You can find 2018 in Review - HERE
2017 in Review -HERE
I keep an open word document where I jot down quotes, articles, research, podcasts, and any other notes that I keep during the year. The following is this years collection of the above.
You can find 2018 in Review - HERE
2017 in Review -HERE
When you have your own facility, it can be awfully tempting to join arms with a sport club/AAU team. They have a lot of teams, a lot of athletes and it sounds like a potential match made in heaven.
BUT be careful, these offers aren't typically ideal.
Over the past 7-years, BBA has been offered a number of these with different academy's and AAU teams, and we've politely declined all of them.
Let's go over a number of reasons.
1. Do you know all the coaches, employees, leadership with that facility? How do they present themselves on social media? Are the coaches qualified and have the athletes best interest? Do they have good athlete and coach retention? How is the husband/wife of the owner? What kind of freedom will you have as a "sub-leaser" in their facility?
Do you really want to be associated with a facility that changes coaches every 6-months, has loud mouth coaches, an overbearing spouse of the owner, is about maximizing profits over maximizing player development and experience? Pretty quickly your business will be associated, for good and bad, with the facility you're under.
2. Athletes change teams ALL THE TIME. The turnover in academy's and AAU programs are insane. Every year kids are on new teams, so why set yourself up with 1-team when there is absolutely no loyalty in these businesses? It's far better to be in a position to help all athletes, from all teams.
3. Just because you're in-house, doesn't mean athletes will use your services. Sure they have 15-teams, with 15-kids on each team, but that doesn't mean they will all train with you. In fact, I would guess less than 10% of athletes would actually use your services (if they are an extra service).
Now your service may be included in membership fees, which is nice, but as a coach who actually cares about athlete development, this is in no way a good setting for athlete development. What this usually means is you're allotted 20-30min, 2xday/week for 8-weeks with each team. So now you're crammed with 15-30 athletes in a session (they'll often give you 2-3 teams at a single time) for 20-30minutes, and somehow you're expected to connect and help these athletes improve? I'll pass
4. Lack of Control. I'm a control freak and I would hate having my schedule, facility availability, space, equipment, etc controlled by others. And this is what happens when you're in another facility. During certain periods you may have access to the whole facility. During other periods, you may only have 500sq/ft. Certain weekends will be all yours. Other weekends, they'll have try-outs or team practices and you won't have access. I'll pass.
5. As a business I think it's a poor approach to align yourself with one club. Why would you want to limit yourself? If you're business is under the roof of a certain baseball academy or basketball AAU team or anything else, you are eliminating yourself to athletes who are not a part of that organization. You are also eliminating yourself to athletes in other sports (if you're in a baseball academy, good luck getting swimmers or basketball players).
6. Finally, while all of these organizations will make it seem like a mutually beneficial relationship, it is typically in their best interest.
They get someone to sub-lease space (reduce their rent). Space that they would otherwise be paying for. Space they still get to use.
They get to add a low-cost addition to their programs without any additional overhead. This helps separate them from other programs, but like I mentioned earlier, this will likely have less of an impact on your business than you think.
Have you ever been to one of these places? Kids, siblings and even parents are hanging out/running around at practices, lessons, etc. I never felt comfortable with this as I know these kids, parents would be messing with my equipment, swinging/jumping on my racks when I'm not there. On a Sunday afternoon, when I'm not at the facility but they have a team practice, I do not want my expensive equipment being messed with.
Finally, you're at the mercy of this business. They all of a sudden quit or move...tough luck. Owner gets a divorce...good luck with that. Coaches get drunk in front of kids at a tournament... great look for you to be a part of.
Overall, give yourself more freedom and don't neglect yourself to other athletes. And remember, there is no loyalty in youth sports. I have a varsity HS coach bring his kids to our program, but uses another person train his HS team.
How does that make sense?
It doesn't, and that's all youth sports. They don't make sense, so don't put your business on the line by aligning with another.
As a business, having more options = more clients/costumers...right?
The reality is this isn't true and it doesn't create a strong business.
I've seen so many places try to have a new 'flavor of the month' and before long they have no identity.
In a rush to build clientele they'll offer a yoga, bootcamp, self-defense, boxing, powerlifting and they spread themselves so thin, they lose touch with what they actually want to identify as.
