Longtime athletic trainer takes a holistic approach with Badger student athletes.
Going to work every morning is hardly a chore for Henry Perez-Guerra, an athletic trainer for the UW Badgers. After growing up around his father, a physician, it felt natural to Perez-Guerra to combine medicine with his love of sports.
As he works with student athletes each day, his role in their lives is not limited to maintaining strength and caring for athletic injuries. “I think athletic training is a multi-faceted position,” he says. “I’m dealing with students who are eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old, and you have to help them out like any other college students. … They have other issues going on.”
Now in his twenty-first year as a UW athletic trainer, Perez-Guerra is known for caring about students’ physical and mental health. “Most of the people I work with are very competitive individuals,” he says. “You have to help them integrate athletics with school and taking care of their bodies.”
When senior forward Mike Bruesewitz x’13 suffered a serious injury during a basketball team workout in October 2012, Perez-Guerra demonstrated how he has earned the reputation as a compassionate figure in athletes’ lives: by saying the very thing they don’t want to hear.
“Part of our job is to say no or to slow them down and speed them up,” says Perez-Guerra of student athletes, acknowledging that it’s one of the most difficult aspects of his profession. “[Bruesewitz] wants to be on the floor and help his teammates, so I had to tell him he had to back down a bit to get better.”
Putting on the brakes in a situation when an athlete is highly motivated to compete requires Perez-Guerra to build a relationship — and doing so also builds trust that lasts long after college.
“It’s always a pleasure when [student athletes] come back to say hi,” he says. “You spend four years of your life with them and they move on, but I get to see what they’ve accomplished in life, [and hear about] their families and that everything is going well for them.”
The relationships he develops over time is the most rewarding part of the job, he says, adding that he sees himself as someone who is available to student athletes, whether they need help with athletics or their personal lives.
“[Perez-Guerra] is unbelievable,” says Bo Ryan, head coach for men’s basketball. “If he isn’t in the [Badger] Nation, I don’t know who is. I’ve seen him handle so many things well. He does so much for our student athletes, and we’re lucky to have him.”