Laura Alexander Carries Heavy Load As NCAA Football Athletic Trainer And Weightlifter

by Karen Rosen

Laura Alexander competes in the women's 87 kg. at the 2021 USA Weightlifting National Championships on July 4, 2021 in Detroit.


Laura Alexander was walking down the ramp to the field at San José State University’s football stadium on Oct. 30 when she got a text from her weightlifting coach.
“Hey, one of the members of Team USA who was going to Pan Ams got hurt,” wrote Greg Everett. “Can you go to Ecuador?”
Although Alexander was a bit preoccupied, she was aware that the Pan American Championship in Guayaquil was only a week away.
“I’m probably not going to be able to give you an answer today,” Alexander wrote back. “This is where I am right now.” 
She attached a photo of San José State kicking off against Wyoming.
As head football athletic trainer for the Spartans, Alexander has 103 players under her care. She needed to be ready – with her staff of four – to tend to any aches and pains or electrolyte imbalances.
San José State went on to defeat Wyoming, 27-21. Alexander then sought a green light from coach Brent Brennan to miss the next game at Nevada, while also lining up a top-notch replacement.
“Those were the things I really needed to feel comfortable going,” said Alexander, who has been a member of the Spartans staff since 2011. She was named head football athletic trainer in 2017 and in 2020 was promoted to Assistant Athletic Director for Student Athlete Wellness and Leadership Development.
Boarding a plane to her first international event, Alexander pushed thoughts of ankle taping, yoga stretching and sports medicine out of her mind to make room for the snatch and the clean and jerk.
“Sometimes it feels like I live two different lives,” she said.
At age 33, Alexander is a relative newcomer in the sport of weightlifting with some impressive accomplishments already under her belt.

(L-R) Mary Theisen-Lappen, Mattie Rogers and Laura Alexander pose with the women's team trophy at the 2021 Pan American Weightlifting Championships on Nov. 7 in Guayaquil, Ecuador.


Alexander arrived at midnight on Nov. 5 with her competition scheduled for Nov. 7. Best friend Mattie Rogers, a 2020 Olympian, and her coach Aimee Everett were waiting for Alexander with balloons and a cupcake to celebrate her 33rd birthday.
“Having her along this journey has made it so rewarding,” Alexander said of Rogers, who has helped her with “everything from what to pack to the attitude in approaching a barbell when you’re under pressure.”

While Alexander watched part of San José State’s football game online, she couldn’t stay up until the end because she had to compete early the next day.

Poised during her international debut, Alexander was in contention for medals in both lifts, eventually finishing fourth in the 87 kg. weight class in snatch (101 kg.), clean and jerk (131 kg.) and total (232 kg.). She was just one kilo away from the clean and jerk bronze. Had Alexander made her last snatch and last clean and jerk, she would have secured the silver. 
All in all, it was a good trial run for worlds. “I’m now aware of the mindset I need to get into – it’s a little more of an attack mindset,” she said. “I’m not just representing myself and my coach, I’m representing the USA and I feel a lot of honor to be able to do that.”
Upon her return to California, Brennan, the head football coach, asked Alexander to tell the team where she had been and what she had done.
“I don’t make it very public, particularly during the season, because I don’t want to be a distraction,” Alexander said. “If they see me on a video, or if see me on social media, they’re like, ‘That’s my trainer, look at her!’ It’s fun to be supported by all of them.”
Is the trainer stronger than some of her players? “Yes,” she said without hesitation. “There’s definitely a handful.”
Before the pandemic, Alexander would sometimes lift  in the weight room, so “some of them have seen me in action,” she said.
During football season, Alexander is usually at work between 6:30-7 a.m. and does not finish until 4:30-5 p.m. She then starts her own training five days a week, working out for at least two hours, and sometimes doesn’t get out of the gym until after 8 p.m.

Laura Alexander competes in the women's 87 kg. at the 2021 Pan American Weightlifting Championships on Nov. 7 in Guayaquil, Ecuador.


Despite such a full plate, Alexander found time in October to squeeze in a wedding – though not yet a honeymoon. She said her new husband, personal trainer Chris Eagen, is understanding. “With the schedule that I have, I couldn’t do it without him,” she said.
The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 were too early in Alexander’s weightlifting career for her to be a contender, but she has her eye on the Olympic Games Paris 2024.

At first, Alexander said, “Greg and I were really just focused on ‘Let’s just get better. Let’s just get stronger.’ Greg was really good about not putting too much pressure on me to lift enough to do x, y, z.  We never talked about medals or winning or teams or international level-competitions – just try and get as strong as we can get and see where it takes us. All those conversations would come in due time. And they did. And here we are.”
Alexander’s background as a collegiate softball player at Chapman University for four years also has helped her become a better weightlifter.
“The concept of the pressure of an at-bat for example,” Alexander said. “You’ve got to make something happen.”
She brushes off talk about her age. Alexander was the oldest U.S. competitor in Ecuador by two years — almost twice the age of 17-year-old Hampton Morris — and yet one of the least experienced.
“I’m like, ‘Yep, I am a rookie,’” she said. “I’m going to do the best I can do for as long as I can do it, and we’re going to get as much out of these few years as we can. I really believe in age not being a limiting factor for a lot of things in life.
“I’ll hear people say, ‘I can’t start that now, I’m just too old.’ I would never want to say that.’”
And she’ll impart that philosophy to the student athletes at San José State in her role as assistant athletic director. “I really felt a strong pull in the past couple of years to make a bigger impact,” said Alexander, who oversees everything from sports medicine to mental health, nutrition, athletic performance and strength and conditioning. “The position was created and I felt like it was what I had been waiting for — so I took it on. But I told them that I wasn’t ready to give up football.”
Except on those rare occasions when she’s competing for Team USA in an international weightlifting competition.

Karen Rosen has covered every Summer and Winter Olympic Games since 1992 for newspapers, magazines and websites. Based in Atlanta, she has contributed to since 2009.