Not only that, but you then ask your staff (or yourself) to wear many hats and this leads to being average in many areas, great in none. How can you expect your staff to be great when they're asked to coach a athlete session, a bootcamp session, a HIIT session, a mobility session and a yoga session in the same day?
Depth > Width
Have a speciality that people know you for. If you want to be successful long-term and work with a certain population, you have to let that be known.
I've seen this first hand with competition in my area. Facilities try to offer a dozen different packages, for every crowd imaginable and before long this approach actually further helped to cement BBA as the place for athletes. They were so worried about trying to get people through the doors, in any way, that this actually distanced themselves from the athlete population.
If you look at what we offer, it's very simple. Athletes make up about 90% of our business, with a small group of adults to compliment that. If you look at our social media, our posts, our content... it's all geared towards the athlete population. Our message and our model is pretty straight forward and therefore we get that population.
We don't try to muddy the waters with different classes or programs to accommodate everyone, we focus on athletes and because of this any serious athlete in our area comes to our door and no one else.
Now, is there a downside to this?
Absolutely, our adult program stays relatively small because many see it as something similar to our athlete training ie competitive, intense and having a specific athletic goal. Some of our athletes also mention how their friends are intimidated to join because they don't think they'd keep up.
I have friends in the private sector that work in specialized facilities, for example a baseball facility that works with primarily baseball athletes. They speak to how athletes from other sports often don't know if they should train there because they are a 'baseball' facility. So they might lose potential football or basketball athletes.
That being said, I'll gladly lose a few potential clients who may interpret our programs as not right for them, for the many others that seek us out because they know exactly who we cater too.
So as tempting as it may be to offer a myriad of programs to try and get as many people through your doors, this strategy will soon handcuff and worsen your product (unless of course you want to be just a general fitness & wellness facility with no real emphasis).
Make sure you stick and promote your main program. Less is more in this area.
For the few out there that actually follow our work at BBA and listen to our podcasts, you probably notice our theme... we are movement based.
We take a movement centric approach to training our athletes, which is backwards from the weight room centric approach most S&Cs take. We value the weight room, but it is only an accessory to our actual movement training.
âWith that being said, we try to base our movement training and subsequent learning process from an ecological, CLA, rep without rep standpoint rather than a perfect practice, mental model, rep after rep standpoint.
With this process has come the difficult task of communicating with coaches as the terminology used are not likely to be seen in college classes or in common coach interactions. This is sad because the literature is rich and deep in this area and very valuable for all coaches to be familiar with. Being on the same page, and understanding the basic terminology will help coaches have meaningful discussion on these topics.
âBelow are basic "definitions" of key terms that are common in movement discussions and will help put everybody on the same playing field. You will also find some important books to consider, numerous research articles to explore, podcasts that clearly layout and discuss these principles, and websites that contain great information.
A big thanks to Tyler Yearby (@TylerYearby) for his help and contributions to this work. Many of the following are additions and inserts from his study, so the thoroughness of this list is in major part to him!
Have fun exploring this deep rabbit hole!
The environment offers âabilityâ of actions â the ball has catch-ability, the gap has jump-ability, the space has run-ability. Affordances are dynamic; they can change over short and long time scales based on changes in the environment, task, and organism.
Information in the environment is directly perceived, which contains affordances (opportunities for action). Information specifies affordances, those properties of the environment whose perceived meaning is the actions they both allow and invite and organism to perform (Araujo, D., & Davids, K., 2011).
Ecological Dynamics framework sustains a scientific approach to studying the behaviors of neurobiological systems, especially processes of action, perception and cognition (Ecological Dynamics: a theoretical framework for understanding sport performance, physical education and physical activity, Seifert, l. & Davids, K., 2016).
Kugler and Turvey  considered that "Ecological scienceâ¦.is a multidisciplinary approach to the study of living systems, their environments and the reciprocity that has evolved between the two (I also liked this from the same paper).
It is better to think of technique as the execution of a decision. Technique is linked to the information source, so it isnât absolute or permanent; it varies depending on the context in which a movement is being asked. Technique is a result of individual, task and environmental constraints of a particular movement. Technique is the outcome of intention and perception, thus technique needs to be studied in that realm.
Coordination is a property of the solution that emerges from each individuals movement system in response to the constraints the system is facing.
I keep an open work document where I jot down quotes, articles, research, podcasts, and any other notes that I keep during the year. The following is this years collection of the above.
