Who is BOLD? Alumnus finds passion in strength and conditioning
By Laura Cichostepski
Many first-year students step foot on campus with one career path in mind, but graduate pursuing another. It may come as a surprise to family and friends, but feels like a natural progression for the student — and it is. This self-evolution is the result of the diverse academic, leadership, cultural and social experiences available to students on campus.
That’s what happened with Jun Jeong ’14, a Bearcat of the Last Decade, who earned a degree in political science with a minor in health and wellness studies. He was supposed to be a lawyer, or at least that was the future his parents had in mind for him. If he hadn’t picked up an oar as part of the Crew Club during his freshman year at Binghamton, Jeong would probably still be on the pathway to practicing law.
Instead, Jeong is a strength and conditioning coach at the University of Virginia, where he helps student-athletes improve their speed, strength and power so they can reach their fullest potential in their sport. It’s a career path he didn’t even know existed — until his internship experiences with Campus Recreation and Athletics.
Jeong discovered his passion for exercise physiology after joining crew. As a first-time rower, he quickly became focused on how to become stronger in his sport. This inner drive to reach his fullest athletic potential sparked a desire in him to learn more about training athletes.
“Joining crew in my freshman year was the most defining moment for me,” Jeong explained. “I never rowed before, and I wasn’t the best at it in the beginning, but I wanted to know how to get stronger for my sport. This experience catapulted me into where I am today.”
Jeong rowed all four years of his undergraduate studies. He credits the club sport with teaching him about dedication, sacrifice and teamwork. By his senior year, he served as president and coach to the club team.
This newfound aspiration prompted Jeong to search for other opportunities during his time at Binghamton. He came across the personal training internship, a four-credit course offered through Campus Recreation that prepares students for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) Personal Training Certification Exam, and decided to apply. Students who successfully complete the internship are hired to train individuals in FitSpace, the 10,000 square-foot fitness center on campus.
After being accepted into the internship program, Jeong began to develop connections with professional staff members including Jenna Moore, who oversees the personal training internship program as the assistant director of fitness and wellness in Campus Recreation. It was this connection that helped lead Jeong to the world of strength and conditioning.
“Jenna introduced me to the strength and conditioning coach at Binghamton after I shared that I was interested in training athletes,” said Jun. “Coach Bryan McGovern was great. He was very helpful and supportive.”
These connections helped Jeong understand the differences between personal training and strength and conditioning. Individuals seeking personal training services often have different fitness goals than competitive athletes looking to improve their performance through strength and conditioning, for example. Jeong soon realized he was drawn to the dynamics of strength and conditioning. The personal training internship allowed him to learn more about himself, his interests and his career options.
“Crew pointed me in the direction I wanted to go and the personal training internship helped me fine-tune what I want to do,” said Jeong about his experiences. “I was so conflicted at graduation because I had a path to law school, which isn’t what I wanted but what others wanted for me. There was something inside of me telling me to pursue strength and conditioning as a career.”
Jeong scrapped the LSAT and followed his heart. He applied and was accepted into the University of Virginia’s exercise physiology graduate program, where he secured a graduate assistantship in the Strength and Conditioning Department. The University of Virginia eventually offered him a full-time position as an assistant strength and conditioning coach so he now has the opportunity to train athletes in the swimming, diving and cross-country programs. The opportunity, he says, is both humbling and gratifying.
So, what advice does Jeong have for students who discover new passions during their studies?
“If you have any kind of spark in your heart, explore it. Step outside your comfort zone and trust your intuition,” he recommends. “Be proactive in the connections you make. I’ve had wonderful mentors along my journey who helped me get to where I am today.”
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