Although he is an unpaid, self-taught volunteer, Terlizzi said the time has come for more formal help to be available for athletes, especially football players
For 19 years, Nick Terlizzi has been the guardian for St. Vincent High School athletes. Burly with hair and familiar mustache now gray, he doesn’t look like an angel, but when an athlete is hurt Terlizzi is the first person they want to see. His job and mission in life is to apply tape, ice, spray, massage — whatever it takes to make an injured athlete feel better.
Terlizzi is a throw back and St. Vincent High School athletes are grateful that he is.
Since 1987, Terlizzi has been taking care of St. Vincent athletes, mainly football players, but other athletes as well when needed and time allowed, as team trainer.
Long before it became fashionable for schools to add trainers to their coaching staffs, Terlizzi was in the St. Vincent locker room and on the sidelines.
The addition of certified athletic trainers is a relatively new innovation. Petaluma and Casa Grande high schools have only had paid trainers for two years, although Heather Campbell, a certified trainer, has been volunteering for years to help the Gauchos and Dr. David Sisler performed many of the duties of a trainer for Petaluma High as a volunteer for decades.
Terlizzi is not a certified trainer. He is self taught. He has been serving as a trainer for high school teams since 1960, and knows much about care and treatment of medical emergencies from his more than two decades service as a prison correction officer. He has attended numerous classes and studied extensively.
He also served as trainer for both the officers, and the inmates football teams at San Quentin.
He once worked a semi-pro game for the San Francisco Islanders when they played the Santa Rosa Rattlers. “They were nice guys, but it was lot of work,” he recalls. “Everyone had a special way they wanted to be taped.”
St. Vincent, in accordance with California Interscholastic Federation regulations, has a doctor in attendance at all games, but it is Terlizzi who does all the pre-practice and pre-game taping, who is first on the field when a player goes down with anything from a cramp to a concussion, who packs twisted ankles in ice, keeps parents informed of an injured player’s condition, does follow-up care and, in serious cases, is at the hospital to offer comfort and consultation.
His specialty is caring.
“I love working with the kids. Now that I’m retired I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t helping he kids,” he said. “It is what keeps me going.”
He is about to find out what he will do.
Terlizzi, who will turn 70 next year, is in his last football season at St. Vincent. He still loves what he is doing, it is just that now he has found three other important reasons to keep going — grandchildren Angelina, 11; Mateo, 9, and Cooper, 6.
“They’re getting older and I want to spend some time with them and watch their sports,” Terizzli said as he plans a move to Arizona where both his grown sons now live.
It was those sons, Mike and David, who drew him into the St. Vincent football program. He began helping out as a trainer at Novato High School in the 1960s. When his boys entered St. Vincent, Terlizzi, who is a hunting friend of head coach Gary Galloway’s brother, volunteered to help with the Mustangs.
For many years, he commuted after work, first from Sacramento and later from San Quentin, where was promoted to lieutenant,
It was easier when he began working primarily on day shift, and a whole lot easier when he retired in 2000.
Terlizzi has many fond memories of working on the St. Vincent sideline, but no particular team or players stand out. “There are so many, it wouldn’t be fair to single anyone out,” he explained. “They were all wonderful kids.”
He does, however, note his favorite games. “When I don’t have to go out on the field and check on someone’s injury,” he said.
He said he has always had a good working relationship with Galloway, now in his 36th year at St. Vincent. “Gary has always backed me 100 percent,” said Terlizzi. “If I said a kid shouldn’t go on the field, he didn’t go on the field.”
Since the completion of the DeCarli Gym, he has also been helping with the girls volleyball team and, with the coming of the new all-turf field, assisting with the girls soccer team.
Although he is an unpaid, self-taught volunteer, Terlizzi said the time has come for more formal help to be available for athletes, especially football players. “The kids are bigger, they hit harder. I believe all high schools should have professional trainers for their football teams,” he explained.
Now, it will soon be over.
“I’m going to miss it so much,” Terlizzi said. “I’ll really miss the kids.”