As the paradigm shift in the fitness industry continues, with more movement based training clubs and less machine based facilities, the need for quality coaches will continue. Swinging a kettlebell requires more instruction than sitting and putting a pin in the weight stack. My prediction that all gyms will transform to functional training, as opposed to selectorized and isolated based machines isn’t such a reach. This change started three to five years ago. The dilemma faced by many club owners is that after bringing a new trainer on board, education is either classified as an elective or provided on a very limited basis.
Training of gym staff and coaches administered by ownership has been around for years, but poorly executed. Shadowing a seasoned coach has been an industry accepted protocol. This is where the fitness world can take some inspiration from the business world. Companies have seen the importance of staff training programs and used them as an opportunity to set themselves apart from their competitors. Many institute their own training centers and universities. Ray Kroc has been considered a pioneer in the business world with his success in the branding and creation of McDonalds. It’s been well documented how his creation of Hamburger University in 1961 help drive the growth of his fast food empire. Franchisees were trained there on the proper methods for running a successful McDonald’s restaurant. Hamburger U utilized a research and development laboratory in nearby Addison, Illinois to develop new cooking, freezing, storing and serving methods. Today, more than 80,000 people have graduated from the program. In the entertainment world, Disney University created by Walt Disney. Staff members, referred to as cast members by the Disney organization, are taught a range of information which include Disney heritage and traditions, personal and professional development, and on the job training. Although Disney University is not an accredited institution, courses are primarily designed, developed and delivered by experienced learning professionals. The success and growth in both of these organizations hopefully demonstrates how important staff development is.
Client assessment, program design, and implementation of a strength and conditioning program requires more than a few hours of watching a fellow instructor and needs to be better valued from ownership. The successfully run operations have adopted solid training curriculum and have put staff in place that carry the responsibility of teaching fellow staff and team members. As the landscape of small training (2,000- 10,000 sq. ft) gyms expands, this concept needs to become more of a standard, not an exception. One of my core beliefs is that my studio will be a leader in the Las Vegas market due to the quality of instruction that a trainer receives once on board.
In my 4th year of being a trainer (1994), I worked as an independent contractor, renting floor space at a Gold’s gym on the east coast. In the early nineties, this was the norm. Gyms didn’t want the extra liability or payroll of a staff. They allowed anyone with a fanny pack and who considered themselves a viable coach, to pay the gym by the client and have full usage of their gym. It was at this time I met a fellow trainer, Mike Ryan. One of the benefits of Facebook, outside of posting what you had for lunch, is connecting with people via their “People you may know” algorithm. After connecting with Mike on Facebook I was able to see that Mike is currently an educational director for the fitness chain, Equinox. After opening my club and understanding the value of educating your staff, I was very curious on what he did and how a health club giant such as Equinox, valued education. Equinox, originated in New York City, has always branded their trainers as industry leaders. What I soon found out was that Mike was part of a team of teachers whose sole responsibility was educating the training staff. Apparently Equinox views it as a 2-part win. First, to guarantee that their staff maintains a lead in highly competitive markets such as NYC, they couldn’t risk relying on their staff to educate themselves on training. They had to make how much you know, part of how you get compensated. The more certifications and education you receive under their guidance, the more you can see in your paycheck. They have incentivized a coach’s income, not on how much you train, but on how you train. Secondly, in hot markets where trainers jump from gym to gym, they wanted to create an added value of why someone would stay with their team. This is a strategy that I have completely adopted. Help them to be better at their job and inspire them to want to stay with you. Make education an added job benefit.
As a small business owner, I have learned early on, that it’s not always being first to do something. Sometimes, it’s about taking an idea and executing it better than your competitors. I’m sticking to my plan of coaching my coaches to be the best. By doing this, I feel confident we can build a great staff and guarantee the quality of training at the studio. I’m not the 1st, but I’m pushing to be the best.
See you at the studio.