Emily Kidd was in the right place at the right time when the Harlem Globetrotters called the University of Minnesota in 2015 looking for an athletic trainer to work a game when their tour came to Minneapolis.
A graduate student in the U’s applied kinesiology program at the time, Kidd was in her office when the call came.
“I was by myself and the phone rang, and it was somebody from the Globetrotters,” Kidd said. “I thought it was really weird because I didn’t work in the main athletic training facility. I worked at the pool with the swimmers, but somehow they got my number and I answered the phone.
The legendary exhibition basketball team was coming to town the next week and needed an athletic trainer. They asked if she knew someone, she said, “and I said, ‘I’ll do it.’ ”
And she did. “And I had a blast,” she said.
Kidd kept in touch with the organization by sending emails every few months and asking about long-term positions. “It was always nothing, nothing, nothing, and then earlier this year, I sent another email and said, ‘I’d worked a game [in Minneapolis], I had a great time, and I think I’d be a good fit. Do you have anything available?’ I got an answer within an hour.”
She was hired to join the last two months of a tour last spring. In November, she’ll join the team at its training camp near Atlanta, Ga., and then head out on a six-month U.S. tour in December.
Working as an athletic trainer for the iconic 90-year-old exposition team is “just about as fun as it sounds,” Kidd said. “It combines everything that I like: sports, comedy and traveling.”
Kidd, 28, grew up in St. Anthony Park and played soccer through high school at Como Park Senior High and in college at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. But she also played recreation basketball at Langford Park as a kid.
“I was average at best,” she said, “but I do know the game. I can appreciate the things [the Globetrotters] are doing.” That includes playing a game almost every day—sometimes two in one day.
Her work is “to keep them healthy the whole time they are out on tour,” she said. “They are playing roughly a game every day for six months. There is a lot of over-use stuff that I have to help them manage: muscle strains, tendonitis—and you do get some acute injuries, because in spite of what people think, they are actually playing.”
The Globetrotters began as a competitive team in 1927, but now are known for their on-court antics and highly skilled tricks during exposition games with their regular opponent, the Washington Generals. The Generals are owned by the same company that owns the Globetrotters, Herschend Family Entertainment.
“They are great showmen and they are so funny,” Kidd said. “That’s a big part of being a Harlem Globetrotter, but they never actually get enough credit for being phenomenal athletes. They can really play.”
Kidd enjoys the comedic part of each show and has a few small roles to play during each game, including helping with props and preparing the team jersey that is given away to a child in the audience during each half-time. “If I could be a bigger part of the show, I would,” she said.
Kidd was working at an orthopedic urgent care clinic in Asheville, N.C., before she accepted the contract job with the Globetrotters last spring. She keeps a contract with the clinic to work there when she’s not traveling with the team, and she’s hoping to stay with the Globetrotters for some off-season games.
“I’d love to be year-round, full time,” she said. “It’s really fun to be a part of something so iconic. They just have the greatest mission: to spread joy and be happy and be positive.”