Wildcat Voices: Meet Andrew ‘Riz’ Rizza, WHS Athletic Trainer
If you have a student who plays or has played a sport at the high school, you will know Andrew Rizza, or ‘Riz’ as he is universally known, the Weston High School Athletic Trainer. If you have attended any sports game at the high school, you recognize Riz’s gator-medical-cart as it sits at the ready on the sidelines. And if you have done none of the above, then let me introduce you to the person who the Owlets see more than their own mom during soccer season.
If it is not immediately clear, the Owl is a major fan of Riz, and there are many reasons for it. Not only does he know what he’s doing, but he inspires confidence and trust–my two sophomores are practically fixtures of the athletic training room where they seem to go every single day after school to stretch, warm up, get advice, tape, a laugh, enjoy a social moment, and yeah, also work on various physical therapy exercises. The Riz Room is never empty and yet always hopeful.
This year is Riz’s 25th with Weston–yes, a silver anniversary. We are incredibly lucky that our little high school of 620ish students has one of the best known and best respected high school trainers in the Boston area–true story! I challenge you to find a Boston area orthopedist or athletic trainer who doesn’t know him. That respect benefits our athletes–for example, (personal experience) I call Micheli and waiting time for my kid to see a specialist could be weeks. Go through Riz, they seem to be available the next Monday. I am almost afraid to post this story for fear he will be stolen by some annoying town like say Bedford (boo) or Wellesley (double boo).
When an away team comes to Weston, they also get the benefit of Riz heading out to the field for a look-see when things go wrong. Riz is at every home game–last week I saw him at all three of the Weston soccer games (not including JV games where he also zooms in as needed), the field hockey games, the Friday Night Football game…watching, waiting. While the soccer game was in progress against Bedford (boo again), a football player came over to Riz’s cart, sat on the back, and Riz taped up an ankle in about two minutes flat. Off the player went back to practice.
My favorite Riz story was when one Owlet was stomped by a 200 pound defender at a game last year and Riz said on the sideline that it was likely a soft tissue injury that would take a couple of weeks to heal. Then we went to an orthopedic “expert” at St. Elizabeth’s who diagnosed it (WITH x-ray) as a year-ending injury and put a boot on the owlet’s foot. Then we decided to get a second opinion from the Owlet’s favorite Micheli orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Meehan. Guess who Dr. Meehan confirmed was right? Riz.
Without further ado (that was a lot of ado), here’s Riz:
Owl: How did you decide to become an Athletic Trainer?
Riz: There’s a fun back story here. I actually went to a vocational school, planning to be a carpenter. But when I finished high school, I thought college would be a good idea and applied for physical therapy and athletic training at just two schools, Springfield and Northeastern, the latter being the best athletic training school at the time. I got in for athletic training and never looked back. Some of my peers moved on to Nursing or being Physician’s Assistants but I really love what I do.
Owl: What do you like best about sports medicine?
Riz: It’s just never the same from one day to the next. There is always something new, and there is a continuous learning curve. Athletic trainers have to keep up with new technologies and processes or get left behind–this area is constantly evolving. We now use much more data analysis than we did in the past, we are better at understanding the importance of recovery, and teaching our athletes how to manage an injury, and how to recover better.
Owl: What is your favorite high school sport to watch, where soccer is the only correct answer?
Riz: I would have answered ice hockey but now that Dover-Sherborn and Weston are together, the athletic trainer for D-S covers all the games. I guess my favorites now are football, soccer, and lacrosse [ed: he meant to say soccer only].
Owl: Do you feel like more kids are injured in this generation than in past generations?
Riz: I would say more are injured now, but for a number of reasons. The first is there is just a larger volume of kids playing sports at high levels. And then kids are playing multiple sports or for multiple teams in one season–which doesn’t give them time enough to recover. You routinely see kids playing fall soccer or golf, but also in a club ice hockey or lacrosse team on the “off” days. “Off” days are really about recovery, and we are realizing that now. Weekends are not “off” for most high school sports athletes–they have high school during the week, then club on weekends. It’s just a lot.
Owl: Which team has the fewest injuries at WHS?
Riz: Golf. Once in a while, there will be a wrist injury but not often.
Owl: What advice would you give to athletes about single sport or multi sport (different high school sports in different seasons) or cross training?
Riz: Athletes that spend time competing in different sports prepare their bodies to withstand stressors that are more dynamic in nature. In my experience being a multi-sport athlete or to cross train has demonstrated that the athlete improves their neuromuscular reaction to forces places on the body better preparing them for their sport. It also gives the body time to recover from one sport to another. This is why have have seen a shift in the sports medicine world with collegiate and professional athletes cross training and using more wearables to track performance, stress, sleep and recovery.
On the “soft side”, different teams have different personalities, and a special camaraderie. If you do a sport that has an individual component (like tennis where you play against one other person), it’s a different view from track with a relay team, or basketball or volleyball where it is full team. So there is not only a physical benefit but a social-emotional component to doing multiple sports.
Owl: What are some things you like to do in your free time?
Riz: I love to go out for a ride on my motorcycle, downhill ski, and scuba dive when I have the opportunity. And it goes without saying that spending time with my family is important, and yeah, sleep is good. Also I like to watch replays of soccer games [Ed.: oh, fine, I just made that last one up].
Thanks, Riz, for taking care of our high school athletes! And happy silver anniversary with Weston! Go ‘cats!