Javier’s Helpers


Tabitha Mendez

From left to right, junior Allison Leung, senior Hannah Risher and junior Hannah Ho pose together at the football game against Homestead. Photo by Tabitha Mendez

Tabitha Mendez and Stuti Upadhyay

Senior Hannah Risher used to attend every MVHS football game — home games because she was a cheerleader and away games to support the team and watch the game she enjoyed. One day, as she attended an away game at Santa Teresa with her friend, MVHS athletic trainer Javier Margarito saw her and asked if she would like to help him pass out water to the players. 

After that instance, Risher began approaching Margarito, seeking opportunities to volunteer more. Over the years, this has blossomed into Risher helping in the athletic training room four times a week for three to four hours and, despite not being a cheerleader anymore, attending every football game. 

Although Risher has been helping Margarito for longer than any other current MVHS student, she isn’t Margarito’s only mentee. Every year, Margarito says he has a few students —  usually two to four — who reach out to him for volunteer opportunities. Volunteering with Margarito varies from student to student as they have flexibility in regards to how much they volunteer. Some are a part of MVHS’ sports medicine club, while others are not.

Regardless of how students started helping Javier, the volunteers work on a wide variety of duties, including prepping waters, preparing ice bags, taping athletes, cleaning cuts, making Gatorade, cleaning jugs, taking inventory and more. Risher explains that their duties are usually relatively basic and don’t require a lot of training, but are still vital to keeping the athletic room running smoothly. 

“Once we train the volunteers, they take care of the nitty gritty stuff … it’s just stuff that once they get trained and they feel comfortable doing it,” Margarito said. “It’s one more thing off my plate so that I can focus on treating athletes as they come in.

Margarito also stresses that he did not recruit any of his volunteers except Risher, who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. When students do reach out to him, Margarito explains that he rarely, if ever, turns away volunteers because he wants to reward students’ proactiveness.

Certain volunteers, such as Risher and juniors Hannah Ho and Allison Leung, also help at games with Javier, especially football games. At the games, volunteers typically manage waters, shadow Javier, and even come onto the field to treat injuries if they feel comfortable. Risher explains that attending the games is one of her favorite parts of volunteering. 

“We have to run out on the field [if] someone’s injured,” Risher said. “So it’s always a surprise and you don’t know what’s going to happen. I think that’s my favorite thing, anything could happen.”

Even when players are not injured, Risher explains that the volunteers have to be attentive to what is going on on the field and on the sidelines, especially when Margarito is preoccupied. For example, volunteers have to realize when players are trying to hide injuries and continue playing. She also finds fun ways to connect and help with the athletes, such as giving them Skittles while they are on the sideline.

Margarito believes that attending games is not only beneficial for the athletes, but also both to him and the volunteers. The volunteers are able to gain more real-time, hands-on experience, and Javier is able to fine-tune his skills by guiding the volunteers. 

“They’re always asking me questions as to what’s going on in that situation,” Margarito said. “There have been scenarios where we will talk about it and kind of recap as far as something that I’ve seen previously, what I’ve done, what I could have done better … they’re always asking me questions and keeping me on my toes.”

Leung explains that being able to volunteer at games has actually affected her future goals — she found that she loves being on the field and interacting with athletes. 

“Over the summer, I didn’t know if I wanted to be an AT [athletic trainer] or PT [physical therapist],” Leung said. “But now it’s kind of like clear that AT is more interesting for me because it’s more active and you’re not just sitting at a clinic and just doing the same thing every day.”

Beyond learning about sports, Leung believes another benefit to volunteering for Margarito is being able to bond with new people. Besides joking around with the athletes, Leung explains that over the years, she has grown closer to Ho and Risher. Risher agrees; as a four year volunteer, she has been introduced to several different people. 

“It’s always fun when someone new comes in because they always teach you something that you didn’t know before, or a different way of doing something,” Risher said. “I say I’ve become really close with everyone who’s really dedicated themselves to helping.”

Even though Risher and Leung do not necessarily enjoy every task they are responsible for, such as doing the laundry, cleaning and washing equipment; they are both grateful for the opportunity to work with Margarito, as they say he has an extensive sports medicine background. According to Leung, Margarito manages an incredible amount of work, and she is happy to help him however she can. 

“It’s kind of eye opening to see how much stuff outside of [the] Sports Medicine [club] he does,” Leung said. “And I think it’s really helpful in deciding the career pathway you want to do. And if you’re on the field, don’t underestimate being the water girl. It is a hard business. It’s probably the hardest thing to do on the field. But if you’re not doing the waters, always follow Javier because he always is trying to teach you something.”

Likewise, Margarito works to ensure that this experience can help the volunteers in the long run. Whether it’s editing the volunteers’ cover letters or exposing them to different fields within medicine, he hopes they can be more prepared for their future. 

“I also want … them [to have] their own autonomy, give them some confidence to do things that they normally wouldn’t undertake,” Margarito said. “Try to teach and empower them.”

Risher explains that her time learning from Margarito has been rewarding, and she encourages others who are interested to get involved. 

“Try it. It’s scary, because there’s a lot of rules and there’s like a lot of things to know and it’s like medicine, but it’s really, really cool,” Risher said. “And I think the second you close yourself off to learning new things, you’re just going down this path of not being fulfilled. So… just come in and try it. And if it doesn’t work for you, then that’s fine — you’ve offered us help and we’ve offered you our knowledge.”