‘Coach JC’ leads Tulsa’s first responders to better physical condition.
Jonathan Conneely created Fit First Responders to help first responders better perform their jobs and enjoy a healthy lifestyle. “Coach JC” also is the founder of Bootcamp Tulsa.
Jonathan Conneely, more widely known as “Coach JC,” confidently juggles a variety of positions — strength and conditioning coach, bodybuilder, entrepreneur, author, life strategies coach and motivational speaker — all with a contagious level of enthusiasm.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Conneely played many sports in high school but set his sights on playing his favorite sport, basketball, at the Division 1 level.
In 1999, he wound up at Oral Roberts University, but when his life took a different turn, he realized playing basketball wasn’t in his future.
“I decided that if I wasn’t going to play sports, I wanted to do the next best thing — help other athletes become successful,” he says.
Conneely started studying every aspect of strength and conditioning. Then, he volunteered as a strength coach at ORU for several years.
His dedication and passion paid off.
“In 2003, I became the youngest strength and conditioning coach in Division I at Oral Roberts,” Conneely says.
For the next few years, his workload expanded and his sphere of influence grew.
Public speaking and authoring three books on the subjects of weight loss/fitness, athletics and success provided more exposure. That led to Bootcamp Tulsa, which quickly evolved into a popular women-only fitness program. Over six years, the program has grown from one location to six; from eight women to nearly 300 a week. More than 2,000 women have been through the program.
In 2010, Conneely opened Dynamic Sports Development, a facility in southeast Tulsa that trains collegiate and professional athletes as well as men and youth. He also developed a body transformation program, “Christian Weight Loss Success,” geared toward churches.
All of this inspired the idea of Fit First Responders, a new program to help improve the health and physical fitness of Tulsa police officers, firefighters and EMSA personnel.
The concept centers on helping train first responders so they can better perform their jobs keeping city streets safe while enjoying a more healthy lifestyle.
“My uncle was a fire chief in north New Jersey, so I have always had an immense respect for law enforcement and first responders,” Conneely explains.
Physical and mental stress, a demanding schedule and the transition from being on the job to family life all take their toll on first responders, he says.
Two years ago, Conneely and his team met with officials from the Tulsa Police Department and started planning the group’s training approach.
“After studying the group’s work habits and understanding their unique challenges, we developed the training and obtained the tools necessary,” he says.
A nonprofit foundation was then established to raise the necessary funds for the training.
“These people (first responders) serve us,” Conneely says. “We didn’t want them to have to pay for training. Within 18 months, I was blessed to raise a half million dollars from the citizens of Tulsa to be able to launch the program.”
In addition to improved fitness, the program emphasizes other benefits such as nutritional information, strength and mental conditioning.
Fit First Responders’ 25-week pilot program will end this month. As added motivation, participants are competing to win a 2015 Chevy Silverado pickup provided by the Fit First Responders Foundation and Jim Glover Chevrolet. A panel of judges will choose the winner based on the totality of his or her physical and lifestyle transformations.
Since beginning the program, Conneely has seen first responders lose up to 50 pounds, stop medications and perform at peak levels on the job.
After the pilot ends, Fit First Responders will continue to serve all Oklahoma first responders year-round and will expand into cities across the U.S. in 2016.
“The level of interest has been tremendous,” Conneely says. “We have had hundreds of first responders sign up.”