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Tap into the Multibillion-Dollar Sports Performance Market


Sports performance. According to the 2014 IHRSA Profiles of Success Annual Industry Survey, the number of U.S. health clubs grew from 29,750 in 2009 to 32,150 in 2013. Over 25 percent, or 8,000 of the 32,150 clubs in the U.S., are smaller specialty type facilities that include sports performance or some type of adult functional training. The average number of members per club peaked in 2011 at 1,716 and slowly declined to 1,628 in 2013, indicating the industry continues to get more and more competitive to attract new members. Simply stated, for the past three years new membership growth rates for clubs are not keeping up with the additional club units being added to the marketplace every year.

So with the increased competition that comes with the rising number of clubs, what should an owner do to capture his or her share of the competitive membership ranks? The answer: Maximize your most lucrative profit center with real differentiation. The questions to ask are: What do you want your club to be known for and what do you want to be great at? Some clubs believe they differentiate their businesses with their training department. For years, the industry buzz was “functional training.” Experienced trainers are utilizing functional equipment like kettlebells, medicine balls and agility ladders, performing exercises in circuits that improve strength and aerobic capacity at the same time. The better trainers coach their clients more for “go” than “show.” Well, if you are just realizing this, you are trailing a big trend in the fitness industry.

The next big trend sweeping the fitness industry is performance-based training for the youth market, a multibillion-dollar market that continues to grow rapidly. With 23 percent of the population under 18, this market is primed for club owners to tap. But young people are just one aspect of this market. Think about the experienced adult gym-goers who are ready to train like athletes as well. Members get bored with just moving iron around, and some just want to feel like a kid again and have fun when they workout.

The key to creating a sports performance-based program in your club is to designate some open floor space. Clear about 900 square feet, preferably a 15-foot by 60-foot space. This allows trainers to perform a host of different calisthenics, from running movements and sled pulls, to ladder drills and light plyometrics. Those really serious about sports performance should lay an indoor turf surface and engage with experienced and seasoned operators to learn how to make this strategy a success.

Open space in a gym becomes extremely valuable to a member if it is positioned as a benefit that either they or their children can utilize. You’ll need to educate prospects and members on how sports performance-based training can rejuvenate workout routines and enhance their lifestyle. And for the many weekend warriors, this program will certainly improve play on the field or court.

When speaking to parents of sedentary kids, explain how your club makes fitness fun — how your program is the first step toward a child’s increased self-confidence. When speaking to adults who are interested in sporting activities, this program becomes an instant benefit to them and helps sell family memberships and creates greater member retention.

Sports performance-based classes with adults and kids are a great way to crank up monthly personal training revenue. It also opens a whole new opportunity to a new segment of the market than you presently address. With the personal training penetration rate for health clubs at just 3 percent nationally, exceeding the standard is easy. The secret is to execute it at a consistently high level. But be wary: With all the competition coming, you’ll need to be much better than average.


Bill Parisi is the founder and managing partner of the Parisi Speed School. He can be contacted at 888GET.FAST, or by email at bparisi@parisischool.com. Visit parisispeedschool.com/businessopportunity.

Emily Harbourne

Emily Harbourne is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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