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Trainer Tony Hughes to be inducted into
Vallejo Sports Hall of Fame

By Thomas Gase, Vallejo Times-Herald

For decades, many athletes put their trust in Tony Hughes. Whether it was a bump, a bruise or something more serious, they looked to the trainer to help heal them and make them perform better.

But of all the cuts Hughes had to make over his career both locally and nationally, the one he will make this spring he might enjoy the most.

In March the three-time National High School Trainer of the Year will enter the Vallejo Sports Hall of Fame. Although the 1962 St. Vincent High graduate is already in the World Sports Medicine Hall of Fame, he still feels thrilled to head into the one in Vallejo. Hughes was told by his former classmate, John Stevens.

“I was very pleased. I’m already in the World Sports Medicine Hall of Fame, but it’s also nice to come home and make the one in Vallejo. I grew up in Vallejo and it’s always been my hometown.”

Hughes is no stranger to the Vallejo Sports Hall of Fame. He was already a member when he was inducted as part of the 1960-61 St. Vincent High football team in 2008 and his brother, Pat Hughes, was enshrined in 2014 for auto racing.

Tony competed in sports at a very early age in Vallejo, as his father, Leon Hughes, assisted with the building of Wilson Park.

“I played there all the time, especially in the summer,” Tony Hughes said. “Back in the day we would ride our bikes up to the park in the morning and we wouldn’t leave until it got dark. I also played a lot of flag football and basketball.”

Although Tony did well as an athlete, his true calling came helping others as a trainer. He first became a trainer when he went to the U.S. Air Force in 1963.

“I was a medical specialist for rescue’s there and I worked in a hospital a lot,” Hughes said. “I already had the experience with sports so it was only natural that sooner or later I would combine the two and have a mingling of the two careers.”

Hughes said in the 1960’s, there wasn’t a lot of trainers and not much was known about the profession.

“I was on the doorstep back when the door just started to open,” Hughes said. “Not everyone knew what a trainer was. I once had a person come up to me after learning I was a trainer and they said, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you had horses here.’ I had to tell them, that no, I wasn’t a horse trainer I was an athletic trainer.”

Hughes had plenty of success as a trainer in Southern California, as he was with the Riverside City College football team from 1976 to 1996. He was also a high school trainer for Corona High (1973-1976), Fontana (1976-1983) and Claremont (1983-2000). Hughes was named the High School Trainer of the Year by the American Athletic Trainer Association in 1982, and in 1988 and 1992 was named the National High School Trainer of the Year by American Sports Medicine.

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Hughes also had success on the national level as he was the trainer for track and field, marathon and baseball in the 1984 Olympic Games, which were held in Los Angeles. He was also the trainer for the track and field U.S. team in 1996.

“I really enjoyed being the trainer in 1984. I had the chance to work with athletes such as Carl Lewis and Edwin Moses,” Hughes said. “But it was also difficult because I would have been the trainer as well in 1980, but the United States boycotted. So I had to see all these athletes that would have made it in 1980, just miss out four years later. Sometimes you wait four more years, but you don’t realize you’ll never make that peak again. You lose ten tenths of a second and that can make the difference. So it was a mix of emotions.”

Hughes says that although he hasn’t been a trainer since 2000 when he retired, he still keeps up with the news on issues dealing with his profession. He’s glad to see more high schools in California beginning to hire full-time trainers.

“I’ve kept up a lot,” Hughes said. “We’ve come a long way since the 1970’s when high school football players would just choose their helmet out of a big pile. That’s the most important piece of equipment in all of sports because once you get an injury there (the brain) that’s an injury for life. If you don’t use it right a helmet can be an instrument for injury, not protection.”

Hughes also didn’t shy away from his opinion in light of the recent news concerning Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar, the former American gymnastics doctor that was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison on Wednesday for multiple sex crimes. The seven-day hearing drew more than 150 young women to publicly confront him and speak of their abuse.

“I was flabbergasted at the news,” Hughes said. “As a trainer I had around 10 student trainers and I told all of them if you are a male trainer with a female, you have to have another female in the room with you. It’s not a rule, but a code of ethics. If you are not abiding by that code, why are you in the profession? As a trainer, you’re going to be putting your hands on the athletes. There is a trust that comes with the job. The athletes expect that of you. The parents expect that of you and you should expect that out of you.”

Hughes, who now lives in Santa Rosa, is excited for his big day in March.

“It’s nice to be acknowledged by your peers. I thoroughly enjoyed watching all the kids grow up,” Hughes said. “I mean I trained fathers, sons and grandsons. When a kid would say, ‘Hey, my grandpa knew you’ that’s when I thought, maybe I’ve been doing this too long.”

 

 
 

Updated 2/08/2018
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