Masters Graduate Leah Wheeling

Posted: April 21, 2015 at 1:23 pm, Last Updated: April 29, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Leah Wheeling edit

As a child, Leah loved being active. She participated in volleyball, tennis, basketball, gymnastics, and cheerleading throughout school.  She says her favorite time of the day was always “gym class” although she doesn’t call it that anymore.   Her love of “gym class” was one reason why she decided to go into PE and coaching at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.

Leah credits her high school volleyball coach, Rod Sheffer as being her biggest inspiration.  She says as captain of her team, she was acutely aware of Coach Sheffer’s efforts to be at every practice and game, on time, and with a good attitude – even though he was battling leukemia.  She says he made a big impression on her and helped her to understand her innate leadership qualities.

While attending Slippery Rock University, Leah was able to maintain a connection with Coach Sheffer and her high school volleyball team by assuming the position of assistant coach both sophomore and junior years.  Since Slippery Rock is only a 30 minute commute to her old high school, she was able to squeeze coaching into her busy academic schedule.  She coached both the girl’s and boy’s teams and says, “It was hard, but I loved it.”

Because she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after graduation, Leah discussed her options with her professors and visited universities she was interested in.  Eventually she decided to pursue a master’s degree in a fitness related field and applied to several universities.  Mason was the first to accept her into their Master’s program and offered her a graduate assistantship.  She says, “I felt like it was a sign that I needed to go to Mason, so I accepted.”

She admits she wasn’t sure what to expect from her graduate assistantship, but after two full years with Mason Recreation, she feels like it’s prepared her for her future.  Her responsibilities included supervising fitness attendants, including trainers and group exercise instructors, overseeing risk management, performing equipment maintenance, running several fitness events including a Power Meet and an Indoor Triathlon, and representing Fitness at various campus committee meetings.

Leah says she’s enjoyed being able to help the fitness attendants grow professionally.  In addition to making sure the staff provides excellent customer service and gives knowledgeable information to customers, she also ensures that all staff have appropriate certifications and react properly to regularly scheduled “red shirt” emergency drills.  She explains, “I’m an introvert so I’m not typically comfortable in front of groups.  But I got my group exercise certification and find I really like teaching.  Plus I’ve been able to teach a personal training prep course for Rec, so I’m getting used to being in front of groups now.”

Something that Leah wasn’t necessarily expecting to do, and didn’t expect to enjoy so much, was equipment maintenance.  She had the opportunity to work with equipment technicians for a full semester and summer to learn how to do minor repairs on fitness equipment.  She says, “When I was young I worked with my dad when he was making repairs around the house.  I really enjoyed it then and I find I really enjoy it now.”

Leah also had additional experience doing repairs on the nine mission trips she took to the Appalachia’s with her church mission group.  Starting at the age of 14, she and a large group of volunteers from Grace United Methodist Church acquired materials and tools and travelled to different towns throughout the Appalachia’s to help those less fortunate.  Leah says, “It felt good to help people who couldn’t do it for themselves.”

The combination of professional development she’s obtained through Mason Recreation and the experiences she’s had over the years with her coaching and mission trips have provided Leah with a secure foundation to move into the working world.

Leah’s goal is to become a Fitness Director for a University.  She loves working in a university setting where she can help to professionally develop students.   “Having the assistantship for Mason Rec has made the most impact on me.” It’s opened my eyes to the big, huge world of recreation.  There are so many possibilities.” She says, “I want people to look at me and say, “Because of you I didn’t give up.””

Leah graduates in May with a Master’s in Exercise, Fitness and Health Promotions.

By Jennifer Lehman, MS RYT