CORTLAND, N.Y. — Recent December graduate Nancy Newell ’15 finished the last of her final exams at SUNY Cortland around 1 p.m. on a Wednesday. At noon Thursday, she started her career, reporting for her first day of full-time work as a strength and conditioning coach with Cressey Sports Performance in Boston.
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“It’s early offseason for baseball players,” said Newell, who will become the first female strength and conditioning coach ever employed by Cressey. “I’ve got to get to work.”
Cressey is a renowned training facility that specializes in helping serious baseball athletes from high school players to Major League Baseball professionals. It is known for a no-nonsense attitude toward improvement and success.
That same attitude helped Newell overcome obstacles to become the committed kinesiology major who graduated last month. Newell, who comes from a poverty-plagued rural area near the Adirondack Mountains, entered SUNY Cortland through the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), a college path for students who might otherwise have not been accepted because of hardships that put them at a disadvantage.
Not only did Newell graduate a semester early, but by the time she was finished in Cortland, she was featured as a 22-year-old fitness expert in the Huffington Post.
During her three and a half years on campus, she poured her energy into the things she was most passionate about: namely health, fitness and helping those around her. She worked part-time jobs as a personal trainer in the Student Life Center and in Memorial Library. She spent the money she made on the travel and registration fees associated with academic conferences in her field. Recently, she launched her own blog devoted to strength training.
“I spent a lot of my time, my money, my energy trying to learn from the top people in the industry, seeing how they got where they are and what I could learn from them,” she said. “I really wanted to take advantage of my time and resources.”
Newell grew up in Glenfield, N.Y., a tiny rural town located near the Tug Hill Plateau, “where there are more cows than people,” she jokes. SUNY Cortland, especially the College’s summer orientation for EOP students, brought new perspective and appreciation for classmates from very different backgrounds.
“All of us are great students,” she said, referring to her fellow EOP classmates. “We were chosen for a reason.”
Newell knew she didn’t want to be a wallflower on campus. She was drawn to fitness development as an academic discipline early on because she sensed a high level of autonomy — the ability to develop meaningful, one-on-one relationships with clients.
She credited Kinesiology Department faculty members who taught her the building blocks of strength and conditioning as well as self-help books that stressed the importance of networking, personal relationships and hand-written thank-you notes.
As a sophomore, Newell began traveling to conferences across the Northeast, from New York City to Boston, in an attempt to soak up as much knowledge as she could. She then would bring those lessons back to campus to teach others with similar career dreams. Along with Ryan Brennan ’14, a graduate assistant in Recreational Sports, Newell developed weekly one-hour “Train a Trainer” sessions on topics that included athlete assessment and injury prevention.
“We wanted to dig a little deeper and pull from our personal experience,” she said. “It’s always nice to teach those around you because it makes you that much stronger as a teacher.”
Last summer, Newell landed an internship at Cressey and fell in love with a work environment that promised variety and satisfaction every day. She noticed every full-time strength and conditioning coach brought a unique quality to the overall team. Less than six months later, Newell was a member of that team — earning her dream job immediately out of college.
“I think they saw my high energy, my passion, my drive,” she said. “They saw that I don’t really have bad days.”
Those same qualities carried her through college as much as her physical strength and ability.
“My main goal was to leave SUNY Cortland better than when I came here,” she said. “I feel like I’ve accomplished that.”
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