The career of an athletic trainer is to help athletes develop better fitness, strength, and injury prevention and in some cases a speedy recovery. For Joseph Hughes, there are also unwritten duties that come with the job.
Hughes lives his dream every single time he gets out of bed early in the morning. The East Bay native has always had a passion of working with athletes. On a consistent basis he gets to do so with high school athletes, NFL-bound players and mixed martial arts fighters through Fightletics, the physical fitness center he runs.
Hughes specifically focuses on prevention of injuries, muscle recovery and injury rehab.
“Everyone is a trainer and everyone is a strength coach, so what would make me different,” Hughes asked himself. “I needed to become a better strength coach.”
One of the athletes he works with is Pittsburg High School quarterback Trey Turner, who suffered an ACL injury in a preseason scrimmage at the beginning of his junior campaign. Hughes has helped him through every step of his recovery.
“In my rehab process, he has been there the whole way,” Turner said. “We took it slow and made sure I was ready for every step. It took a lot of time, almost every day, to get to where I am. And I was happy that he was just as committed as me in getting me back on the field.”
Via Fightletics, Hughes has worked with UFC fighters Nick and Nate Diaz and UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier.
His journey has gone through the entire loop in the Contra Costa Community College district, having attended every single school in the system. Hughes ultimately transferred as a LMC student to California State University, East Bay to continue his studies.
But before that, when Hughes was 19 he enlisted in the United States Air Force reserve, where he served as a medic in aerospace medicine at Travis Air Force base. Hughes was in charge of medical corps and ready to deploy out of that specific location.
In his educational journey, he was able to land an internship with California Strength, which lead him to get first-hand experience working with top athletes like Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso and and Super Bowl champion, T.J. Ward.
One player Hughes has a connection with is former NFL player and Freedom High School alumnus Diondre Borel, who credits Hughes with helping him learn more about strength and recovery in his body. Borel also said Hughes inspires others he surrounds himself with.
“He wants better for himself and others which is what makes him a great person,” Borel said. “He is a positive influence and believes in my goals. He is great at what he does.”
Soon, Hughes became an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the juggernaut football program of De La Salle High School, who has not lost to a Northern California team since 1991.
However, he left the program after just one year. Ironically, he joined Pittsburg High School football program, the last NorCal team that beat De La Salle in 1991.
He serves as the head strength and conditioning coach.
“My goal by leaving one of the top high schools in the state, was to bring affordable and adequate strength training, giving young men and women the opportunity like well-funded schools in other areas,” Hughes said.
Turner says that Hughes has been a huge asset to the Pittsburg program.
“He was firm in telling us that he was here to help us become great athletes by teaching us correct form and more, but he also helps us become men.” Turner said.
This is where Hughes’ unwritten duties as a coach come in.
Growing up in the Pittsburg and Antioch area, Hughes saw first-hand how rough the environment was at the time. He graduated from Mount Diablo High School, one of the more troubling schools in the East Bay. Hughes said he had an interesting high school experience hanging out with the wrong crowd, in addition to having a troubling life at home where he witnessed his mom recovering from drugs and his dad battling through illness. But that he says helped him shape him into the person he is today.
“You can hang around the right crowd and make the wrong choices. You can hang around the wrong crowd and make the right choices,” Hughes said. “It’s up to the discretion of the person every single time.”
His goal is to give back to his community, through doing what he loves. He works with many youth athletes, and creates affordable programs through Fightletics. Ten percent of whatever he charges these athletes go to a charity, and not just the same one, but a variety of charities because Hughes wants to help everyone, not just one area.
“I never want to focus on just one community, we need to help everyone,” Hughes said. “We should be getting these athletes back to help their own community to develop as people and value life.”
Hughes plans to continue living in the East Bay, and over time expand Fightletics across the Bay Area. Most importantly, he wants to continue working on finding a way for all high schools in the Bay Area to have affordable training programs.