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Behind the Curtain

We go to movies, we attend games at Aloha Stadium, we catch the latest musicals by our local theater groups. Behind each of these experiences are the unsung heroes. The technical directors, the ushers, the costume designers who work long and hard so that the stars shine and we, the audience, are thrilled. Devoted craftspeople behind the curtain make it all happen. Here are their stories.


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Photo by: David Croxford


Renae Shigemura

University of Hawaii athletic trainer

When Renae Shigemura was a junior at Saint Francis School, she wrote a letter to herself that she would read when she turned 25. In it, she had written that she wanted to study kinesiology. Not that she knew what that meant at the time. “My whole life I’ve been involved in athletics,” says Shigemura, 33, who grew up playing soccer and lettered in basketball and tennis. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

For the past 11 years, Shigemura has worked in the athletics training department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, first as a student and now as one of five full-time athletic trainers responsible for the care and rehabilitation of the more than 400 student-athletes on campus.


These trainers’s tasks run the gamut from the medically rigorous to the mundane: taping ankles, massaging calves, poring over X-rays, administering therapeutic ultrasound, even accompanying student-athletes to their doctors’ appointments. They spend the mornings treating athletes in the recently renovated Makai Athletic Training Room, adjacent to the Stan Sheriff Center. Their afternoons are spent prepping for practice or home games or tournaments, all of which at least one certified trainer attends. They even pack supplies—Band-Aids, knee braces, coolers—for road trips.

“People think it’s a glamorous job,” says Shigemura, who often works 60-hour weeks. “They see us at games, but they don’t see everything else we do.” And because they work so closely with the student athletes, trainers even get tapped for non-sports-related injuries. Shigemura remembers flushing out a dime-size hole in one volleyball player’s shin after she got into a moped accident on campus.

“I could literally see inside her shin,” Shigemura says. “But you have to just think, ‘OK, what do I do next?’ You can’t think about it.”


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Honolulu Magazine April 2018
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