During more than 30 years as head trainer for University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa athletics, Melody Toth was often advised to slow down and catch her breath.
Her career certainly had its share of breath-taking moments―WAC and national championships, heartfelt miracles and devastating losses. She recounts many of them in her book Let’s Go ’Bows! Behind the Scenes with the University of Hawaiʻi Sports.
Toth began her career in her home state of Indiana after graduating from college in 1973.
“I was the first woman to work in the men’s training program, and it was a big deal at the time since there were hardly any women working in the athletic training field anywhere in the country,” she recalls. She headed west, working at San Jose State University, then boarded a plane to Honolulu in August 1977 to become athletic trainer for the Rainbow Wahine sports program.
In 2000 Toth turned 50 and was ready a change, so she jokingly asked then Head Coach Riley Wallace if she could be the trainer for his team.
“What began as a joke turned into a job as the men’s basketball trainer,” she says.
Training became more than just her job; her life revolved around athletes’ injuries and comebacks.
“I wanted to give my players the best possible training available. I saw that I could take care of them, love them and enjoy being one of the girls and part of the guys,” Toth says.
Her book describes well-known personalities, such as the late Athletic Director Stan Sheriff, and recaps games like the NCAA women’s volleyball regionals against University of the Pacific and national championship final in 1987. It also gives an insider’s view of funny and heartwarming moments the fans don’t get to witness. And it shamelessly shakes a verbal finger at fair-weather fans who only follow major sports and winning teams.
Toths up-close and personal view of matches and athletes are so detailed that readers experience triumphs and defeats as if they were courtside.
Reading one of her favorite chapters to a Mānoa audience during a fall 2008 visit to Hawaiʻi, she described the heart and love of the game exhibited by Ryan Holiday and Lance Tataki. For these two basketball players, giving 100 percent was never good enough; they kept pushing themselves, even though they weren’t first string, Toth said.
As she read, a man in the back chuckled. It was Holiday, a look of surprise and respect on this face. Unaware that he was mentioned in Toth’s book, he had come to the reading to show support and gratitude for the trainer who had once cared for him.
Toth approached authorship with the same determination as she did training. She had been writing since high school and kept journals throughout her career. She enrolled in writing classes and found a mentor in instructor Jacqueline Chun.
Eight years later, she finished her book, which was released by Watermark Publishing in September 2008. She is grateful to the publisher for securing rights to use the UH team moniker in the title.
“I was allowed to use the phrase ‘Let’s Go ’Bows!rsquo; No other title would have been good enough,” she proclaims.
The woman who lived and breathed UH athletics for three decades has dedicated a portion of proceeds from sale of the book in honor of Dr. Allen Richardson to benefit the UH Athletic Training Foundation.
Her mantra now? “Better keep breathing,” Toth laughs. “They have to send you that retirement check!”
More about Melody Toth
- Firsts: Female student in physical therapy classes and woman trainer in a men’s program (at the University of Indiana)
- Home: Pennsylvania
- Pet: Silky Terrier Dickens Keʻaloha.
- Retirement plans: Playing the guitar and opening a sports motivation camp
- What she misses about Hawaiʻi: The people; favorite foods, like chicken katsu, teriyaki beef and ‘ōpakapaka