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Oh, The Places You’ll Go

“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so…get on your way!”

While the oft-quoted line above is from a popular children’s book by Dr. Seuss, the stories contained within “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” about not giving up and seizing your moment carry so much more meaning and can easily be used to describe the launch points of so many bright young careers.

Take, for instance, Marshall alumnus Austin Holmes.

Born in Sissonville, West Virginia, Holmes never could have dreamed what adventures would await him after obtaining his Master of Science degree in Exercise Science from Marshall University in 2016. From the beaches of Florida to the picturesque backdrop of Naples, Italy, Holmes has embarked on a journey that has taken him around the world and to nearly two dozen countries as a fitness instructor for the United States Navy.

Maybe Dr. Seuss really did say it best when he said, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

“Marshall is the best decision that I have ever made because it has brought me to where I am today,” Holmes said. “Marshall is where I found my passion for fitness, and it is where I began to truly know who I was and who I wanted to be. Marshall is where I made friends that would become like family.

“There is no other community like that of Marshall, and I could not think of another school that I would have had the experiences that I had.”

Holmes is the Navy Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Fitness Director at Naval Support Activity in Naples, Italy. In addition to planning events and overseeing the facilities and staffing, Holmes oversees all the fitness, sports, and aquatic programs for the more than 8,500 active-duty personnel located at the military complex.

He has held the position for a little more than two years.

In just a few short years, Holmes has quickly proven himself and watched his career blossom, taking him around the world on a journey that even he admits took him by surprise.

“One of the perks of working for the Navy is that you are typically stationed somewhere close to a big body of water,” Holmes said. “In February of 2019 I took the position of Navy MWR Fitness Director at NSA Naples and have been here ever since. I live in a neighborhood called Vomero with a beautiful view of the Gulf of Naples.

“I never had thought in a million years that a boy like me, from Sissonville, West Virginia, would be living in such a wonderful and gorgeous place. Although I have only lived here a short amount of time, Naples will forever have a piece of my heart.”

While only in the country for a little over two years, Holmes said that he has quickly taken to the Italian lifestyle and enjoys the challenges associated with living in another country.

“I was like a fish in water. It didn’t take me long at all to get used to living the Neapolitan lifestyle,” Holmes said. “Living here in Naples is beautiful chaos. It has made me addicted to espresso and has conditioned me to drive like a madman because traffic here is notoriously bad.

“I have also acquired a great appreciation of good food and good wine. As an added bonus, after two years I am finally able to speak enough Italian to have a conversation.”

In his free time, Holmes enjoys traveling, having visited 13 different countries since relocating overseas.

Prior to moving to Naples, Holmes was the Fitness Coordinator at the Naval Submarine Base in Kings Bay, Georgia, where he oversaw the daily operations of the fitness facility and staffing. There he took on his first role after graduation, and even had a little fun in the process.

“During my time in Kings Bay, I was responsible for developing and executing all fitness related events on the installation,” Holmes said. “Being that Halloween is my favorite holiday, my favorite event to host was the Zombie Chase 5K. All of my colleagues got to dress up like bloody zombies and chase people around the base. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.”

From West Virginia, to Georgia, to Italy, 30-year-old Holmes has already seen quite a journey in his young career.

And it all began at Marshall.

Holmes grew up a diehard Thundering Herd fan, with his mother Darlena, sister Tara and twin brother Adam all graduating from Marshall. In fact, some of his earliest memories involve attending Marshall athletic events with his family.

“Most of my childhood memories involve watching Marshall football and being obsessed with everything associated with The Herd. And, really, nothing has changed,” Holmes said. “Players like Randy Moss, Chad Pennington, and Byron Leftwich seemed like superheroes to me. Marshall has always been a very important part of my life so I can easily say that I was destined to be a son of Marshall.”

Holmes came to Marshall in the early 2010s and graduated from the university in 2016.

He says that one special professor, Dr. Terry Shepherd, played a big part of molding him into who he is today.

“Dr. Shepherd was the most influential professor that I ever had. His classes were always challenging, but I loved every minute of it,” Holmes said. “He had an incredible way of explaining the information so that I could comprehend the material, and not just memorize it. His influence in my education was a huge part of why I chose to pursue my Master of Science degree.”

While at Marshall, Holmes also worked at the Marshall Rec Center, starting as a lifeguard before working his way to instructor as his fitness interests grew. During his time at The Rec, Holmes worked in positions such as fitness instructor, personal trainer, and fitness graduate assistant.

“Marshall gave me all of the experience that I needed to succeed in the fitness industry,” Holmes said. “I carry Marshall in my heart everywhere I go.”

One of his more exciting projects while a student at Marshall involved working with student actors from Marshall’s College of Arts and Media to prepare them for performances. Holmes helped prepare students performing in Romeo and Juliet and other plays for fight scenes and other physical activity.

Student actors underwent intense exercise training in the university’s Human Performance Laboratory to prepare for the physicality of their roles. A graduate student at the time, Holmes assisted with the development of the actors’ performance-enhancement training.

“The study was conducted to determine the effects of sports performance training on non-sports specific people and what improvements would result from a training program,” Holmes said. “Based on pre-testing measurements that my colleagues and I obtained, we were able to create a specific training program that would meet the needs of these actors.

“We developed a training program to increase their reaction time, agility, muscular strength and endurance, and cardiorespiratory fitness. What I took away from that study was how similar actors and athletes are to one another. Improving and maintaining variables of performance such as these are all necessary for both professions to complete their job effectively.”

Today, Holmes continues to employ the lessons he learned at Marshall University in everything he does. And he continues to cheer on The Herd every chance he gets, even if it is increasingly difficult to do so.

“Even though I am six hours ahead of Huntington time, I still cheer on my Herd. If that means staying up all night to catch a football game, that is exactly what I do. I try not to miss anything Marshall,” Holmes said.

While his career has only just begun, exciting things are surely in store for a Marshall alumnus who embodies everything that being a son or daughter of Marshall is all about.

And, once again, Dr. Seuss probably said it best: “You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed. You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top the rest.”