First Coast fitness trainer takes activism to the gym

“It’s more than just the actual sport for me,” said Matt Sechrist. “It’s all about being included in society and in the world.”

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Excitement is building for the Olympics and First Coast News has been featuring athletes from the First Coast.

Other local athletes are also making big moves as they face big challenges. Matt Sechrist is a certified personal trainer and junior wheelchair basketball coach. He wants to expand opportunities for athletes with disabilities by opening an adaptive fitness training center.

“It’s more than just the actual sport for me,” Sechrist said. “It’s all about being included in society and in the world.”

Sechrist says he knows the feeling of going into a gym and feeling intimidated because the other people there are able-bodied. He was born with Spina Bifida. It hasn’t stopped him.

“I lived a long time thinking that I was just going to have to adapt to my own independence in this world,” Sechrist said. “Whereas now I believe, no, the world needs to understand that there are different types of people out there and you need to be a little bit more aware of that. Having accessible doorways and accessible just buildings overall and allowing people to get the assistive equipment and things they need for more independent living.”

The CDC reports more than a quarter of adult Floridians (28 percent) have some type of disability. What Sechrist says is missing is a training center for adaptive athletes. He and his fellow wheelchair basketball coach want to open one.

“I think that fitness should be an all inclusive thing for not just the able-bodied community,” Sechrist said. “I think we should all have an opportunity to participate.”

Building confidence and meeting fitness goals for people in the adaptive fitness community is Sechrist’s form of activism.

“We had doctors before I was even born count me out and tell my mom I was gonna need 100 percent care,” he said. “My mom was, luckily, she was one of those fighters who did not accept that and then I grew up learning from her and just became that same person that doesn’t accept somebody to tell me that I can’t. I just want people to realize we’re people just like anybody else and we deserve to be included and taken into consideration as much as everybody else does.”

The junior wheelchair basketball team Sechrist coaches is with Brooks Rehabilitation. They are looking for new members. Learn more here.