With Veterans Day around the corner, we take a look at a Gym owned by an Army veteran from the 101st Airborne.
It’s a chilly late October evening, in the former Owens and Oliver Lumber building, but you could not tell from the sweat on the student running the treadmill. “15 Seconds! Come on push that last little bit!” Trainer/Owner Matt Francis exclaimed.
See, it’s here where kids learn the basics of conditioning in an after school class. After the kids class it’s high school classes separated by gender. Girls at 5:30, Boys at 6:30. The instruction does not just stop at weights and a multitude of footwork drills, there is also nutrition training.
Before diving into more of the gym, lets go back to the beginning on the story of Matt Francis. “I joined the Military right after High School. Went lots of places, but the last seven years was with the 101st.” Owner Matt Francis said, “I was the Military fitness instructor there. I ran the PT for the 101st, guys that didn’t pass the PT test I was doing personal training locally in gyms on post.”
“When I retired in ’03, I just kept training people. Started working with local schools, at the time it was in Tennessee.” Matt Francis said, “Working with the kids is were I found my passion, working with the kids, getting them to really understand what needed to happen to get to the next level.”
Matt Francis has now been coaching for 35 years. In that time, he has also been able to do Powerlifting, where he holds 7 state records in two different age divisions. One of the certifications he holds is a CrossFit Level 2, and he has gone on to judge those competitions as well. “I’ve worked with athletes at all levels, and practically every sport except for maybe Water Polo.” Matt said with a laugh.
“I moved here to Greenwood in 2017. Started helping out with the Pittbulls and that just kind of snowballed into everything at the school.” Matt said. On the side Matt Francis opened a gym in the shopping center across from Walgreen’s. When he out grew that location, he moved to a building almost across the Center St on Denver. With an eye on expanding the gym, Matt searched for a spot to grow, but those plans were soon halted. The building he was renting was going to no longer be available, so Greenwood Strength and Conditioning set out to find a new home. In stepped Community Bible Church on Ulmer St. Utilizing what was the Lumber storage area during it’s days as a Hardware Store/Lumber Yard, it was transformed into a fully functioning gym.
“We have classes that coach kids from Kindergarten all the way up through the whole High School. We have some College kids that still come in.” Matt Francis said, “I do work with adults during the day. I have some private clients that come in during the day.”
The 3:30-4:30 classes are for the Kindergarten to 7th-8th Grade and focus mainly on speed and agility. 4:30 to 5:30 teaches the basic fundamentals of weight lifting and resistance training, that class is narrowed down to kids in the 6th through the 8th grade. All classes are Monday through Friday, for $100/month. Don’t let the name fool you, he wants to work with all surrounding communities as well.
The ultimate goal is to turn the gym into something bigger, a non-profit to help kids and Veterans to a healthy lifestyle. “I have been talking to the VA, to get the ability, to be something that would assist Vets.” Francis said, “I would like to be able to help my brothers and sisters out, that do have those issues. Provide something that gives them an outlet for help in some way, a support group, that allows them to know that there is somebody who cares about them whether they know it or not. As a Veteran I care about all those guys and girls, I hate to see the pain that a lot of them go through.”
In Matt’s time here in the area talking with fellow veteran’s he feels that this is a very under-served area when it comes to things for Veterans after they get out the Service. During the interview, I commented that with the amount of military history and the amount if kids that at one time did join the Armed Forces, I was shocked to learn that there were just a few outlets for Veterans in the area.
In life, you can either wait for someone to take action, or you can make it happen yourself. For Army Veteran Matt Francis, he wants to be a change in the community for the greater good of the future generations. All while helping those, like himself, that helped keep America the home of the Free.