Iso Brings Steel Pillars to 'Women in Sports' Seminar
Oregon State football head athletic trainer Ariko Iso will serve as a panelist at the GNAC's Women in Sports career seminar on May 17 in Seattle.
Oregon State football head athletic trainer Ariko Iso will serve as a panelist at the GNAC's Women in Sports career seminar on May 17 in Seattle.
Iso spent nearly a decade as an athletic trainer for the Pittsburgh Steelers, after earning her undergraduate degree from Oregon State and master's from San Jose State.
Iso spent nearly a decade as an athletic trainer for the Pittsburgh Steelers, after earning her undergraduate degree from Oregon State and master's from San Jose State.

Friday, April 4, 2014
by Evan O'Kelly, Media Relations Assistant

Seventh in a series.

Previous Panelist Profiles
Lynda Goodrich, WWU (Jan. 24)
Kimberly Ford, NCAA (Jan. 31)
Chelsea Herman, Seattle University (Feb. 14)
Erin O'Connell, SPU (Feb. 28)
Katie Simons, SMU (March 20)
Tammy Dunn, SCSC (March 28)

PORTLAND, Ore. – While the National Football League lockout spanning March through July of 2011 did not end up impacting the regular season, it took its toll on every team’s staff. 

A prime example of the secondary effects of the league’s work stoppage is the results it had on Ariko Iso, who had been serving as an athletic trainer for the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2002 when players stopped showing up for workouts in 2011.

“When I had an opportunity to leave, there weren’t active athletes around to work with every day,” Iso said of a job opportunity that aligned perfectly with the NFL lockout. “If I had been working with players daily, that would have made my decision to leave much harder.”

With a lack of steady work, combined with an offer from a familiar face, Iso decided to head back to the college ranks and accepted a position with the football team at Oregon State University, her alma mater.

“It was an honor to hear from them when they had an opening for the football head athletic trainer position,” said Iso. “I had great memories here and I still knew some of the people, so that made the transition easier for me.”

With experience at the professional and collegiate level, Iso will bring her perspective to the Women in Sports Career Seminar as a panelist. The daylong event is hosted by the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and is scheduled for Saturday, May 17 at the Washington Convention and Trade Center in Seattle.

Iso has served as the top trainer for OSU’s football program since making the move in 2011, during which time she has rediscovered a home at what had been her first stop along her journey to America.

Growing up in Tokyo, Iso’s interest in athletics began with her basketball career in junior high school. “I didn’t really plan to ever get into football, but I tore my ACL while playing basketball in Japan,” Iso remembered. “At that point, I wanted to choose a career where I could work with people and promote their health.”

The athletic training program at OSU attracted Iso, who made the move to the United States after graduating high school. “I came here to learn athletic training, and afterwards I went to San Jose State for my master’s degree,” said Iso. 

From there, Iso connected the dots from a graduate assistant position at Foothill College in the Bay Area to a seven-year tenure as an assistant athletic trainer at Portland State University.

“During my time at PSU, I was able to work as a head football athletic trainer, and that led to connecting with some football conferences and meeting an NFL athletic trainer,” Iso recalled of her time spent in the Pacific Northwest. “There was an internship opportunity with the Steelers in 2001, which I was lucky enough to get.”

Over the next decade, Iso continued treating injuries she had dealt with routinely for years. But this time, names like Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward were attached to the limbs that required her expertise. Iso even got to experience being at the top of the football universe twice, as the Steelers captured Super Bowl victories in 2005 and 2008.

“I never had a goal to be a head football athletic trainer, but I really enjoyed what I was doing and all of my experiences with the Steelers,” Iso commented.

The learning experience and memories Iso obtained in the world’s premier football establishment proved to be invaluable, but moving back to the world of collegiate athletics was a step that she felt she was ready to take for several reasons.

“If I knew what I know now when I tore my ACL in high school, I think about all of the things I would’ve done differently,” Iso said. “I try to be a resource to give athletes the option to do what they need to in order to continue playing their sport. In a small way, I feel like we influence individuals in regard to their lifelong fitness.”

Giving back to her alma mater was another key motivation for Iso to return to Corvallis, as she feels that her duty is just as much to educate athletes as it is to keep them healthy. “What I enjoy is working with people every day, and the possibility that when they leave our room we might have influenced them positively,” Iso said.

“Through our education, we have touched the surface in most health-related areas like nutrition, strength and conditioning and psychology. We try to educate the younger athletes and families while we continue to learn ourselves, and that’s another fun part of the job.” 

While Iso lives for the daily interactions with the student-athletes that she currently serves, she admits that coordinating the athletic training for a Division I football program is a major time commitment.

“Schedules are always changing last minute and you have to take a phone call 24/7 regardless of what personal plans you may have had,” Iso said regarding the heavy demands of her occupation. “As that becomes normal, its difficult because you have to find a balance in your life. I really enjoy my work and I have a great job every day, but other things like spending time with family are more complicated.” 

One of the most important career traits Iso possesses is her continual pursuit of improvement and further education.

“After awhile you get really efficient at what you do daily, but sometimes you feel like you’re not challenging yourself anymore,” Iso said regarding the end of her tenure in Pittsburgh. “I felt I wasn’t necessarily improving and I wanted to try something new.”

Approaching the completion of her third full year at OSU as a head athletic trainer, Iso is adamant that her role extends beyond her work on the field and in the training room. It is this comprehensive perspective that Iso plans to extend while serving as a panelist at the Women in Sports Seminar, with the hope of inspiring a similar drive within young women pursuing a career in athletic training.

“I like to see our profession not as being male or female, but as being an athletic trainer,” Iso said. “Rather than speak as a female versus a male, I’d like to speak as an athletic trainer. That is the mindset for someone who wants to go into this profession, that everything goes both ways and we can all be treated equally.”

For more information on the Women in Sports Career Seminar, visit the "related links" section of this article. To register now for the event, click here.