You can find last years review - HERE
Owning a gym/performance facility is the goal of many young and experienced coaches. You get to be your own boss, do things your way, set-up and organize a facility, get the equipment you need and want, and have total control of programming.
I got into the private sector for many of those reasons - and overall I wanted to coach and coach my way.
BUT, little did I know the various facets of owning and operating a business take their toll. Not only that, if you have no experience with business (most of us studied exercise science or the like, NOT business classes) many of the facets of pricing, marketing/advertising, website design, accounting/book keeping, insurance/liability, taxes, payroll, etc can be daunting tasks.
So I asked some friends in the private sector to give some short answers on some of the above topics.
These are coaches who have made and run a successful facility for years and have been through the ringer when it comes to these business questions.
No doubt you'll learn from their answers and hopefully their guidance can help facilities maximize their efficiency and effectiveness of their programs.
Blue = Rich Schimenek - Trois Training
Red = Joseph Potts - TopSpeed Strength & Conditioning
Green = Drew Heisler
Orange = Jake Francis - King Performance
Purple = Engineered Per4mance
1. What ages do you work with? How do you break-up ages/grades, ie do you have a middle school group, high school group, college group, etc? Do you ever run into issues with a family that has a high school kid and middle school kid but don’t have the same training times/groups for them?
I work with athletes from 6th grade up. I only separate the high level high school and college athletes in their own group, every other session is a mix. The athlete schedules around here are really hard to work with, almost all of my athletes have some sort of “not required, but required” summer sessions with their fall sports teams. I will usually write the day’s session for the high school athletes and regress for the younger athletes, it’s what has worked the best so far.
In a perfect world I would love to break up by age group, but right now it would leave us with smaller groups that don’t maximize our time in the gym. Minnesota summers are weird like that, with the lakes around here there isn’t a ton of interest in training during the afternoon because every kid wants to be on a beach or a boat at that point.
As I general rule I only work with high school aged athletes or above. However, depending on the level of maturation we have had several 7 th graders join the program. We do have a youth class for athletes aged 5-12 that meets twice per week during non-peak hours.
I work with athletes from 6th grade and up. In an ideal world groups would be set up by sport and age. In the real world I have had to put groups together where middle school and high school kids have had to work together. I have had groups where some of my adults have had to work with some of my high school kids. It is not ideal but until I have such a demand that I have to hire more trainers, I have to make it work as best I can.
I work with mostly High school and College athletes. I do break it up that way, I have Youth, High School, College, and Pro groups. I have not ran into that problem yet.. But it is a good idea to find a solution for that before the program comes.
We have multiple groups starting with EP4Kids (3-6 year olds). We bring these little guys over from local daycare centers and travel to ones around the metro to do this class focusing on motor skill development and play. EP4Teens (mostly made up of 7-12 year olds but based on training experience. This class is focused on learning general exercise safety, technique, explosive moment and play/competition. Alpha Athlete is our sports performance program (mostly high school and collegiate athletes.) This is our general sports performance and athletic development class focused on creating general athleticism. During the summer currently we have a specific class for elite high school, top tier collegiate, and professional basketball players. After a growing interest we will have a separate collegiate and a separate professional basketball program this coming summer.
We have a few families that have kids in different groups which causes a problem with their scheduling. However, most seem very understanding of the need to separate the programs based on the needs analysis of the different ages and training history.
2. How do you structure payment - Pay per session? Monthly Packages? Set start and end blocks of training – August 1st – October 31st = $x? How did you come up with your pricing structure? How did you decide on price points? If you’re willing to share – can you share what your prices are for your packages – if not, I completely understand.
We do monthly payments during the school year and a package payment over the summer. We charge $150/month for 3 days of training and $120/month for 2 days during the school year. Summer sessions are around the same price, but for marketing reasons I do it as a training package. For example, this summer was $350 total, which was about $13.50 per session. Last summer was $450, but we had 3 more weeks of training than this summer. I base the summer packages off how many weeks we train and what I want for price per session.
My pricing was determined by my personal cost of living and what I know people will pay around this area. Also, being a small business I’ve found it’s easier to charge like this since I have to enter everything by hand. Packages mean fewer checks to enter and cards to swipe, but monthly over the school year allows me to track who’s paid and who hasn’t each month. I wouldn’t recommend it for a big facility, but it works for us.
