Frank Perez uses his exercise sport science degree as an athletic trainer with Texas Tech Athletics.
Texas Tech University alumni are all over the world. With the skills and opportunities Texas Tech provides its students, the limits are endless. But even with the chance to travel around the world (or even space), sometimes Texas Tech alumni still find themselves back in Raiderland.
When Frank Perez graduated from Texas Tech with a degree in exercise sport science, he knew he would be working with athletes, but he did not know what kind.
Perez worked at Arizona State University as an athletic trainer. He worked with athletes on treatment and spent his days making sure they were healthy and fit enough to perform at their best level.
This was his day-to-day routine for five years until he realized he wanted to try something different. After corresponding with a former coworker, Perez joined the team at Cirque du Soleil as an athletic trainer.
His routine changed dramatically.
His days consisted of meeting with artistic teams, communicating with coaches and stage management, training and rehabilitation with the athletes until the first show took the stage.
“It is such a technically driven show, knowing all those aspects took a bit of time,” Perez said. “I set goals for my first three months to learn the artists because most important aspect of the job and learn what they did.”
Instead of athletes in jerseys he was working with acrobats in specially made wardrobes. His patients went from players to performers. But at the end of the day, his job remained the same: keep them in the best physical shape possible.
Perez said the team at Cirque du Soleil focused more on injury prevention than being reactive.
When Perez joined Cirque du Soleil, there was a learning curve since it is such a technically driven show, he said. Setting goals helped him succeed and catch on to the demands of his job.
But the biggest adjustment was working without an offseason for athletes to rest and rehabilitate. Perez said the longest break they had at Cirque du Soleil was two weeks, and on average Cirque du Soleil performs 10 shows a week.
Luckily, Texas Tech was able to prepare Perez for this career, he said. A course in biomechanics taught by Roger James sparked an interest in how the body works.
“Frank was a hard-working student,” said James, a professor at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. “He had a good grasp of concepts and was very inquisitive. He seemed genuinely interested in the material beyond what was emphasized in class.”
Biomechanics uses anatomy, physiology and physics to explain how the structure of a body works with its ability to function, James said.
Perez used this concept to treat athletes at Cirque du Soleil.
“It is very gratifying to observe Frank's success,” James said. “I know all of his former professors are very proud of him, and we are pleased with the way he has represented himself and the Health Sciences Center.”
Aside from his classes, Perez said the way Texas Tech instills pride and community into its students helped him get the position at Cirque du Soleil. Texas Tech taught him to never settle and always put pride into his work.
“It's a very unique place in the South Plains, and the traditions carry far there,” he said. “Carol of Lights is still one of my favorite traditions of Texas Tech, and that's something I look forward to taking my kids to one day.”
Additionally, Perez said there is nothing like a Texas Tech football game. He kept up with his alma mater through social media and loved to see students camping out for games and the success of the men's basketball and baseball teams, among others.
“The change is incredible,” Perez said. “I left Lubbock in 2006 and in 10 years this place has really changed. You can see how Texas Tech is becoming a centralized portion of Lubbock. I think it speaks to the alumni and university; they are putting a lot of effort into the campus and university.”
His return home
His next adventure is with his family, Perez said. His wife and two kids are helping him understand the sacrifices his father and mother made for him.
Wanting to be closer to his parents in West Texas, Perez applied for a job as an athletic trainer at his alma mater. At the beginning of the school year, he returned to Raiderland.
Now, Perez is a trainer for Texas Tech Athletics, specifically with the track and field and cross country teams. He has switched back to athletes in jerseys, but this time with even more experience to bring to the table.
Additionally, Perez said he enjoys working with students, an opportunity he didn't have at Cirque du Soleil.
“They're going to gain as much as they put into this program,” he said. “I can make their experience the same, if not better, than my experience here at Texas Tech.”
Bringing the circus to Texas Tech
At Texas Tech, Perez plans to use some of the methods used at Cirque du Soleil, like preventative screenings for the athletes. Hopefully, preventative measures will lead to a decrease in injuries and treatment for those injuries.
As an athletic trainer for track and field, Perez ensures students are getting the best care possible. From preseason conditioning to postseason recovery, Perez makes sure Texas Tech's athletes are in their best condition.
Before the season starts is the best time to conduct preventative screenings on the athletes. During that time, trainers figure out the best ways to help athletes during the season.
To do these preventative screenings and get adjusted to his new job, he brought several aspects from his job at Cirque du Soleil to Texas Tech.
“A big key is understanding there are multiple ways to do things and to utilize all of our strengths and work as a team,” he said. “At Cirque, I was dealing with the same number of artists and we had a smaller team without students, but it was still efficient. I have to ask myself, how can I bring that here, into this type of setting? I think that's one of the reasons Grant Stovall brought me in: the different ideas I can bring in here, how we can make it efficient for the athletes, how we can make it efficient for the coaches, while delivering the best care to our student athletes.”
Stovall, associate athletics director for sports medicine, noticed the quality treatment Perez could bring to Texas Tech. This led him to contact Perez about the job opening.
Stovall has known Perez since Perez was a student. Students studying sports medicine in the Health Science Center work with Texas Tech Athletics to get real-world experience.
The coaches also remembered Perez from his time as a student working with the track and field program and knew he would get the job done, Stovall said. So he contacted Perez and encouraged him to apply for the position.
“We had several really good applicants, but when he came and interviewed he was by far the best just because of his experience and also his familiarity with our program and our coaches,” he said. “It was an easy decision at that point.”
Stovall said there is a lot Perez brings to Texas Tech with his experience at Arizona State and Cirque du Soleil. Specifically, his Cirque du Soleil experience brings an outside perspective, which is good for athletic departments.
Perez is looking at the regimens used at Cirque and how he can bring that into track and field. To do this, Perez looks at the foundation of each activity.
“Track and field is the basis of every sport activity: running, jumping and throwing,” he said. “When you look at Cirque, it's the same thing, but we had guys running on a vertical wall and jumping 75 feet into the air into air bags.”
Looking at the fundamentals of the sport and making sure the athletes can perform has led Texas Tech track and field to have national champions and Olympians. The little techniques can make the biggest difference.
Not only is Perez a skilled athletic trainer, he also is skilled at teaching the students in the program. This stems from his time as a student.
“I think he has a passion and will do a great job with the students we have to help educate them, give them some opportunities from his background to learn about the various things an athletic trainer can do once they graduate,” Stovall said. “I'm really excited about what he'll bring to our students.”
It is important to bring alumni back to the university, Stovall said. Being able to give back to a university that provided opportunities gives someone extra motivation to do a good job.
Having the opportunity to serve Texas Tech as an alumnus is important to Perez.
“It's so rewarding to just be back at a place that my wife Ann and I can call home. It's double rewarding to see my wife and kids, Braydon and Chase, happy here,” Perez said. “It's nice to be back home with my family and my new Texas Tech family.”