How a kinesiology degree from Calvin can lead to a job with the NBA

Meet Trent Salo, director of sport performance for the Detroit Pistons. His interest in the human body opened doors for him—first at Calvin and later in the world of professional basketball. That’s what a Calvin education is about: letting your curiosity lead you to a career you love.


  •   Author: Michal Rubingh
  •   Published: September 25, 2019
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Here’s how kinesiology grad Trent Salo’s time at Calvin equipped him to step into a position with the Detroit Pistons.

What led you to major in kinesiology at Calvin?

I started out studying finance at Northwood University, but I wasn’t really reflecting on what I wanted to do for a career. All I was thinking about was trying to play basketball in college. What I quickly learned during my first year was that I had an interest in the human body. My assistant coach at Northwood connected me with Calvin. Once I got to Calvin and majored in kinesiology, my interest in the human body took off.

What leadership experiences did you have at Calvin?

I got to design training programs for the basketball team. My coach, Professor Vande Streek, realized my interest in training and offered to let me design the team’s workouts.

What was a valuable skill you gained from your kinesiology degree?

I’d say my critical thinking skills and scientific understanding of the human body. These help me sift through all the deceptive marketing that’s out there in the sports industry. It’s crazy how much wrong information there is on certain training programs. This critical thinking helps me explain to our players what’s actually valuable for training your body. If you have an understanding of biomechanics and physics, you can understand what’s really going on when you design training programs.

How did you get connected with the Detroit Pistons?

After graduation, I taught at the University of Kentucky and then returned to Calvin to teach some exercise science courses. That’s when I met with the Pistons at the Grand Rapids Drive. They asked if I could design some programs with them because of my work in exercise science. That eventually led to a job with them. Now I pull together my experience in all these disciplines—exercise, nutrition, sports science, strength and conditioning—to direct sport performance for the Pistons.

How did your time at Calvin shape your concept of your future career? 

When I was a student, we would have conversations in class—sometimes it was a devotional; sometimes it was a discussion of what was going on in the world. We learned that there’s more to life than just your career. We learned that vocation is where the world’s greatest need and your deepest pleasure meet. That mindset makes me think I need to approach these players I’m working with as more than X’s and O’s. The most important part of my job is getting to know our players. I developed that skill of genuinely talking with them and getting to know them at Calvin. 

  •   Author: Michal Rubingh
  •   Published: September 25, 2019
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