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U.S. Men's Soccer Team Counts on Titan Alum

July 10, 2014

When Ivan Pierra '93, '99 (B.A. physical education, M.S. kinesiology) was a Cal State Fullerton student, he never imagined how his degree and expertise would lead to traveling around the world with some of the nation's best athletes.

As head athletic trainer for the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team, he most recently accompanied the team to Brazil to play in the World Cup. In fact, he worked at the World Cup games in 1994, 1998 and 2010, as well as this year. He did not attend the games in 2002 and 2006 because of his commitments as head athletic trainer with the LA Galaxy team.

"Brazil was awesome," he said. "For the most part, everything was handled very well and went smoothly. Brazil lives and breathes soccer — especially when it comes to their national team. Every time the Brazilian team would play, it was like a national holiday. All the stores, except for the bars, would close. We are talking about an entire country focused on a soccer game!"

As the head athletic trainer for the American team, Pierra put in long hours working with the players and coaches, balancing their personalities and expectations.

"It can get challenging," he admitted. "The physical demands of the World Cup are so high and everyone is watching. The players want to continue to play no matter what. I always have to play the bad guy when I think players are putting themselves at risk. It can take long days and creative recovery techniques to keep them going. Another aspect of my job is keeping the players focused on taking care of themselves. But the surprising part is that my career has never felt like a job. I love what I do and I feel very blessed."

Pierra decided to pursue athletic training since it combined his love of sports and medicine.

"I had the best learning and growing experiences as a student and grad assistant at CSUF," he said. "I had the chance to work with head athletic trainer Jerry Lloyd and assistants Julie Max and Chris Mumaw. (Max is now head athletic trainer.) They gave me the best foundation to pursue a career as an athletic trainer. Actually, there were a lot of faculty members that I should thank for preparing me for this incredible journey."

Pierra claims that soccer "found him." In 1992, the LA Salsa pro soccer team was founded — the team's home field was CSUF at the beginning — and he was offered the job of athletic trainer. He later became the head athletic trainer for the LA Galaxy. Then, U.S. Soccer opened a full-time position in 2007 and he was hired.

"I've worked hard in every position I've had and made great connections," he said. "When I meet with students today, I tell them to become as proficient as possible in their basic duties, remember that it's about the athlete (not the trainer), realize that athletes have different personalities and you may need to approach their care differently, keep learning because coaches and players will ask all kinds of questions, and enjoy the journey."

Tags:  Titan Pride