Forgotten, perhaps, in his lengthy service at Redlands East Valley High School, longtime educator Skip Hill might seem more like one of the school’s athletic coaches than the position he’s long been known for on that Mentone-based campus.
He took on sprained ankles, dislocations and knee injuries, dealt with concussions, huddled with coaches, athletes and parents, virtually everything connected with getting hurt on a court, field, mat, track or pool.
Hill, 52, a Highland resident, recently decided to step away as the school’s full-time trainer in place of Elese Anderson. That’s 14 years at REV, shouldering a load that included multiple league championships, a couple handfuls of CIF-Southern Section titles and the 2014 state football championship.
Even in so-called “retirement” back on Friday, Aug. 9, Hill was “finishing up on the football field.” Anderson, just over from Redlands High as an assistant trainer, “hasn’t done football before.”
Incidentally, Hill -- part of REV’s science staff -- will remain in place as an assistant trainer. “I’ll be a sounding board for Elese.”
When football’s Kurt Bruich, who showed up at REV a few years before Hill came in from Corona del Mar High School, it seemed like almost a lock that the trainer would follow the coach over to city rival Citrus Valley High prior to 2018-2019.
“That was in the back of my mind a lot,” said Hill, who was badgered by Bruich to make the jump. Bruich, Hill and REV-to-Citrus-Valley football assistant Chalen Tessitore all live in the same Highland neighborhood.
“Believe me,” said Hill, “we had a beer, or two, in my backyard talking about that. I kept thinking that if I jump ship (from REV for Citrus Valley), I’d have to put in at least five years.”
Hill and his wife, Kari, he said, “had long, ongoing talks for months and months.” Retirement was timed in the first week of school.
Word spread quickly that Hill, one of REV’s most popular figures, was stepping aside. It’s the old story, a dad that wants to be part of his children’s lives “before I become another one of those guys who looks back and wishes I’d done something different.”
He’s driving his daughter to college, University of Arizona, for the fall semester -- an action he probably couldn’t pull off while football was taking place.
His son’s a wrestler and baseball at Citrus Valley, participation Hill doesn’t want to miss.
Coaches and staff at REV line up to emphatically applaud Hill’s work. Science teaching mate Bryan Holcombe seems particularly appreciative.
“I was an athlete here,” said Holcombe, who is set to begin his third season as Wildcats’ wrestling coach. “He’s helpful on all sports. The best in the business. There are a lot of memories.
“He also treats coaches and teachers on the campus.”
Bruich, in particular, would call on Hill to remedy to swollen fingers, a syndrome he probably developed during his football-playing, pass-catching days at Fontana High and, later, at the University of Redlands.
“I don’t even think he can get his wedding ring on,” said Hill, “because that part of his knuckle gets so swollen.”
Speaking of the local university, consider that Hill nearly showed up to play football and baseball there in 1987. Instead, he stayed in his Orange County digs, playing both sports at Orange Coast College before settling in at Cal State Fullerton.
There was plenty of general talk with other trainers, especially at national conventions. “We took on great topics,” said Hill.
Talk on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE in the athletic world -- concussion syndrome -- is going rampantly. Hill has nothing new to add in that discussion. The brain is separate from the skull, he reminded.
“There’s no possible way to prevent a concussion,” he said. “You can try to minimize the absorption. I still think there’s a lot to be learned.”
Still, there were some tough moments, particularly during a freshman football game when a kick returner got hit hard in the leg, resulting in a double fracture -- tibia and fibula.
Hill got the splint set for the open fracture, setting it up for arriving medics who might’ve said, “You’re doing our job for us.”
There was a 2007 Varsity game against Redlands when the same thing occurred, a “tib-fib” fracture.
“Kurt (Bruich) claimed he could hear the pop, but I couldn’t hear it,” said Hill.
Hill built a solid reputation within the community, enough that he rarely heard complaints from parents over his judgement and treatment advice.
“I’m like a coach,” said Hill. “I might walk six miles on the (football) sideline during a game.”
He’ll hang on until November in order to assist Anderson, a Yucaipa product who went to Point Loma College (no football) and turned up at San Diego Helix High before landing at Redlands High last year. She'll be the lead trainer, but someone will be close by.
Said Hill: “I just can’t walk away.”