Scholars in Action: Pui WongJuly 20, 2016
Meet Crystal PartenAugust 4, 2016
Wes Cooper is a numbers guy. So you’d expect that, like a tidy equation, his education (he’s a University of Georgia Terry College graduate) and past employment (he worked as an accountant and middle school math teacher) would add up to a career filled with balance sheets and calculators.
You’d be wrong.
Instead, as founder and CEO of Athensbased Southern Athlete, a strength-andconditioning operation geared toward high school athletes, Wes computes the angle that hips turn in a baseball swing, the increment of weight bench-pressed over the course of six months, or the distance covered in a sprint, down to the decimal point. “Numbers don’t lie,” he says, spoken like a true economics major. And yet, his bottom line for everyone is the same: “The goal is to pursue greatness and whatever form that takes, and it doesn’t have to be collegiate sports. Greatness is something that should be pervasive to life: to be a great student, teammate, brother, son. If they understand that and keep their head on straight, we’ve succeeded.”
His philosophy highlights a main difference between him and his competitors. “There are people out there who take people’s money, and the kids have no shot unless they dramatically improve,” he says. “The emphasis is athleticism but not character. The tragedy is too often kids can fall to the wayside because of bad decision-making.” That’s why Wes spends time with his clients between reps talking about their families and their goals. If they mention that they want to be an engineer, Wes connects them with an engineer for them to talk to or shadow. He says, “I want them to know that if they train three or four years and then decide not to play in college, that’s OK. As long as they follow their passion.”
After all, Wes’s passion, while always evident in his love of competitive sports, took a few different forms before he began Southern Athlete in 2012. After graduation from UGA, he moved back to his hometown of Augusta and worked at his parent’s accounting firm. During this time, he began working towards his master’s degree in education from Georgia Regents University and taught and coached in the Richmond County school system. “I’ve always looked for the potential in people and enjoyed helping them get to where they want