Next Friday La Cañada Flintridge native Rion Zimmerman will board a plane for Paris. He won’t be going there to sight-see or sample French cuisine. In some ways it will be just another week of work.
But what an incredible work week it will be: The 40-year-old chiropractor and father of two has been invited to join the small but dedicated medical staff serving the U.S. women’s soccer team, defending champions in the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
“Two months ago, I got a call from the head trainer,” he recalled. “They were like, ‘Hey, we decided we want to take you to the World Cup, it’s going to be a month — how long can you come for?’”
From there, things moved with lightning speed. Packages arrived in the mail filled with the team’s signature Nike gear. Zimmerman said there are signature swooshes everywhere.
A lifelong soccer fan, Zimmerman played for La Cañada High School and later in U.C. Irvine’s NCAA Division I team. Keenly interested in sports medicine, he sees many athletes in the La Cañada practice he runs alongside business partner Mike Shahbazian, who’s agreed to pick up Zimmerman’s slack until his June 30 return.
“I told him I can cover the practice and he can take off for a week,” Shahbazian said. “That’s the good thing about having us both there.”
Five years ago, Zimmerman chanced into working with the L.A. Galaxy soccer team. In 2015, the trainer for the U.S. women’s team came around looking for chiropractic help in advance of that year’s Women’s World Cup. Zimmerman was game.
Whether or not well-adjusted spines played a role, the team went on to take the series and Zimmerman has remained working with a contingent of physicians, nutritionists, trainers and massage therapists.
“It’s nice to be in that multidisciplinary group with other practitioners,” he said. “It’s a real friendly, good environment.”
Wife Jackie was invited to join her husband in France but with two small children to look after will likely be cheering him on from home. Son Nash, 7, is just beginning to understand his father’s brush with fame, more than 3-year-old daughter Navy. It’s a fun time for the family, she said.
“It’s pretty amazing how it’s all come together,” she added.
For Zimmerman, as exciting as being part of the World Cup is, it won’t be the defining moment of his life. Instead, he said, it will be “just another chapter in the book.”
But, oh, what a chapter it will be.