CORNELIUS – People from all over the world descended on a small Cornelius gym Aug. 17 for the Training For Warriors Global Summit. 

Training For Warriors founder Martin Rooney gathered his swarm of warriors dressed in the program’s signature black and yellow T-shirts around him to kick off the event.

Radiating with infectious energy, Rooney told the crowd that his fitness program works as a lifestyle that should follow them outside of the gym.

“We’re not doing this to make a buck,” Rooney said. “It’s not about ‘oh yeah just lose some weight and then you’re gone.’ We’re trying to help really change your life. We’re making people better people.”

This spirit of empowerment continued to dominate the event’s speeches, workouts and testimonials.

Rooney originally planned the event to span two days, but thanks to passionate warriors, it morphed into almost a weeklong affair.

The event attracted visits from famous names in training and motivational speaking. Joe Kenn, the Carolina Panthers’ strength and conditioning coach, and Jeffrey Gitomer, best-selling author and professional speaker, both gave impromptu speeches when they stopped by.  

About 20 years ago, Rooney started working with Bill Parisi, the founder of the Parisi Speed School. At the school, Rooney helped kids become faster and stronger athletes. At the same time, Rooney developed a set of adult training techniques for Mixed Martial Arts fighters, which would eventually become the Training For Warriors program.

Today, the program has expanded to 180 centers in 25 countries. Rooney has trained top NFL and Division I college athletes. He has also extended the program to any adult committed to the warrior lifestyle. On any given day, more than 10,000 people of any athletic ability live the Training For Warriors’ lifestyle all over the world.

Champions Sports Performance, a certified Training For Warriors and Parisi Speed School facility, hosted the recent global summit.

Champions’ owner Greg O’Connor is one of Rooney’s good friends and likes to joke that he is responsible for encouraging Rooney and his family to move from New Jersey to the Lake Norman area last year.

O’Connor shares Rooney’s energetic zeal for training people of all ages and athletic abilities. He appreciates the Parisi Speed School, because it is not just for student athletes. 

“Parisi’s not just a training system. It’s about every kid.” O’Connor said. “We’re teaching, we’re mentoring, we’re telling stories.” 

Rooney said Training For Warriors has also become popular for adults of different athletic abilities. He has been touched by some of the participants’ testimonials. One man in Georgia learned to walk again after being paralyzed.

“Here’s a guy who’s taken one step and that’s the biggest thing. So I want people to understand that you have to bring the warrior out from inside you.” Rooney said. “They all have it. It’s not just the big fighter or the NFL guy.”


Giving back to the community

Rooney appreciated that O’Connor felt called to open the Champions facility in the Lake Norman area. 

“He was very successful in the financial industry,” Rooney said, “but he just wanted this for the community. That’s why he’s here.”

One way O’Connor connects with the community is through Angels, a free training program for kids with special needs. He believes that these kids should be challenged like everyone else. 

“We have these big workouts with about 60 people,” O’Connor said, “and then I put my special needs kids in there. The little ones are just game and get right out there.”

Scott Cheney takes his daughter, Parker, who has challenges with motor planning and overall body strength, to the class held every Saturday. Cheney appreciates that O’Connor and the other coaches treat the Angels kids the same and also know when to be patient with them.

“He’s just so great with the kids,” Cheney said. “He gets them to attempt at least some of the activities that the adults do. And she’s benefited from it, she’s stronger.” 

Cheney said Parker always wears a big grin on her face during the workouts.

“She looks forward to it every week, Cheney said. “I mean we’re here no matter what.”

O’Connor said many of the special needs kids have gained so much from the Angels program that they have moved on to the Parisi Speed School.  

The facility’s offering of programs for both adults and children has created a close-knit community in the Lake Norman area. When one family member joins a program, other family members often follow suit. 

“Probably 40 percent of our adults have kids in the program,” O’Connor said. “So it’s a family environment.”

Rooney’s Training For Warriors has created its own family-like environment that extends throughout its affiliates across the world. This network has allowed Rooney to touch more people than he ever could on his own.

“This weekend was the thing that brought it all together,” Rooney said. “There were people getting choked up. I was getting choked up.”