-wrestling world championships, but as the person more than the athlete.
If your son wanted to play football, would you have let him?
I would suggest football for my son or any sport really, for my children, as long as the kids finish what they start. I have no problem with football. The life lessons you learn in all sports are so great. Sports shows you how to deal with life. I understand the significance of the things that could happen. Im aware of them more than most people. But Im also aware of the preparation and all the knowledge that is out there. Thanks to the Internet, coaches are so much more aware of the risks. Today, you can send kids to the weight room with a designed program. You dont just leave it up to them. Theres also great equipment out there. There are inherent risks in anything you do in life. If my kids wanted to play football, I would cherish the moment they were there and make sure they do everything in their power to lessen the risks. Life is not a guarantee.
How did you get involved in sports medicine?
I didnt know sports medicine existed. I took art classes. I love art. I went to College of the Sequoias and took every art class they had ... and eventually went to San Jose State because they had a great graphic arts program. But I wasnt taking anything else and finally people sat me down and said, Bob, this is not how it works. So I had a semester from hell with 28 units of general ed. I finished at San Jose State and got a job in Tulare doing some painting and billboards. I spent a summer in a cubicle and was miserable. I realized I needed to be around people. ... I enrolled at Fresno State and took classes in many different areas. One of the classes was Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries. I took that class and said, Wow. I told them, Sign me up. I never had a desire to coach. My mentor at Fresno State was the longtime trainer Paul Schechter. I realized that you get to help people and live their dreams with them. When they got hurt and thought it was all over and you put them back together again, you have an impact, and they remember you. You were there when they needed you the most. There is great value and satisfaction in that.