Behind every athlete is a great coach, teammate and trainer. Graduate assistant athletic trainer Phil Littlejohn is the newest addition to the Gators’ sports medicine team behind the athletes.
Originally from rural New York, Littlejohn received a bachelor’s degree in athletic training from Waynesburg University in Pennsylvania. After coming to California, he accepted the position at SF State last August as a graduate student from San Jose State University, where he currently attends and is working towards his master’s degree in athletic training.
Although he is primarily the trainer for men’s soccer and baseball, Littlejohn says he is happy to help anyone who needs treatment.
“I like being able to help people,” Littlejohn said. “One of the most rewarding things is when an athlete can return to full participation after a long rehab process.”
Littlejohn’s role is treating wounds, taping and bracing athletes to prevent injury and developing rehab exercises in order to help with recovery.
However, Littlejohn’s job doesn’t end with physical treatments — his new position comes with various challenges like balancing the schedule of the athletes and traveling with the teams for long periods of time.
Littlejohn follows the two teams he oversees to ensure they are prepared before, during and after their games. That time spent traveling with the teams has created some memories he said he will never forget.
“My favorite memory so far is when the men’s soccer team beat California State Los Angeles during the season with a last second goal,” Littlejohn said.
It was a nail-biting performance that kept him on the tips of his toes.
Traveling with the teams and being in constant, close proximity with athletes naturally creates tight bonds. Junior pitcher Jordan Yrastorza has gone to Littlejohn a few times for a tight hamstring, and said he is more than just a trainer, he is a part of the baseball team.
“I think of Phil as part of the team,” Yrastorza said. “He plays an essential part of the team’s health and he’s a cool guy to have a conversation with, he’s a teammate.”
Yrastorza said he respects Littlejohn for always lending a hand to the athletes, even when it doesn’t involve an injury.
“Whether it’s a team drill or helping with field maintenance, he’s a team guy,” Yrastorza said.
Many athletes like Yrastorza come to Littlejohn on a daily basis seeking his expertise before, during and after practices. Littlejohn said he notices how different sports tend to produce specific player injuries.
“Baseball has more chronic shoulder injuries,” Littlejohn said. “To treat these I do massage, stretching and possible resting the athletes.”
Redshirt junior catcher Johnny Juarez frequently goes to Littlejohn before and after practices for heat and stretching, as well as ice and muscle rubdowns after practice.
“He is able to stretch my lower half before practice to get me loose,” Juarez said. “After practice he will rub out my lower bicep and shoulder as well as ice whatever may be sore.”
Along with Yrastorza, Juarez also believes that Littlejohn is crucial for all athletes at SF State and is a professional, approachable person to have in the athletic department.
“Without Phil I would not be able to perform at my best,” Juarez said. “Along with the equipment they have in the training room, I would say that Phil is one of the most crucial parts to my success.”
Both players agree Littlejohn is a trainer who goes above and beyond to make sure athletes in his care are successful and healthy in their sport.
Although new to The Swamp, Littlejohn continues to take a bite of SF State’s athletic department, and this is just his first step into the training world.