Your degree at work

Phoenix rising

When Brandon Knight or Eric Bledsoe scores a big basket or comes away with a huge steal for the NBA's Phoenix Suns, Clarion University is right there, playing a role in the success.

Adam Annaccone (M.Ed. '06) is an athletic trainer/performance and recovery specialist with the Suns, helping players stay healthy and recover from the grinds of the long season.

"It's a dream," Annaccone said. "Never in my life did I think I'd ... be in this position. Every day, there are little moments when it catches in your head and it's like wow – look at where I am at. Every day there is a moment that will take your breath away."

Annaccone's responsibilities are multi-faceted, from analytical-based decision making, to athletic training duties, to performance recovery aspects for some of the top basketball players in the world.

"We collect a lot of physical data on players," Annaccone said. "We collect the data both during practices, by having the players wear heart-rate monitors and devices that track their movement, and during games, with cameras in the rafters that track the players' movements and use algorithms to generate the distance the player travels and the training load they put in during the contest.

"I'll take the data we collect and make recommendations for practice times, participation times, that sort of stuff. I can predict, off a player's past numbers, that he's going to have a high training load coming up, so let's rest him. Or maybe this player didn't get a whole lot of activity in a game or a practice, so maybe we can have him go a bit longer. "

Injury prevention, something Annaccone said he learned from long-time Clarion head athletic trainer James "Thunder" Thornton, is the key to his job.

"I'm a big fan, as Jim Thornton is, of injury prevention," Annaccone said. "It only makes sense to do everything possible to ensure the athletes are getting the ultimate care and best practices for keeping them healthy."

Annaccone also assists the players in body recovery.

"Another big part of my job is looking at sleep and nutrition from the recovery side of things," Annaccone said. "Everybody is focused on training, but what gets left out is the time between games or practice – from the time the players leave the facility until they come back – and how they are assisting their body with recovery. Sleep is the biggest, number one thing they can do."

Annaccone's life now consists of taking care of million-dollar athletes, flying on charter planes and staying in five-star hotels in some of the greatest cities in North America, but he hasn't forgotten his Clarion roots. He believes anyone interested in athletic training would be remiss if they didn't become a Golden Eagle.

"Overseeing your education you have the president – now to be the past president – of the National Athletic Trainers Association. Having a person like that is absolutely invaluable," Annacone said of Thornton. "But beyond him, it's the fact that this staff and this community – it's a family. They put your best interest at heart. It's driving you to get the best education possible so you have that foundation and you can represent Clarion elsewhere."

Clarion is special to both Annaccone and his wife, Amelia (Harris '05) Annaccone, a starter on Clarion's 2005 NCAA Division II-qualifying women's basketball team.

"Every time we come back, we are like 'Wow! Look at what they are doing here! Look at what they are building here!' It's true what they say – you leave Clarion but Clarion never really leaves you. We have nothing but great memories of it."

Last Updated 9/19/17