Toth's book gets fans 'up close, personal' with athletes
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Ann Miller
Melody Toth, a fixture at the University of Hawai'i for 30 years until she retired in May, is back this month to celebrate the release of her book, "Let's Go Bows! Behind the Scenes with University of Hawai'i Sports." Toth started the book in 2006 after keeping journals throughout her athletic training career.
Toth spent her first 24 years here working primarily with Rainbow Wahine volleyball, including the national championship teams of 1979, '82, '83 and '87. She worked with men's basketball her last six years and spent many springs with softball and other sports. Along the way she helped create the Rainbow Wahine athletic training program with her mentors, Donnis Thompson, Ralph Hale and the late Allen Richardson. The book is dedicated to "Doc" Richardson, Toth's "go-to guy whenever I couldn't find a solution to a problem."
The book is a unique look back at 30 years of Rainbow sports, from the perspective of a person who poured her heart and soul into the program from the sidelines and still gets calls and e-mails from former athletes — and their parents.
"I miss her spirit and love for what she was doing, and enthusiasm for the team," volleyball coach Dave Shoji said. "She was such a positive person around the team. Besides the obvious part of taking care of our athletes, she was like a sports psychologist. She would encourage the girls and knew what made everybody tick and could use different ways to treat people. She was always trying to get the most out of every player."
Toth's fondest, happiest, saddest and most offbeat memories are in the book. That includes a mention of Shoji transforming himself into the TV geek character Urkel — hiking his shorts far up and pulling his socks over his knees — to loosen his team up. On another trip, when Shoji stopped all calls and movies in the hotel after a bad practice, his team walked into its Pacific match (athletic) taped together chain-gang style, singing Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang."
She goes into length about the 1987 season that saw the Rainbow Wahine "get her home for Christmas," beginning with the airline losing everyone's bags the first two days they were in Indianapolis. Toth also reveals that it was Swedish All-American Angelica Ljungquist who finally figured out the "F4NQA" code the trainer put on every cup the 1996 team used, all the way to the national final.
"Three weeks into the season Ang said, 'Final four, no questions asked,' " Toth recalled. "It was a real touching moment for me when they figured it out and used it for their rallying cry."
She also has some interesting thoughts on the differences between traveling with men's and women's teams. Toth found out the hard way that "men have a tendency to not neutralize their internal pressure until about four hours after a flight," something she unfortunately discovered in the middle of a basketball huddle at a practice four hours after the 'Bows landed on yet another trip.
She recalls blonde softball All-American Dana Degen disguising herself in a short brunette wig and glasses on a road trip, and coming into a Red Lobster to flirt with retired volunteer assistant John Nakamura, who did not recognize her.
"He had no clue," Toth recalled. "One by one we all caught on, we were all laughing. She was saying, 'Hey big boy, what are you doing tonight,' rubbing his head. 'Naks' was getting redder and redder and redder. She left and we told him that was Dana. He said, 'Dana Degen, she never looks that good on the field."
Toth sees the book as something fans "can pull out and remember, be up close and personal with their favorite athletes" and hopes to have coaches and former athletes with her at some of the book signings, which begin Sunday. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the UH Athletic Training Foundation account.
Reach Ann Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.