Chip’s Full Interview

On Tuesday, November 24, 2020, Chip was interviewed about his experience at Cinnaminson High School as well as what his future in retirement looks like.

When did you start working at CHS? Do you remember how you came to work here?

I was interviewed in July of 1987. I had spoken to the Athletic Director at the time, Mrs. Fusick, and she was actually going to be in Colorado visiting her parents, so I interviewed with Mr. Kin Ikeda. He was actually the athletic trainer before me. He was one of the first, if not the first athletic trainers, in South Jersey. Cinnaminson was cutting edge. 


Was there something in particular that drew you to Cinnaminson? How did you end up working here?

It’s funny. I was an undergrad at Temple University, and my head athletic trainer, knowing that I was graduating, let me know about a couple of jobs. There was a Cinnaminson job and a Northern Burlington job both open. Three or four of us applied to both schools. I was the last one to be interviewed at Northern; and Cinnaminson decided they wanted me. It worked out well. It was kind of coming home; I grew up in Philadelphia, so working in Cinnaminson got me back home. Most of the jobs that I was looking at were in Virginia, where I did my graduate work. It was funny – when I got the job I was very excited. In my mind, my plan was to be here 3-5 years. I wanted to get my first job, get my feet wet in the profession, show people that I could do a good job, and I thought the bulk of my career was going to be at the collegiate or professional level. I did a year with professional football when I was in college as an intern. I had some contacts in pro football and baseball, and here I am almost 34 years later. It’s funny how things work out. 


What has changed the most about the school from when you started working here until now when you’re retiring?

When I first started, Cinnaminson had just under 1,000 students – we had 960. The fact that we’ve been hovering around 800… Before I was hired, probably early to mid 70s and 80s, Cinnaminson was a big group III school. They had 1700/1800 students in the school. The high school that I went to, I went to a big high school in Philadelphia, my graduating class was just about 1,000. So my class was just about the size of [Cinnaminson High School]. And when [CHS] got smaller, it was just a little funny to me. I actually interviewed at the middle school, or the library, I think it was the library at the middle school – because they were doing some painting here. So, when I got my first tour, and they showed me the big gym, I said, “Oh, where’s your big gym?” … “This is our big gym.” Again, going to a bigger high school, I wasn’t exactly comparing apples to apples. The township has changed a little. It has gotten more diverse, which I think is a good thing for the school. The recession in the 80s or 90s, kind of hit Cinnaminson hard. It got a little more blue collar, which I think was a nice infusion. 

Students kind of stay the same – different things are popular at different points in time. But, the way that they interacted with me was different because I wasn’t a classroom teacher. I wasn’t seen as “one of them.” So, that was nice. In both undergrad and graduate school, I was in kind of a more laid back environment, whereas this school is a bit more stringent. So that part was good – at least within the training room, it was a little more relaxed than your typical classroom would be. Teams [got] better. Boys’ XC and soccer have always done well, but over the years I’ve been here, other sports have begun to do well. We won four or five state championships.  Prior to me being hired, there was only one state champion. Athletics got a lot better. 


What do you love the most about working at CHS as an athletic trainer? Why?

I guess when teams did well. Watching the athletes, the coaches, the parents celebrate, I think they came together. Teams are a mini-family to begin with, but at the championship level – I think the girls’ soccer won three state champs in a row – and they would get to ride on the fire engine around town, one of the parents would have everybody over. I saw that also with baseball, when they won their championship, the parents had all of the players and family over for a big picnic. The same thing with some of the other soccer championships. It was just gratifying to know that I got to play a very small part in that. As an athletic trainer, a thing that gives me a lot of satisfaction is when you work with a player who is injured. When you work with them, you do the rehab, and they get back and are able to have success. You see the joy on their face and their parents’. To know that you had a little hand in that – that’s really what athletic training is to me. Helping these young athletes get healthy to play again. 


What has been the biggest challenge that you have faced over the years as an athletic trainer? 

One thing in general, for athletic training as a whole, is that it’s family time. There’s not always a set schedule. You think you know when you’re going to be here, but games can go over time, or there can be an injury that backs things up. Sometimes I thought I’d get home early, I’d end up not getting home early. I’d have told my family I’d be there early… Some of the things over the years that I missed. But again, that’s not just me, that’s really athletic trainers as a whole. 


What do you think you will miss the most about working at CHS as the trainer?

I spent more than half of my adult life here. I’m going to miss the people that work here: the coaches, the athletes, the administrators that were directly in charge of me. I hear retiring athletes say they’re  not going to miss the grind, they’re not going to miss the air flights; they’re going to miss the people. And that’s what I’m going to miss: the athletes, the parents. I’ve had multiple second-generation athletes, you know, the parents graduated, got married, came back and got a house here. There was one family where I have had a third generation. I’ve had – I can’t even count – for how many I’ve had generations of athletes. You don’t know how many athletes come up to me and say, ‘my mom said, my dad said, you did this’ or all of a sudden they’re floored to know that I’m talking to their parents on the sideline, like ‘how do you know my parents?’ Well, they were athletes here. So that, I always thought that was kind of neat. It is a family, and Cinnaminson really embraced me and welcomed me into the Cinnaminson family over the years. 


 Thinking back, is there one game/match that was just amazing to watch?

