UHP instructors are passionate about educating the next generation of leaders in the health and wellness community.

Our team at UHP is passionate about developing leaders in the field of health and fitness. The coaches that we employ are some of the most sought-after in the industry. Their educational backgrounds include exercise science, strength and conditioning, sport and performance psychology, educational psychology, health and wellness coaching, business administration. Our coaches have previously served at 1st Special Forces Group, 75th Ranger Regiment, Toronto Blue Jays, Tormenta FC, Department of Veterans Affairs, University of Virginia, University of Wyoming, Virginia Military Institute, Georgia Southern University, and the College of Charleston.

Our Founder

Matt Hesse

Founder and President of the University of Health

Matt Hesse is the Founder and President of the University of Health and Performance. In addition to his time spent serving in the Army National Guard, education and mentorship is what has shaped him into the executive and leader he is today. Matt’s business acumen was sharpened during his years of owning multiple GNC retail stores and developing a multinational sports performance and nutrition company. This blend of service, education, entrepreneurship, and mentorship is what he envisioned when he started FITOPS, a nonprofit dedicated to ending Veteran suicide through the power of fitness. FITOPS began transforming lives when held its first camp in 2017 to address the challenges that Veterans face when transitioning from military service.

Over the course of multiple classes piloted, Matt designed a process called “The Purpose Blueprint,” which helps Servicemembers in transition identify their life’s purpose and build a strategy to pursue it. In 2021, Matt evolved the FITOPS vision into the University of Health and Performance. The following year, UHP delivered the first class on its new 500-acre campus in Northwest Arkansas. 

He is currently an advisor to the President of the United States in areas of physical fitness, sports, and wellness.

VP of Performance

Ben Freakley

EdD - VP of Performance & Well-Being

Ben leads the integration of all performance aspects with staff and students to create life changing experiences at UHP. He brings 20 years of experience coaching sport, tactical, and corporate performers to UHP.

Prior to joining UHP, Ben was the Head of Mental Performance with the Toronto Blue Jays (MLB) leading the development and delivery of mental skills programs across all levels of the Blue Jays organization. Before his role with the Toronto Blue Jays, he was the inaugural head coach and general manager of Tormenta FC of the United Soccer League.

Ben started his career in sport and performance psychology with the United States Army Special Operations Forces, as the performance psychology coach with the prestigious 75th Ranger Regiment. Before transitioning to the field of sport and performance psychology, Ben coached NCAA Men’s Soccer for nearly 15 years. Ben holds master’s degrees in Sport Psychology and Sport Management from Georgia Southern University where he was an NCAA Division I athlete.

He holds a doctoral degree in Sport and Performance Psychology from University of Western States with an emphasis in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He is a Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP), Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and is a certified coach developer through the International Council for Coaching Excellence.  

Director of Training

Hunter Schurrer

Director of Training

Hunter oversees an interdisciplinary approach to empower our staff and students in how we move our bodies to build the best versions of themselves. He brings over 20 years of coaching experience to UHP from the tactical and collegiate realms. 

Prior to joining UHP, Hunter was a human performance specialist with 1st Special Forces Group for over 10 years.  Although he has never served in the military, it was working with this community that he found his purpose in coaching and serving others.  Hunter played an integral role in laying the foundation for the US Army Special Forces human performance program, truly encompassing that “humans are more important than hardware." 

Before his time in special operations, he was a strength and conditioning coach in the collegiate setting at the University of Wyoming and the University of Virginia. Hunter earned his master’s degree at Virginia and his bachelor’s at Black Hills State University, both in exercise physiology. 

As a collegiate athlete, Hunter was a National Champion and All-American in the weight throw. He was awarded the NSCA Athlete of the Year and was captain of the track and field team. Hunter is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach (CSCS) through the NSCA and holds a USA Weightlifting Level 2 Advanced Sports Performance Coach Certification as well as USAW’s Athlete Development Certification. He also holds certifications in Myokinematic Restoration from the Postural Restoration Institute, Blood Flow Restriction Rehabilitation, and CPR and First Aid through the American Heart Association.

Director of Graduate Support

Johnny Martin

Director of Graduate Support

John Martin received his bachelor’s degree in Health Studies and Education from Springfield College in 1999.  He received his master’s degree in Educational Psychology and Counseling from American International College in 2005 and has gone on to receive his Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Educational Psychology.  In addition, Johnny is a nationally certified Grief Recovery Specialist from the Grief Recovery Institute.™ Johnny guides men and women struggling with grief and loss through the Grief Recovery Method,™ Johnny has worked as a counselor in public schools and taught Group Counseling at the graduate school level.

