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Arnold School of Public Health

Alumnus Takeo Ichiyanagi applies UofSC lessons to role as head athletic trainer for Japan’s Men’s National Basketball team

October 16, 2019 | Erin Bluvas,

Originally from a small town in Japan, Takeo Ichiyanagi moved to the United States after high school, seeking the study abroad experience. He ended up staying for 15 years, amassing the knowledge and skills that would eventually land him the position of head athletic trainer for Japan’s Men’s Basketball National team.

Ichiyanagi already knew he wanted to study athletic training and enrolled in The University of Alabama’s undergraduate program where he met then-doctoral student Toni Torres-McGehee. Following his 2007 graduation, he moved North to intern with the New York Jets. 

As the internship wrapped, Torres-McGehee, who had completed her Ph.D. program and accepted a faculty appointment at UofSC, recruited Ichiyanagi to enroll in her department’s master’s program while gaining experience as a graduate assistant athletic trainer for the USC football team. He was drawn to the clinical opportunity to work with an SEC team and returned to the South.

“Takeo exceeded expectations in our program. He was an outstanding preceptor to our undergraduate athletic training students; he was strong clinically; he understood the value of communication and networking, and most importantly he was pleasant to be around and made people laugh,” says Torres-McGehee, who joined the Arnold School’s Department of Exercise Science when the athletic training program transitioned to it from the College of Education in 2016. “We are excited that he is able to use his skills as an athletic trainer in conjunction with physical therapy to provide the best patient care to his professional athletes.”

Between the first and second years of his program, Ichiyanagi interned with another NFL team. Working with the Arizona Cardinals, he met physical therapist Brett Fischer, who inspired the athletic trainer to consider a degree in the field. After completing the necessary prerequisites, Ichiyanagi enrolled in the Arnold School’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program (also housed within the exercise science department). With support from Torres-McGehee, he had a graduate assistantship with campus recreation.

“Again, Dr. Torres McGehee was a big reason why I chose USC for my PT school,” says Ichiyanagi, who also found mentors in DPT program director Stacy Fritz and assistant professor Jill Stewart, who oversaw his research project. “Without the arrangements made by her, I could not have completed the DPT program, and I could not be where I am right now without her guidance and support.”

A few months after his 2016 graduation with his second degree from Carolina, Ichiyanagi was hired by Koichi Sato, previously the director of sports performance of the Minnesota Timberwolves, as the head athletic trainer for the Japan Basketball Association’s national men’s team. In his role, Ichiyanagi uses what he learned throughout his decade and a half in the United States, but often in unexpected ways.

“I’m not simply talking about knowledge in human body, athletic training and physical therapy, but more importantly the things such as interpersonal communication skills, understanding in diversity, and so on,” he says. “The study abroad experience opened up my mind, and I became to be more flexible.”

Though there are only so many positions like his to go around, Ichiyanagi wants current and prospective students to keep an open mind and pay attention for those individuals and opportunities that may influence their paths.

“You have no idea who’s going to be a key person for your future,” he says. “Just work hard and try to be a best version of you. People will see what you are doing, and it will pay off.”

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