Names Behind the Games: Jon Ishop
By: Calder Hynes,
November 14, 2011

If you watched a Hornets game last season, you probably already know who Jon Ishop is and dont even realize it. The guy running onto the court when a player suffers an injury and escorting him back to the locker room? Thats Ishop. The guy sitting in the first seat on the bench behind head coach Monty Williams during games? That too is Ishop, the Hornets head athletic trainer.

While the duties of an athletic trainer may seem cut-and-dry, the responsibilities go far beyond icing, stretching and taping although there is a lot of that to be sure. Beyond maintaining the health of players during the season, Ishop also handles many of the tasks associated with travel for the team during the year.

In addition to my duties taking care of our athletes, I am responsible for hotel reservations, scheduling buses and planes at all hours of the day for team travel, team meals, per diem, et cetera, Ishop said.

As a matter of fact, the Texas natives travel duties were responsible for his most memorable moment from his first season with the organization, when the team was flying into Oklahoma City on the night of Feb. 1 in preparation to play the Thunder the next day on the second leg of back-to-back games.

We land in Oklahoma and the entire city was shut down due to an ice storm, Ishop reminisces. The only people on the road were our two team buses leaving the airport. We turn out of the airport and immediately get stuck in a snow bank, so myself, the bus driver and other team employees are digging the bus out, rocking it back-and-forth trying to get it free. Mind you its below zero degrees and windy. We get the bus free, drive about half a mile and get stuck again. After we all pile onto one bus, I am running down the freeway to the next overpass to see if there ice and if there is, were going back to the airport and flying back to New Orleans (the team made it to the hotel safely).

While not every day brings the excitement of the ice storm experience, the day-to-day isnt exactly a cake walk either. As any trainer will tell you, their job is not simply to take care of injuries after they happen, but equally important is the constant work involved in preventing them. The Hornets as a team missed the fourth-fewest games due to injury in the entire NBA last season, something Ishop attributes to the hard work that he, assistant athletic trainer Mark Armour and Director of Athletic Development Carlos Daniel collectively put in.

The integration between the athletic training and strength and conditioning departments has allowed us to get guys back from injury faster, Ishop said. If a guy has a particular issue, we can address the concern in the training room and in the weight room simultaneously and its beneficial for the guy.

Ishops background in the NFL as a former assistant athletic trainer with the Houston Texans also plays a role in his mindset regarding returning players to the floor in the timeliest way possible. With a 16-game regular season schedule in football, every game was crucial and there was immense pressure for players to play each week. In the NBA however, the issue is not as much the importance of each individual game in regards to player health, but the fact that rosters can carry a maximum of 15 people, with each unavailable player restricting the squads depth and flexibility.

Its a different approach with 82 games versus 16 games, but my mindset is always to get the players back as fast as possible in the safest way possible for the athlete as well as the team. If he cant perform at a certain level, hes going to be a hindrance to the team and himself.

Something else that separates Ishop from other trainers around the league and that aided in the Hornets on-court performance this season is the fact that he is a licensed massage therapist.

I thought being a licensed massage therapist was a unique tool to have in the athletic training room because on the road or late at night, you dont always have access to a person who can perform those duties, Ishop said. Massage is important because you can look for precursors to injuries happening as well as help guys recover to aid their performance and get them ready to play.

Injuries, however, are an unfortunate part of the game, and when a player suffers a setback during the course of action, Ishop must be on his game in an instant.

When I reach a player who is down on the court, the first thing I do is see if they are conscious and if so, try to calm him down and assess the injury before we try to move him.

Asked what happens out of fans sight in the time between a player exits the floor for the locker room and when they return to the court, the certified Performance Enhancement Specialist elaborates, Ill start by doing a deeper assessment. If its a lower-body injury like a knee or ankle, Ill determine if the ligaments are intact or ask questions like Can you put weight on it? Can you walk?. If I determine that its safe for the player to return, I may give them more tape or a wrap and then put them through a function test to see how well they can run, jump and cut and also the speed at which they can do it. If all that is a go and they can continue without being any further risk to themselves, than thats when you will see a guy sprint back out of the tunnel.

As for his normal role on the bench during games when he is not tending to player needs, Ishop describes his function as A little funny. Thats because, in addition to being able to monitor both ends of the floor from his position near mid-court in case of an injury, his duties also include keeping track of player fouls, which is critical to the game plan and strategy of the coaching staff.

I guess part of the reason Im in the first seat on the bench is that I have the shortest walk to the scorers table so I can ask Dennis (Rogers, Director of Basketball Communications) or Lindsey (Mitchell, Basketball Communications Coordinator) to make sure my foul count is correct with the official tally.

The father of two sons, Aedan (9) and Zachary (6) with wife Kedra shares a bit more about his career before the Hornets and gives some further insight about his job:

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1998, and then interned with the university for two years. Also, during the summers of 1999 and 2000, I was a summer camp intern for the Washington Redskins. In 2001 I got my masters degree in sports administration at the University of Houston. From 2002-2009 I was the assistant athletic trainer for the Houston Texans and then joined the Hornets prior to last season.

My favorite memory was Sunday, April 17, 2011, Hornets at Lakers. It was my first playoff experience (after spending 8 1/2 postseason-less seasons with the Houston Texans) and my first playoff win. We went in (to Staples Center) and people didnt give us a chance in the world, but we shocked the world by winning that first game. It was very nice to make the postseason and go into an atmosphere like that and take that game. It was incredible.

Part of my administrative duties include dealing with team meals on the plane when we travel and postgame. I talk with the team nutritionist to make sure guys are eating the right food and the right amount of calories, plus I have to find something the guys will eat! Youd be amazed at how hard it is to keep 15 guys happy. Some guys want meat and potatoes, some guys want sushi!

The feeling of making a difference. Injuries dont just affect the coach and the team, they affect the fans too. If youre bringing your family to a game, you want to see all the players healthy and playing out on the floor.

I also look at myself as a teacher. When a young guy comes into the NBA, we try to show them how to stay healthy, how to eat, how to stretch and how to take care of their body. Hopefully they take some of the ideas we give them to the next part of their lives when their playing careers are over. They may go into coaching, etc. but hopefully they utilize our guidance outside of basketball.

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