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North keeps K.C. bodies, lineup whole

Kansas City's busy and ultra-organized athletic trainer, Chet North, provides inspiration, a friend, and an outlet.

Remind Diego to stretch -- check. Give Kerry tips on staying loose -- check. Come to the aid of a player injured in action -- check. Aid Josh in his exercises -- check. Advise a player on treating his latest knock -- check. Check on Igor and Preki's progress -- check. Make arrangements for Chris -- check. Organize the training room -- check.

Such is the life of a athletic trainer, but to the Kansas City Wizards, trainer Chet North has been an especially vital part of their success this season as injuries have mounted yet failed to derail this enduring squad.

The trend began in the preseason as two cogs of the Wizards' success in 2003 were stricken by season -- no, possible career-threatening injuries as Preki's ankle was broken and dislocated and Igor Simutenkov suffered a torn Achilles tendon. As the season has progressed myriad calamities have come to the fore as starters Shavar Thomas, Jose Burciaga Jr., Josh Wolff, Chris Klein and Tony Meola -- just to name a few -- all have missed multiple games.

Some trainers might buckle under the pressure, but North has been there before as a U.S. national champion rower who overcame many injuries himself.

"Obviously being a national-caliber athlete, I had had like every injury so I learned a lot about my own injuries and how to take care of them," North said.

He revels now in helping others achieve.

"I've been very fortunate and blessed that I did my sports. But I still love competition, and I love seeing people reach their goals," he said. "I've gotten four inspiration awards in my life because I quietly encouraged people to do the best they could and was there when they weren't able to."

Not surprisingly, North -- the only athletic trainer the club has known -- has gained the confidence and friendship of many Wizards players.

"He works his butt off and does a great job. I consider him a close friend," said reserve 'keeper Bo Oshoniyi.

"I think my skill is that I'm very close to my athletes on a personal level. And what is private and what is theirs and what is unique to them as individuals is in my head and it stays there," said North.

Being able to effectively deal with a varied clientele is what North considers an athletic trainer's most difficult challenge in MLS.

"You have to be able to discern a lot of information regarding, in this league, cultures, race, religion -- everything. We have players from all over the world. Everyone is unique and different and really need a personality that grasps the concept that each person is a total individual. You can't treat one person like another person," North said.

Passionate players dealing with injuries that often keep them from being on the field need a release. Nothing works better than a little fun to break the tension.

"Chet is an organizational freak. He has all these labels for things in the training room and locker room," said defender Nick Garcia. "We give him a hard time -- messing stuff up on purpose."

Apparently the guy that North has likely spent the most time with this season is the main instigator, according to forward Davy Arnaud.

"Preki loves to wind Chet up a little bit, but he's been doing that since I've been here. Chet just kind of laughs and takes it all in stride," Arnaud said.

But North has certainly seen it all before and isn't fazed in the least.

"It's a funny joke, they say that the Organized Living store must love it when I come in there because everything has its place and everything is supposed to be there," North said. "And that's because we are in a high-intensity environment where things need to be done now; you can't be looking around for things."

All in all, though, the Wizards realize that North does it all for them with no glory for himself.

"He's in his own little world, but he's a great guy," said Garcia.

Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Soccer or its teams.


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