Alumnus Nick Fey's Mentorship Experiences Come Full Circle
Fey grew up in White Lake, South Dakota – a rural community with a population of 405 people. Currently, he lives and works in Des Moines, Iowa, at Life Time – a gym that has nearly 7,000 members. Fey began as a personal trainer and has worked his way through roles as a group training coordinator, virtual training leader, 60day coordinator, and now, an assistant training leader.
In his present role, Fey’s main responsibilities are new member connectivity, a process of helping new members create exercise programs that match their interests, goals and schedules, and trainer education, which includes sales and marketing, business building, client rapport, exercise programming, cardiovascular conditioning, and nutrition. Fey also works with existing members to ensure they’re seeing results and helps maintain the various fitness areas of the gym.
Working at a fitness center that has nearly 15 times more members than people in his hometown was a big jump for Fey – but it was something he said he was more than prepared for because of early experiences he had at USD.
“I am especially grateful for the plethora of instructors who I still keep in contact with today and the USD Wellness Center for letting me get as much experience in my field as I did as an undergraduate student,” Fey said. “I truly don’t know many other universities that provide you such specific opportunities to get early experience in the fitness field like USD does.”
While earning his degree in exercise science at the state’s flagship university, Fey worked at the USD Wellness Center as a lifeguard, building manager and a certified trainer, eventually instructing other trainers during his senior year. “Not often do opportunities come full circle like that,” he said. He also interned as a strength and conditioning coach for USD Athletics.
In his career working with large teams of personal trainers, Fey has noticed that a reoccurring barrier to success is the ability to get hands-on experience. Reflecting on the pivotal role that hands-on experiences had in launching his career, Fey has worked with local Des Moines high schools and universities to create opportunities for students to get a head start in the field.
“At my gym, we interview anywhere from 20-30 candidates per year for personal training, and one large differentiator we have noticed for successful candidates is having real experience with clients,” said Fey.
Not only is Fey playing a pivotal role in putting students in his area on the path to success, but he’s also taking advantage of a mentorship opportunity at his alma matter and helping a current USD student realize his dreams of pursuing a career in the fitness world.
For the past several months, Fey has served as an alumnus mentor through Coyote Career Kickstart, a program dedicated to helping rural and underrepresented students succeed in college and their careers by providing mentorship opportunities, academic support, internship experiences and more.
“I’ve always been a supporter of USD because it holds such a special place in my heart,” said Fey. “I saw a post from someone saying that USD was actively seeking mentors, and based on my love for USD and my desire to give back and grow the field, I really wanted to see if I could get involved.”
Fey was connected with undergraduate student Tristan Rezac, a junior majoring in kinesiology and sport management. The pair has scheduled four phone calls over the course of the semester. Each call, Fey gives the aspiring personal trainer advice and assigns him training activities to help him develop his professional skills.
For Rezac, the lessons he’s learned during these meetings with Fey have been life changing.
“I feel incredibly lucky to have this opportunity and this amazing resource to use for my current and future endeavors,” Rezac said. "I’ve learned lessons like what I need to improve to make waves in the world of fitness education, specific ways to go about making lasting connections with people in my job field and how to be a better fitness professional overall.”
Mentorship played a huge role in setting Fey up for success in his career as a fitness professional, and he appreciates the opportunity to pass down this mentorship to a current student.
“I was very lucky to have many mentors when navigating college and I really don’t know where I would have ended up without them,” said Fey. “I am very grateful to be able to give back to other students – who like I once was – are trying to navigate this landscape. Fitness is an emerging field, so being able to work with these students a bit more hands on to help them discover what they like, learn how to achieve certain things and give them an opportunity to ask questions will really give them a step ahead of other graduates in the field.”
Since the pair was connected a few months ago, Rezac has passed his personal trainer exam, landed a job at the USD Wellness Center and is already working with a few clients. While Fey is providing Rezac with invaluable tools and feedback for success, the alumnus is also learning a lot about himself and the future of fitness.
“It’s sort of an 'I water you, you water me, and we grow together' experience,” said Fey. “I have learned a lot about what this generation of fitness professionals are interested in and what areas are more beneficial for them to learn."
At the end of the experience, Fey and Rezac will both walk away with a lifelong personal and professional connection who they can always reach out to.
“I know Tristan so well at this point, and if he wants a job with our company, he already has one,” said Fey. “Otherwise, I’m happy to provide a professional reference for him for any jobs he may apply for. I think this goes a long way for students just coming out of college to get the jobs they want.”
“To receive mentorship from a USD alum has not only given me professional help, but also a very well-known connection I can use,” said Rezac. “My goal post-graduation is to pursue a career in an esteemed gym organization, and slowly make my way up the cooperate ladder to own my own private gym establishment way down the line. This program is helping me achieve these goals by giving me resources and connections I can use to bolster my own professional abilities.”
Fey is also currently enrolled in an online graduate program at USD and will earn his master’s degree in sport management at the end of this semester.
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Rounding out its first year, Coyote Career Kickstart: Rural Recruitment, Retention and Completion is helping rural and underrepresented students succeed by providing mentorship opportunities, academic support and access to paid internships.