Johnny was twice nominated for Massachusetts School Counselor of the Year and received the United States Marine Corps Educator of the Year Award.

Over the last 15 years, Johnny has served as a performance coach with professional athletes, educational leaders, and corporate executives.  In addition, Johnny is a sought-after speaker who has served countless schools, university teams, and corporations across the country. Johnny’s role with UHP is to provide transitional support to students upon graduation from the Cornerstone Course. In addition to his primary role with UHP, Johnny teaches UHP courses on growth mindset, grief recovery, suicide prevention, and other mental health topics. A tireless advocate for Veterans, Johnny ensures that all UHP graduates have a lifetime of support in the form of Veteran peer groups, individual coaching, employment assistance, mental health advocacy, and referral services when needed.

VP of Education

Kelly Howard

Vice President of Education

Kelly oversees the education program for the University of Health and Performance and teaches classes in coaching skills, holistic and integrative health, and yoga/mindful movement.

She previously served as the Director of Whole Health Education for the VA, developing and managing Whole Health education programs and trainings for VA employees nationwide. During her tenure, over 500,000 leaders, clinicians, staff, and Veteran peer coaches completed face-to-face, virtual, and online courses in support of the transformation from a disease-based healthcare model to one that prioritizes what matters most to the Veteran and best practices in integrative health.

She is a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach and yoga instructor (RYT-500) with over 1,000 hours of yoga training. She also has certificates in Functional Breathing from Restore Your Prana/Essential Yoga Therapy, as a Death and Dying Coach from the Conscious Dying Institute, and Mindful Self-Compassion from the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion. Kelly graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and holds a Master of Arts degree in Human Resources Management.

Kelly has served in the US Army for 24 years: with troops at Ft. Hood and Schofield Barracks, as the Operations Officer for the Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, and then as Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Army. She is currently a Lieutenant Colonel the U.S. Army Reserves with duty at Training and Doctrine Command, Ft. Eustis, VA, with a focus on supporting Army Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F).

VP of Strategy

Raye Perez

Vice President of Strategy

Raye served 15 years with the 75th Ranger Regiment, earning both his undergraduate and graduate degrees while serving on Active Duty.

Raye was the first enlisted Fort Benning Scholar Awardee after being accepted in Goizueta Business School’s Executive MBA program, eventually achieving his MBA in spring of 2020 as a Core Value Awardee in both Courage and Accountability. Raye was also selected as a “Best and Brightest Awardee” by Poets and Quants, voted on by both staff and faculty of Goizueta Business School.  After graduation Raye was also selected as a Leader Development Program Coach for Emory University, focused on helping leaders articulate transferable skills to pivot and lead in adversity.  

Raye volunteers as a Ranger for Life Mentor, using his business language expertise, corporate contacts, and SOF background to help transitioning service members write resumes, clarify engagement plans with existing companies, and clarify intrinsic drivers for personal success.

Raye transitioned from the Army December of 2022, and currently serves as the Vice President of Strategy for the University of Health & Performance.

VP of Operations

Rick Megoloff

Vice President of Operations

Rick joined the UHP team in March of 2021 and is directly responsible for planning, directing, and overseeing the staff responsible for current and future UHP operations. Rick received his bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the National American University in 2006.
Prior to assuming the role with UHP, Rick spent 34 years in the Army and Army National Guard with his culminating assignment as the State Command Sergeant Major for the Arkansas Army National Guard. Rick led formations in Combat as a Team Leader, Squad Leader, First Sergeant, and Command Sergeant Major. Prior to returning to Arkansas in 2017, Rick held an executive level assignment with FORSCOM where he helped shape training and readiness for units preparing to assume responsibility for worldwide combat operations.

Rick spent his initial 10 years in the Army with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment before transitioning the first time from active duty in 1997. Shortly after joining the Army National Guard Rick also spent just over 7 years with the Department of Energy as a Lead Instructor in both their Tactics and Physical Fitness programs. Rick transitioned twice from the Army and truly believes the programs offered at UHP will ensure every graduate is given the opportunity to reach their full potential, find their purpose, and thrive post-graduation.

