While much of the success of the Kitsap Pumas, who won the Northwest Division of the Premier Development League (PDL) for the second successive year with an impressive 10-0-2 record, may be attributed to the hard work and dedication of the coaches and players there is a lot more that goes into a successful club than just those two components. From the front office to the game-day staff everyone plays a part in the club’s success on the field.
And one of those employees who plays a huge part in the club’s success day in and day out is their head athletic trainer Erin Polillo. Polillo, who is now in her fourth season working with the Pumas, developed a strong passion for her field while attending local North Kitsap High School (NKHS).
“I didn’t know what athletic training was until I began taking athletic medicine classes as a sophomore at NKHS and started volunteering in the after school program they offered,” said Polillo. “I spent a great deal of time in the athletic training room and helping the Certified Athletic Trainers. My passion for the field grew throughout high school, and by senior year I knew I only wanted to apply to universities that had an athletic training program.”
Following her completion of her high school education at North Kitsap, Polillo followed her passion to Washington State University (WSU) where she would graduate with her bachelors of science in athletic training in 2011.
Upon completing her undergrad at WSU she returned home to her alma mater of North Kitsap to work as the assistant athletic trainer for the next two years.
“It was a really cool experience returning to work at the same school where I discovered my passion” said Polillo. “That was a great first job for me out of college and it gave me the resources I needed to progress in my field.”
Polillo’s hard work and dedication to her craft quickly payed off as she was contacted by WestSound Orthopedics to help cover games for the local WestSound Warriors, a Tier III Junior A ice hockey team.
“I had always wanted hockey experience so it was an easy decision for me,” said Polillo. “That began my relationship with the clinic and Dr. Duff, and when the Pumas season was coming up they offered me the job of working with them as well.”
Not only did her relationship with WestSound Orthopedics allow her to work for a top PDL professional side in the Kitsap Pumas but it also allowed her to work with top local hockey and baseball (Kitsap Bluejackets) teams as well as all Olympic College athletics.
Polillo’s exemplary work and dedication to the success of the athletes she looks after resulted in her being brought on to work full-time at WestSound Orthopedics as well as maintain all of her responsibilities with the other sports teams, which was much to the appeasement of the Kitsap players.
“Ever since I joined the Pumas 3 years ago Erin has not only provided professional treatment when it comes to injuries, but she supports the player morale during the recovery process, which anyone who has gone through an injury knows can be the toughest part of getting back on the field,” said veteran defender George Bundy.
It is truly her genuine care for the good will of her athletes that allows Polillo to find great fulfillment in the job she does so passionately each day.
“I am usually there at the time the injury occurs, and then follow that athlete throughout the whole process of recovery, whether it be doctor’s appointments, surgeries, physical therapy or other treatments,” said Polillo. “But I think ultimately my favorite thing about being an athletic trainer is the feeling as though I make a difference in someone’s life, even if it’s just for a little while. The feeling of seeing an athlete return to play after working so hard for that moment is really rewarding.”
While the future is wide open for Polillo in terms of the career path she wants to pursue, right now she is content to enjoy where all those years of hard work have gotten her and continue to help athletes excel at their sports and help other people in need from the very community she grew up in.
“I work with really great people, both with our sports medicine team at WestSound Orthopedics and the athletes that I get to work with on the sidelines, which gives me the best of both those worlds,” said Polillo. “I can honestly say that I am really happy with how things are and I’m not in any rush to change them.”