Riptide Game Changer – Athletic Trainer Malia Holmes

Athletic trainers are critical to an athlete’s success. According to the National Athletic Trainer’s Association, “Athletic trainers improve functional outcomes and specialize in patient education to prevent injury and re-injury.” But beyond their job description, they are so much more. 


Malia Holmes is the glue that holds this Riptide team together. Holmes came to the Riptide three years ago, because the Riptide’s Director of Stadium Operations and Marketing, David Lamm, was one of the football players she worked with at Cal State Fullerton

Working as an athletic trainer for over 30 years, Holmes previously worked at Villa Park High School for 21 years. After two decades of her work there, she retired 10 years ago. She attended Oregon State University for her education because they were one of the few schools where she could study to be an athletic trainer. Growing up in Hawaii, she didn’t want to go too far, and Oregon was the perfect fit. Transitioning from living in Hawaii to Oregon was easy for Holmes. Holmes said, “People in Oregon were really friendly and kind of down to Earth, and that’s kind of what I’m used to.” She left Oregon State after the head trainer left and was recommended to Cal State Fullerton and she went. 

Malia Holmes talking with catcher Connor Clift (USC). Holmes loves engaging with players and getting to know them so she can give them the best treatment possible. (Photo Credit: Grace Pugliese)

Athletic training has always been in the cards for Holmes. Growing up, she was an athlete, playing basketball and volleyball, and when she got hurt, she didn’t have an athletic trainer. The frustration of not being able to get back on the court led her to research athletic training. Once she discovered it around 9th grade, she knew that this was the job for her.


When Holmes’ is not treating the athletes, she’s sitting in the dugout during games on standby. Holmes enjoys being in the dugout with the players. She said, “I love the camaraderie with them, and when they get so excited when somebody does well. It’s so nice to see because sometimes at this level, they kind of want to be out for themselves because they are trying to get to the next level. But the summer league, or at least the Riptide, they’re not like that at all.” That’s the overwhelming consensus when you hear people who work with the team, talk about the team. The players pick each other up, and it makes working with them so much more rewarding, to be in a good environment.


After 30 years of working as a trainer, Holmes has loved watching the evolution of her athletes. She keeps in contact with them and watches their progress over the years. It’s always rewarding and amazing for her to see if her athletes make it to the next level, whether they get drafted, or make the national team like one of the soccer players she treated. Holmes gets to give them extra support and finds pure joy in watching her athletes do well.


Away from the field, Holmes is a host mom for Riptide players. This is her second year hosting, and she loves it. Her favorite part is getting to know the kids. Holmes said, “It gives you a special kind of connection with the team because you kind of get a little more background information of the team.” She also loves being able to help the players and support them through their struggles away from home – it connects her even more to the team. 


It’s an honor to have someone as talented as Malia Holmes on our OC Riptide staff. Holmes is an integral part of our team, and the impact she has on the players is immeasurable. Keep an eye out for her in action at the next Riptide home game, and remember – always listen to your athletic trainers.

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