Urbandale training center puts athletes on the cutting edge
Friends and teammates since childhood, Jack Whitver and Geoff Jensen have joined forces for the launch of a training program that is drawing athletes from across Central Iowa.
The two former college football standouts and Grinnell natives opened Acceleration Iowa, a franchisee of Fargo, N.D.-based Frappier Acceleration Sports Training, in May and are learning the ropes of business ownership while encouraging athletes to reach their full potential.
“I thought part of the reason we wanted to go into business was to kind of be on our own pace,” Whitver said. “But I just enjoy training kids and seeing their results and seeing their confidence go up because they’re doing better. I think they feel a lot more confident when they get back on the field after they’ve been with us.”
Using treadmill workouts, plyometrics and strength and resistance training, the program is intended to improve quickness balance, strength, biomechanics and confidence, with training exercises for all athletes geared to their specific sports. Franchise licensees and others within the company are involved in continuak research and program development to keep athletes at the top of their game.
Beginning- through professional-level athletes are implementing the program in their training routines. FAST now has seven locations in Iowa, as well as in 32 states and four foreign countries. Several colleges and universities throughout the nation are establishing on-campus training centers.
“Seeing the success that every other facility around the state had, we didn’t see any reason why it couldn’t be successful in Des Moines,” Jensen said.
Whitver, who played football for Iowa State University and earned his M.B.A. in December, and Jensen, who earned his exercise science degree while playing football for Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., participated in FAST in Cedar Rapids during high school and college. They both noticed improvements in their athletic abilities, from speed and conditioning to footwork and coordination.
“I think we can both attest that it was a contributing factor in us getting athletic scholarships to play football,” Jensen said. “If you look at it that way, it’s a pretty small investment for a college education.”
In December, they began trying to get their enterprise off the ground using a business plan Whitver had written for a class at Iowa State. They battled through several months of negotiations with lenders, real estate agents and franchise executives. It wasn’t easy, because they had few assets that could serve as collateral for a loan, and their venture was risky.
“When you’re trying to start a business with no money, it’s not easy,” Whitver said. “But you’ve got to be creative and exhaust all possibilities. They scraped together loans from family members, lines of credit and home equity before applying for a franchise license.
The two started their marketing efforts at the grass-roots level, visiting high school coaches and encouraging them to send their athletes to Acceleration Iowa. They aim to supplement, rather than replace, the training programs the coaches have established with their athletes.
As athletes began coming in to train, attendance numbers began growing through numerous referrals. Jensen said their best marketing has been through word-of-mouth advertising, whether it’s athletes, parents or coaches encouraging others to attend Acceleration Iowa. Athletes from as far away as Pella and Grinnell have been making the trip to their facility, located at 3000 Justin Drive in Urbandale.
Myles Easter began bringing his three sons, who are entering sixth, seventh and 10th grade, to Acceleration Iowa, making the trip from Indianola three times a week throughout the summer. Easter and his sons were so pleased with the program that his son’s friend began training with them as well.
“They are young guys who are enthusiastic about what they’re doing,” Easter said of Whitver and Jensen. “They’ve got that knack to get kids to work. They make it fun for them.”
Easter said the training program was very beneficial for his sons, who compete in football, baseball and track, and said they plan to return to Acceleration Iowa at the end of the football season.
Jensen and Whitver are hopeful that a new golf training program will begin to pick up steam as cooler weather drives fanatics off the courses. In the training, golfers wear resistance while hitting from a specially designed turf surface to strengthen their hips and add power to their swing. Various golf-specific exercises are intended to increase flexibility, strength and balance, while golf professionals focus on mechanics.
A massage therapist is now renting rooms at Acceleration Iowa, as are four personal trainers. The owners hope to offer team discounts to club organizations as well.
As number of athletes enrolled in the program continues to increase, Whitver and Jensen are looking to the future with the possibility of expanding Acceleration Iowa in Greater Des Moines. Franchise research has shown the two that Des Moines has the capacity for at least two FAST centers.
“A lot of time businesses have trouble because they try to grow too fast and they get away from their roots, which [at Acceleration Iowa] is knowing the customers and getting maximum benefits for the athletes,” Whitver said. “That’s one thing I’m afraid of is growing too fast to where we can’t be personal and you don’t have control over every kid that comes through the door.”