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Inherent Passion Tops the List When Hiring Top Trainers

Vic Spatola training a client. Photo courtesy of GATC.

Vic Spatola training a client. Photo courtesy of GATC. To find and hire top trainers, you first have to know what makes a good one. This is something that Vic Spatola, the director of personal training at Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club (GATC) in Denver, Colo., knows from experience.

Spatola highlights a passion for training and fitness as a necessity, but that isn’t the only factor that plays into who he looks for when hiring. “It’s someone who is passionate and helps others,” said Spatola. “But they also need not just a thirst for knowledge, but an ability to convey that to other people.”

Spatola finds it’s important not to just look for those “superstars” that look like they could elevate your training department. “It’s not about hiring the right trainer, but hiring the right trainer for your team,” said Spatola. “You don’t always need a superstar — just a star that will shine for you.”

He also believes that these shining stars can come from anywhere, even unexpected places. For example, many top trainers could be former clients who were so motivated by their own journey that they decided to pass on their knowledge to others.

Top trainers can also be cultivated from interns or other passionate employees within the club. They may not walk or talk like a trainer, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a great one. For example, one of Spatola’s top current trainers came from another department inside GATC. “He cleaned and talked to everyone and he was passionate,” said Spatola. “One day he said he wanted a career in personal training, so we had him intern for 10 months. Now he is making $60,000 a year and he’s only been training for 18 months.”

For Spatola, it all comes down to that winning personality. “If they don’t get excited for you, they won’t get excited to sell either,” said Spatola. “They have to be able to come out and talk to people, and want to show and help people out.”

Once you have found your elite training team, it can sometimes be a struggle to keep them around. Spatola and GATC keep their trainers with three steps: compensation, acknowledgements and in-house continuing education.

For compensation, Spatola advised to keep it simple. “Bonus plans and commission levels can be complicated,” said Spatola. “They should be rewarded not only by their performance, but their loyalty.” It is vital that you keep those plans simple, enticing and understandable for the trainers.

Acknowledgements can come in many forms: verbal, monetary or otherwise. “It motivates them and the other trainers,” said Spatola. “Show them the fruits of their labor.” Last year, GATC awarded its top trainer with a trip to Hawaii. Not only is the trainer motivated because they were rewarded, the other trainers on the team became more motivated because they want to win a trip to Hawaii too.

The last piece to the retention puzzle for keeping your top trainers around is providing continued education. “Be an educational hub so they don’t have to seek it elsewhere,” advised Spatola. By keeping the education in-house you show trainers that you are willing to put in the effort to develop them personally. It also keeps them from being poached by another club that may be offering continued education openly.

When it comes to hiring and keeping the top trainers, Spatola offered up some advice: “Be open-minded to people who may not be exactly what you had in mind. If they have that personality and potential, they can be taught the rest and be that shining star for you.”


By Maggie Cunningham

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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