Director of Operations

Ben Durham

Director of Operations

Ben is the Director of Operations for UHP. Ben joined the UHP team in September 2021 and is responsible for all current operations at UHP to include planning, logistics, and providing the necessary means to create an optimal learning environment.  

Prior to joining UHP, Ben served 21 years in the United States Army, assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment. He has led teams in some of the most dynamic environments in the world and has extensive experience in strategic planning and project management. Ben spent the last decade of his career developing and managing large scale programs in both educational and tactical roles, and has a true passion for health and performance.

Ben recently retired from the Army, and after spending more than 20 years in the Special Operations community, he was excited to find an organization that embodied the same culture, work ethic, and values he had grown accustomed to. He firmly believes that the programs offered at UHP can profoundly change the lives of our nation’s men and women and create a nationwide community of Veterans filled with purpose, confidence, and the tools to succeed, in service and out of service.

Facilities Manager

Clint Hardecke

Facilities/Grounds Manager

Clint is a US Marine and UHP graduate. He received his Associate in Arts degree from Century College in Minnesota and spent 20+ years in construction project management and previously ran his own renovation business.

He is a strong advocate for physical health, strength and getting outdoors. He involves his students in creating a workout program that works for each specific individual as well as encouraging outdoor activities to include kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, swimming, and hunting. His professional interests focus on hands-on work and his current projects include woodworking and hunting.

Director of Communications

Alex Hesse

Director of Communications

Alexandra Churcher-Hesse received her bachelor’s degree in Media & Communications at the University of New South Wales, Australia. In Sydney, she was Head of the Consumer Brands Practice at global PR agency Burson-Marsteller.

In 2015, she transferred to the New York City office and oversaw several high-profile accounts including Bank of America, SONY, and MetLife. From here she moved to another WPP agency that specializes in integrated communications, Cohn & Wolfe, as Vice President of Consumer leading the Alcon DAILIES TOTAL 1 account and working across the Smuckers portfolio of brands. After several years, Alex decided to pursue her passion of Health & Wellness and freelanced, managing communications for supplements brands, high end gyms, and non-profit organizations.

Assistant Director of Training

Catherine Paape

Assistant Director of Training

Catherine Paape has been a Tactical Strength and Conditioning Specialist since 2014. She has served as a lead strength coach for the Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Navy. Throughout her career, Catherine has had the opportunity to mold and influence multiple programs and courses within the military, including the USMC Force Fitness Instructors schoolhouse, has held a seat on the advisory board with Headquarters Marine Corps Training Command, and developed the strength training program for the Air Force’s Operational Support Team.

Catherine has also trained multiple athletes throughout her career. Since 2012, she has been a traveling strength and conditioning coach for place kickers, working with middle school to professional-level athletes across the nation.

Catherine earned her bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education from The University of Lynchburg while competing as a Heptathlete on the Track and Field team. She gained her master’s degree in Kinesiology soon thereafter from Georgia Southern University. Her current certifications include Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator (TSAC-F) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and USA Weightlifting Level 1 Coach through USA Weightlifting.

Student Experience Associate

Brandi Harstedt

Student Experience Associate

Brandi served in the Navy for 9 years as a communications operator on the E6-B at Tinker AFB, OK. Since transitioning from service in 2015, she has competed in bodybuilding competitions and worked as a defense contractor, managing special programs and security teams in restricted clearance areas at the Pentagon and other contracting facilities.

She earned her personal training certificate during a FitOps camp in 2019, and has supported multiple UHP classes as a Graduate Assistant. Brandi supports the UHP Operations Team with planning and logistics for each course, and helps to ensure that every student's experience at UHP is the best that it can be.

Guest Coaches

Matthew Zanis

Guest Coaches

Doctorate of Physical Therapy, Holistic Human Performance Coach, United States Olympics Physical Therapist.

Guest Coaches

Zach Finer

Guest Coaches

Doctorate of Physical Therapy.


Additional team members

Graduates of UHP can apply and be appointed to future camps as graduate assistant coaches. These UHP graduates are certified personal trainers who are actively pursuing careers in coaching and performance.  Graduate assistants show exemplary performance as health & performance leaders in their communities, and have a natural aptitude for teaching, leadership, and helping others live their purpose. 

Alongside UHP instructors and graduate assistants, we invite world-class master coaches and guest instructors to share their respective expertise with our students. Guest instructors and master coaches from a wide range of industries in health and fitness join us and share their first-hand knowledge.  While on campus, students have the opportunity to learn from, work with, and build relationships with leaders in the field.