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Students Offered New Opportunities with Exercise Science Program

Matt Sanders showing student how to lift properly
Published: Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Butler graduate Sesely Omli is forging a new path.

This 20-year-old wrestler is using her Butler training and taking a test to become a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

Omli is part of the second class to graduate from Butler Community College with a degree in Exercise Science. With this degree, students learn the scientific principles necessary to enter the Personal Training field after completing their Associate of Science degree if they so choose.

Butler is one of 37 junior colleges nationwide that is an Educational Resource Program accredited by the NSCA. This accreditation demonstrates Butler’s competence in a program started just two years ago. That’s when Fitness and Wellness instructor Matt Sanders started the program.

Along with teaching the dozens of students enrolling in his classes, Sanders, a former strength coach for the Cincinnati Reds, is also assisting with Grizzly athletics. By teaching students and college athletes to use specific measurements and machines, he is showing both his students and athletes how they can improve, or how they can help an athlete improve.

“He taught me how to set up programming and plan (football team) workouts,” Omli said.  “I stretched them out before and after classes.”

Omli graduated in May. This fall, she began the kinesiology program at Kansas State University. Because of her work with Sanders at Butler, she’s going to work under one of the Wildcat strength coaches.

After she graduates, Omli plans to take what she has learned at Butler, couple it with her training at K-State, and become a strength coach like her mentor, Sanders.

“Taking Matt’s classes was fun. His insight made me decide to do this,” Omli said.

Sanders enjoys the coaching, but what he loves most at Butler is teaching. He enjoys showing students how to help both themselves and others.

“When you’re a coach, you just affect the people on your team,” he said. “When you train future coaches, you affect so many more people.”

Sanders explained that the Exercise Science program is a “marriage” with the athletic program. Because of the help that the Fitness and Wellness Department can offer the athletes, many coaches are suggesting their athletes take courses from Sanders.

“The more you learn about nutrition, exercise and recovery time, the better you are at getting your training,” said Butler’s head softball coach, Doug Chance, whose team won the 2016 NJCAA softball championship. “I encourage all the coaches at Butler to get their athletes into Matt’s classes.”

Chance noticed his team members increased in both speed and “explosiveness” after they worked with Sanders. After each game this season, including the National Championship game, the players had increased stamina.

“There was always a lot of fuel left in the tank,” he said.

Chance attributes this strengthening success to Sanders.

“Matt is a cut above anything that I have seen,” Chance said. “He’s all about the science of it, not just about the bulk of it.”

A few years ago, family brought Sanders, who grew up in Rose Hill, back to Kansas. Sanders graduated from Pittsburg State University and received his master’s degree from the University of Arkansas.

At both Andover and El Dorado campuses, Sanders teaches his students how to do several tests on advanced equipment. The data from these machines enable the athlete to understand how fit he/she is based on many factors.

Students that go through the Exercise Science program can become a personal trainer after graduating from Butler and passing the national certification exam. This summer, Omli, along with three other Butler graduates, will sit for her personal trainer exam.  Each year, the top fitness and wellness student at Butler receives a scholarship from the department to take this exam for free.

Students wishing to get a four-year degree often gravitate toward becoming a strength coach, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, physician’s assistant, or doctor.

“It’s absolutely wonderful being here (at Butler),” Sanders said. “The students are sponges. They want to learn.”

Because of the program’s popularity, along with national certification and almost 40 students, the Fitness and Wellness Department has a new instructor this fall.

“My goal is to have 100 students in the program,” Sanders said. “The students can go anywhere that their dreams and aspirations take them. The job opportunities are abundant.”