Barefoot, dressed in hot pants and white T-shirt, shapely, 5’9″ Connie Spooner guided the electric vibrator around the muscular thigh of the young man who was lying, eyes closed, on the table. A languid idyll from a new porno flick? On the contrary, it was a scene of almost overwhelming whole-someness that occurs regularly during football season in the training room at San Diego State University.
“When I first started working as a student trainer with the team in 1972,” says Spooner, 26, who has a bachelor’s degree in physical education and is working on a masters, “there were snickers from the players and other male chauvinist comments. But no more. Now I’m just one of the guys.”
Well, not quite. It was Spooner’s arrival which gave head trainer Dr. Bob Moore the excuse he had been seeking to enforce a stricter dress code in the taping room. “Before Connie arrived as a trainer, we’d just hop on the table naked as a jaybird,” said one player.
Despite the rule (minimum dress: shorts), some forgetful players still occasionally appear, tra-la, in the buff. “When they do,” says Connie, “I try to look the other way.” Occasionally she’ll tease the exhibitionists: “O.K. Tarzan, get back in there and put something on.”
Connie has earned a reputation for efficiency and warmth. Recently she was promoted to assistant trainer, the first ever in the U.S., and now has charge of four apprentices, two of them men. (Off season, she is head trainer of the co-ed San Diego pro volleyball team.) At first the San Diego State players did not trust Connie to take care of their bruises. “I wondered whether a woman could do it as well as a man,” says Garth De Felice, a mammoth Aztecs linebacker, “now I like it. It’s a lot easier to cry in front of her—there’s more TLC.” Another bruiser confesses: “It’s like being treated by your mother, she doesn’t prod hard in tender places, she’s more sympathetic and she brings a glow to the locker room.”
Spooner was weaned on sports. Her mother and older sister, Joni, now 28, were football and baseball fanatics, her younger brother, Mike, now 21, played on Little League and Pop Warner teams (Connie was scorekeeper), and her father, a retired Navy chief petty officer, is a recreation program director in San Diego. When Mike played football in high school, Connie began fretting about injuries. “I just couldn’t understand how a player could hurt himself and go right back in again,” she says. She still has difficulty understanding the masochism involved in sport. “I’ve had a few heated arguments with injured players about pulling them out of the game,” she says. “I usually win, and I think that’s the way they want it.”
Off duty, Connie likes to sew her own clothes and work in macrame in the apartment she shares with another woman, an elementary schoolteacher. She also plays a highly competitive game of tennis with her boyfriend, John Janisch, 27, a San Diego State senior. And how does she treat his minor aches and pains? “Not very sympathetically,” Janisch says, “but she sure gives a terrific back rub.”