There was one wrestling match in particular. We had this really extraordinary wrestler, his name was Ryan Scarduzio and he was wrestling this wrestler from Cherokee. I think they were both undefeated at the time – we knew it was going to be a war. And both athletes, just gave it their all. It was one of the best high school wrestling matches I’ve ever seen in my life. I think the boy from Cherokee did win, but it was almost like you could vote for either wrestler. They just wrestled that well. And, a lot of times, it’s not genuine when [players] shake hands. But, they looked each other in the eyes and they shook hands before the match. And they looked each other in the eye and kind of hugged each other after the match. It was just the sportsmanship and the wrestling was just great. Being on the field for all of the soccer and baseball state championships was a very special thing. The one thing… when football won, I had actually just gotten married. And I looked at the calendar because we had made the semifinals the year before. So knowing when it was, we planned our honeymoon for before, but the state switched it, and moved it a week back. Well, we already had our plans, so I was on a beach in Barbados when the football team won their championship. I was waiting for somebody to let me know, but I mean, games against our archrivals… almost any win against Delran or Holy Cross is just great because we don’t like those schools. I would say that one wrestling match and all the state championships are always going to be special. 


Is there a sports season or a school year that sticks out in your memory as being particularly exciting?

The fall of ‘91. Football, boys’ and girls’ soccer, and boys’ cross country all won state championships. The girls’ cross country also won their sectional championship, which technically is a state championship. So that was the season that we’ve done the best. Having that many sectional and state champions. Really, kind of the era from – not that I’m giving Mr. Weber all of the credit – but shortly after he was hired, multiple teams were winning divisional or sectional titles every season. For about 15 years. So basically in the 90s to the early 2000s, Cinnaminson really did well. 


Do you have any big plans for when you retire? What are you looking forward to? What won’t you miss? 

I’m not going to miss waking up early. I have to laugh because obviously, I didn’t start when the teachers started. I do work for both the indoor professional lacrosse league with the Philadelphia Wings and then the outdoor lacrosse league with the PLL. I’m going to continue to work for them, so that’ll pretty much take me all year round on weekends. I did get myself a part-time job at a physician’s office two days a week. So that’s what I’m looking forward to. 

I do like animals, I’m a dog person. I had a dog that unexpectedly died about 5-6 years ago. I was thinking of doing some volunteering at the animal hospital. They took such great care of him. Either there or a shelter or two near me. Because of my traveling schedule, I don’t think I’ll be able to adopt dogs right now. Both of my dogs were rescue dogs, but once I’m done with all of the travelings, I’ll probably adopt a dog or two. Our team corporations, with Cooper Bone and Joint, had a job open that they wanted me to take, and as much as I liked it, I didn’t want to do the five days a week. Two days I’ll be at this one doctor’s office, plus, it gives me time for a long weekend. Like I could do something from a Thursday to a Monday, which is something that I am looking forward to. 


Who, over the years you’ve been working at CHS, has had a lasting impact on your time at the high school and why? This can be a student, teacher, staff member etc.

The original athletic director Mrs. Fusick was extremely helpful in getting me started. And the great thing with her – there was no grey [area]. It was white or black. You can do this, you can’t do that. I can do this for you, I can’t do that for you. So, you always knew where you stood. She was a great first athletic director. All of the A.D.s that I’ve worked with over the years have been good, very supportive of me. Mr. Meile, it was a natural transition. We knew each other as coach-athletic trainers, and we did the equipment together for two years, so him becoming the athletic director was an easy transition for me. Also, working as the assistant athletic director, we worked very closely together. There were a lot of things that were new to him that he asked my opinion on. The last couple of principals, Mr. Gorman and Mrs. Llewellyn were always very supportive. And a lot of the coaches, especially the coaches that coach multiple sports. You’re spending so much time with them throughout the year. These are the people that I’ll miss. You know, you’re not going to miss a lot of the petty stuff, some of the politics that happen within the school from whomever, but it’s those people that I’ll really miss. There are a lot of people within the township – parents that were former students, or parents that have larger families that you tend to get to know a bit better, as they tend to have more injuries. 


What are the biggest lessons you have learned working here at CHS for the past 34 years?

What I learned about myself was largely the way that I interacted with people. It’s kind of an art. You like to meet people informally, so then if you have to call them to tell them that there’s an injury, they are already somewhat at ease with you because they know you. It’s always a little more difficult to call, or talk to a parent you don’t really know, especially if it’s the oldest child, and they had a great experience  in in-town or club leagues, and then they come to the high school and get hurt. I also learned resilience. You deal with some pretty nasty injuries, and it does affect you. There got to be a point in time where the athletes were the same age as my children. So, I’m looking at some of these athletes and thinking, ‘Oh, you’re my child’s age. It could be my child having this injury.’ I remember the first time that I had to recertify in CPR, at the time that my oldest was just born. Now, you’re dealing with this infant [dummy] that’s the same size as my child, like I’m doing CPR on a child. So, it’s just getting a system down and being yourself, but being professional. Dealing with the athletes, coaches, parents and administrators, but also dealing with athletes, coaches and parents from other teams. They don’t know me at all. In fact, one of the best stories that a Cinnaminson parent told me was: At a Delran soccer game, there was a big crowd – it might have been an all-South Jersey game. A player from Delran went down, and I went to do my thing. And one Delran mom said to another, aren’t you going to run on to the field? And the Cinnaminson parent told me, she said “No. He’s taken care of other children when they’ve gotten hurt, if he needs to, he’ll come and find me.” I thought that was great. It’s one thing if somebody that I might have recognized, having had a couple of their kids, but they had the confidence in me as a visiting parent. It’s one of the best stories that I ever heard.