Lee Seung-yup, a trainer at Korea Gas Corporation, has set himself a second goal.
This article was originally published in the September 2023 issue of Basket Korea Webzine. The interview was conducted on the afternoon of July 21. (Link to purchase Basket Korea Webzine)
A professional basketball team requires more people than you might think. Not only the coaching staff and players, but also the people who support them need to be on the court.
Trainers are the main staff members who support the team. They”re also essential for the players. They play an important role in taking care of the players’ bodies. This is the case with Lee Seung-yeop. He works for Korea Gas Corporation in Daegu.
“They looked at me so well…”
This might be a bit off topic. But before we talk about Lee, we want to mention the WKBL.
The WKBL temporarily hires college student trainers for referee training. The purpose of this is to assist the main trainers and to give them some ‘real-world’ experience.
Trainer Lee Seung-yeop also went through the process of being a student and a trainee. After being recognized for his abilities and passion, he entered professional basketball. However, he was humbled when he said, “They looked at me well…”.
What is your major?
I majored in sports medicine at Cha University of Medical Sciences. I learned basic anatomy and physiology, and I also learned how to train athletes, including rehabilitation exercises.
What is the typical career path?
Some people go to professional sports teams, while others work in hospitals doing athletic rehabilitation. Some go on to work at exercise centers.
When did you start working?
When I was in college, I went to the Incheon Electronic Land professional basketball team (the predecessor of the Daegu KOGAS professional basketball team) for an internship. I worked as an intern trainer in 2019, and the following year I became a full-time trainer. I think I was able to keep working because they looked at me well.
So your training led to a job.
Yes, in school you learn the theory, but in the field you can actually implement what you learned in school. It’s a great opportunity, but even though I thought I had studied a lot, I found it difficult in practice.
What did you find difficult?
For example, taping, every player has a different foot shape. The size of their feet is also different, and it’s not easy to adapt to the differences.
And there are guidelines for both rehabilitation and strengthening exercises. But when you’re preparing for the season, the players’ fatigue builds up, and you have to create a workout program based on that. It’s not just about volume, it’s also about communicating with the players, which was new to me at first.
The founding team’s first trainer
The Incheon Electronic Land professional basketball team ended its basketball operations after the 2020-2021 season. A new team was needed to continue the franchise’s history. The KBL, along with Deloitte Anjin Accounting, found a company to run the organization, and KOGAS became the new owner.
KOGAS took over the coaching staff and players. The same was true for the support staff. Trainer Lee Seung-yup also became part of the KOGAS family.
The new team has a lot of expectations, but without a solid foundation, they have to go through trial and error. The reason why the KOGAS staff had a hard time. Trainer Lee Seung-yeop also struggled with poor training conditions and a series of injuries to his players.
KOGAS is the newest member of the KBL, but since they were the founding team, I think they had some difficulties.
In Incheon, we had free use of the Samsan Indoor Gymnasium auxiliary gym. In Daegu, we’re getting better and better, but we were limited in the beginning.
As you said, the first year, the workout environment was not very good.
That’s when I was away for a while. I was at the Jincheon Athletes’ Village, so I don’t know the exact details. Of course, at that time, we didn’t have a separate room for weight training. Same with the treatment room.
However, when I came back to the team, the secretariat provided me with the necessary items such as sports equipment and medical supplies. Daegu Metropolitan City also showed a lot of interest, so I think the training environment improved a little bit.
Also, COVID-19 was in full swing at the time. I don’t think it would have been easier to manage the team.
There were guidelines from the government, so it wasn’t a problem to follow them. However, the athletes who were confirmed with COVID-19 were unable to regain their physical condition even after quarantine was lifted, so I think that was a challenge.
What trainers need to do
Trainers don’t just take care of their athletes’ bodies. They also check their mental state. They have to check every aspect of the athlete and decide if they can play. They have to discuss this with the coaching staff.
Therefore, a trainer”s day is quite busy. They need to be attentive and passionate. Nevertheless, unexpected things happen. Athletes get injured, for example, so you have to be prepared for a lot of surprises.
What does your day look like?
Let’s start with the off-season: I arrive at work by 8am and start my day by organizing my supplies. I go through the athletes’ morning workout routine, then I have lunch, and then I get ready again at 1:30 p.m. I help the athletes with their strengthening exercises, and then I get ready for the afternoon workout. After the afternoon workout and dinner, I help the athletes with their strengthening or rehabilitation exercises. After the players leave, we leave the gym.
Once we get into the season, there’s a difference between game days and non-game days. On a non-game day, the routine is similar to the off-season, but on a game day, it depends on the time of the game, especially if it’s a 7 p.m. game on a weeknight, players who don’t normally play will do this workout three hours before kickoff. There are little details like that.
A trainer is a staff member who talks to the players a lot. It’s a job that requires a lot of emotional connection.
We spend a lot of time with the players, and we talk about a lot of things, and then we hear from the players that they’re having a hard time. I think it’s a lot of natural conversation, not a lot of coddling.
You also have to act as a bridge between the coaching staff and the players.
Our main trainer, Mr. Choi Eun-ho, acts as a bridge. However, when I have a problem, I tell her first, and I feel comfortable working with her because she is so good at being the middle man.
No matter how careful the trainer part is, injuries are bound to happen. However, ‘injury prevention’ is the first task of the trainer part.
Muscle injuries, for example, can be prevented to some extent by building strength, which is why my players work so hard on their weight training in the off-season. But sprains and bruises are harder to prevent because there are a lot of unexpected variables, like stepping on your foot or bumping into something, so I think that’s where ‘injury prevention’ is really hard.
“The first goal has been achieved”
KOGAS reorganized its coaching staff after the 2022-2023 season. The youngest coach, Kang Hyuk, was given the role of acting head coach. Instead of Yoo Yoo-hoon, who led the team for more than a decade, including his time with the E-Land, a new face was given the reins.
When the coaching staff changes, the team’s colors change. It’s not just about basketball. The trainers have to change their training programs as well. So, the summer of 2023 will be even busier for Lee.
However, Lee has spent five years in professional basketball. He knows how to deal with change. And as a senior trainer, he should be an example to the younger ones. He should motivate those who dream of becoming a trainer in a professional sports team, and he should solidify his goals as a trainer.
In the end, the trainer part of the job is all about performing well.
Due to the nature of the job, you have to get to work before the players. It’s really hard to have personal time. Despite this, I have to spend more time in the gym than the players, because while the team’s performance is important, I don’t want them to get injured.
Many people dream of becoming a trainer for a professional sports team 스포츠토토.
When I was in school, I didn’t have a lot of hands-on experience, so when I came to the field without any experience, it was more intimidating, so I hope (juniors) have a lot of experience in the field, whether it’s on-the-job training, external support, or internships. They look for new trainers with some experience in the field, so I hope those who are preparing to become a trainer for a professional club will put more importance on the field.
What are your goals as a trainer?
My dream was to be a trainer for a professional basketball team, so my first dream has been fulfilled, so I’ve set a new goal: to stay in the game for as long as possible.