Hester Is Bringing Elite Training Home

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Former NFL pro hopes to put his hometown on the map with his own D1 franchise

Back in 2008, LSU running back Jacob Hester had to pack his bags and leave his new wife behind to travel halfway across the country. He was about to spend several months training for the NFL Draft Combine in the hopes of making his dreams of being a pro athlete come true.

“I was a newlywed, having to pack up go all the way to Phoenix, Az., live there for four months, and be somewhere I wasn’t familiar with because I couldn’t train here,” Hester said. “It was a lot of expense.”

That experience made him realize his hometown of Shreveport desperately needed a facility that could offer similar training to athletes in north Louisiana, east Texas, or south Arkansas.

“There was a void,” Hester said. “I wanted to find a way where we can work out those guys from around here and they don’t have to go to Florida, San Diego, or Miami.”

Hester partnered with Orthopedic Specialists to open D1 sports training last month with the goal of putting Shreveport on the map as the only premier athletic training facility in the Ark-La-Tex.

“We want to be the premier training program for all ages and athletes,” Hester said.

Started a little more than a decade ago by a former University of Tennessee fullback for aspiring athletes, D1 has grown from one location to more than two dozen. The high end gym offers something different from normal gyms with a class-based schedule and one-on-one training. D1 caters not only to elite athletes, but provides programs for youth athletes looking to improve their skills and those “weekend warriors” hoping to get in top shape.

“We’re going to train you like an athlete but you don’t have to be an athlete. We have members in their 50s who have never played a sport but are training like an athlete and they love it,” said Hester.

Jacob Hester, right, and Matt Merry, left.

It’s arguably a wise investment by Hester as revenue from gyms, health and fitness clubs is projected to grow 3.6 percent per year over the next few years, reaching $39.3 billion in 2020 as more consumers purchase high-cost services, such as individualized health plans that include trainers and nutritional guidance, according to a 2015 IBISWorld market research report. The addition of high-margin services that bolster member retention, such as group and personal-training sessions, is expected to increase profits slightly, to 9 percent in 2020.

“It’s been well received. (In our first) two weeks we already have 170 members. I think we’re one of the fastest growing D1’s there has been so far,” said Hester.

D1 Shreveport offers an indoor turf field, weight room, private training room, TV screensfor tracking of performance, and even Edge Physical Therapy will be located in-house for recovery and treatment.

“Six-days-per-week, you can pick and choose which class you go to. We have various class times in order to be convenient,” said Matt Merry, general manager/strength, speed, and conditioning coach. “We probably have more adult fitness members right now than we do athletes from those other age groups.”

Next year, there are plans to offer NFL Combine training complete with boarding, nutrition, and two-a-day workouts. That means agents will be sending their clients to northwest Louisiana in preparation to make their own dream come true, basically bringing Hester full circle.

“This is going to be pennies compared to (my experience). And we’re going to offer a whole lot better training,” he said.