Throughout Jose Bonilla’s nine years as a head athletic trainer at Skyline, he has helped many student-athletes bounce back from injury and back in.
During Bonilla’s time at San Francisco State University, he was certain he wanted to go down the computer science career route, but he stumbled upon the pre-physical therapy program. From there, his love and passion for athletic training sparked.
“My education career started at San Francisco State,” Bonilla said. “I started as a computer science major but then I had to reevaluate my path. As I was going through my general education courses I fell upon the pre-physical therapy program. After that moment, I started my first athletic training course and that’s when I knew this (athletic training) is what I wanted to be for the rest of my life.”
Bonilla went on to graduate with a degree in physical education and continued working hard to get certified by The National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA). Soon after, he became the Head Athletic Trainer at City College of San Francisco for 22 years and then made his way to Skyline College.
Injury happens quite frequently in a student-athletes career, but no matter the extent of injuries, Bonilla is there to help every student-athlete to get back on their feet.
“Traditionally what we do here is we do all the medical requirements for athletics,” Bonilla said. “We start off from initiating with physicals so we are making sure the athlete is physically fit to participate in sports to working closely with coaches and athletes. Working with any deficiencies that the athlete might have to get them to the point where they can perform at their best. We are the first line of defense.”
Bonilla’s job and love for athletic training are equally shared with his Assistant Athletic Trainer, Kayla Crittendon.
Crittendon started as an assistant athletic trainer nine years ago before switching from Half Moon Bay High School to Skyline.
“Jose and Kayla are great at what they do because they know what is going on,” said Jackson Henley, a member of the baseball team. “I had an ankle injury a little while back and I was able to do physical therapy in the training room. The energy they give is such a welcoming one that makes everything go by quick and smooth.”
Even during the offseason, the athletic room is busy and full of student-athletes seeking Bonilla’s assistance.
“It is still busy, but we are not as confined with games,” said Bonilla. “We are still caring for our athletes and there are athletes that just got hurt and are still recovering. Not only are we working with continuing students but also getting new players, students that just transferred to Skyline. We get them indoctrinated on how things are done”.
As spring 2020 approached, Bonilla would face a challenge he had never endured before: the COVID-19 pandemic. The uncertainty at the beginning of the global pandemic brought up a lot of questions on how Bonilla was going to do his job that requires in-person services and bring it to a virtual form.
Bonilla first thought of telehealth, which is a way to seek medical assistance virtually.
“We quickly understood that it was going to change how we do our job,” Bonilla said. “Realistically, telehealth came to my mind and it was something very useful to us that we used early on. We still frequently communicated with our coaches and student-athletes and help guide them through things to help them.”
Telehealth changed the way Bonilla was able to do his job. This provided two different ways a student-athlete can get the help they need. The transition of coming back to in-person services was the easy part for Bonilla as the Athletic Training Center returned in October 2020.
To create that smooth transition, Bonilla made sure protocols were taking place like daily check-ins for symptoms and temperature checks.
“To me, Jose is more than just our trainer and more than just another worker at Skyline,” said Cass Stanley, a player on the women’s basketball team. “There are many times I’ve gone in there when I wasn’t having a good day because I just feel at home. I can simply get heated or go in there contemplating everything and Jose would help me the best way he could for both situations. He has always made me feel supported and heard. He has always cared from the beginning. I don’t think he truly understands how much he has helped me through this year mentally and physically.”
The number of years of hard work Bonilla and Crittendon put into the athletic training program at Skyline have impacted many student-athletes’ lives and created bonds they will never forget.
“Jose and Kayla have helped me through so much over the past two years,” said Drew Aspillera, a member of the baseball team. “I did experience a couple of injuries so I was able to develop a good relationship with them. They always go above and beyond expectations every single time I need something. I don’t think athletics would be where they are without Jose and Kayla. For that, I say thank you so much to them.”