We charge per session. To set my price I called around to local commercial gyms and found out how much they charged for personal training and prorated that out to allow for the semi-private versus private setting. Our sessions run $40-50 each depending on the package the athlete enrolls in.
I offer group rates of 180$ per month for 2x per week training and 240$ per month for 3x week training. I offer a daily group rate of 25$ per session and private sessions are 50 per hour. My rates have gone up a bit over the years, as my original pricing was fairly low. I have learned that charging a higher rate leads to more clients who respect you, your time and will work a little bit harder than those who want the world for less. I have also found that I am better able to provide high quality training when I am working with groups of 3 or 4 rather than 5 to 8. To keep the quality high and to attract the right clientele my rates will settle somewhere near charging 25$ per hour per person. This stuff is my least favorite part of owning.
This is what I am currently working on restructuring. We currently do Monthly packages. But are working on adding in blocks of training instead of just the monthly option (1month, 3months, 6months, 9 months, and 12 months). I try to keep the pricing as reasonable as possible, especially for the high school and youth athletes.
All of our sports performance programs are month-to-month memberships. Due to the fact that the athletes participate in a wide variety of sports they need the ability to leave during season or when training/school/life outside of here becomes too much. They are year round to tailor to all sports and not separated by training time blocks. We do offer specific “speed/conditioning” blocks over school breaks for athletes that are back in town.
All of our adult fitness classes, however, are based on contracts. The longer they commit the cheaper the price. This structure allows for stability within the business because I can count on that amount coming every month regardless and helps drive all business/ marketing decisions.
I came up with the structure by essentially reverse engineering what I needed to make to keep the business operable (utilities, rent, payroll, etc.) Our business plan was based on a three year building process where I would essentially not take a salary and always give anything extra back into the business, whether that be new equipment or employee, to keep pushing forward until we are where I need to be. I have many friends that started gyms across the country and many of them essentially just guessed what the market would pay and all of them are running into issues raising prices to match what they need. We have always believed our product is valuable and you must treat it that way. When I fist started doing market research I went to a big global box close to us that charges less than $20 a month. When I asked how they sustain that they said they have 2000 members. I then asked how they accommodate that many members and he told me “well maybe 10% show up”. These people are helping no one. If 10% of my athletes are showing up I have failed but I understand the business, that’s just not us. On the other hand, I have talked with a guy that lives in LA and he had to keep raising his prices over and over to force some accountability among his very wealthy clientele. Also I knew of one other facility that is in the sports performance world in the area and has been around with no competition for a very long time and they have gotten complacent in the programming/care of their athletes. I knew I wanted to be more expensive than them to prove to the athlete that we are more valuable. All of this to say I believe the price needs to be set at 1. what you need to make. 2. Enough to value your product/education/risk/ time. 3. Enough to force the members to value the product enough to show up and get results.
EP4Kids (1 day per week, 30 min sessions): $35/mo
EP4Teens (2 days per week, 1 hour sessions): $80/mo
Alpha Athlete (4 days per week, 1 hour sessions): $145/mo
All sport specific classes including elite/pro basketball (3-4 days per week): $145/mo Adult fitness (unlimited classes, 1 hour sessions)
12 month commitment: $135
6 month commitment: $145
3 month commitment: $160
3. Do your athletes schedule for specific days per week at specific times – 2-days per week on Tues/Thurs; 3-days per week Mon/Wed/Fri – or do they have unlimited sessions or can they come in on any day/time?
Summer: Set schedule of day/time every week. We see a lot more athletes over the summer and have to schedule accordingly to avoid chaos.
School Year: Suggested scheduling. I try to encourage the athletes to show up in a set schedule but allow flexibility to accommodate the things that come up during the school year. Got a big test? Don’t train that morning. Want to travel to a football game on Friday? Let’s train Mon/Wed/Thurs this week instead. We don’t see as many athletes during the school year so it’s easier to allow some flexibility in the schedule. Every athlete has my cell phone number and is encouraged to communicate as things happen.
They are allowed to book during any day/time that we’re open
In an ideal world I would set up my 3-day programs on Mondays-Wednesdays-Fridays and my 2-day programs on Tuesday-Thursday. I have some clients who are available on the same days each week and others who have to change their schedule a bit each week. If they purchase a package, I make sure they are able to train either 2 or 3 days per week.
The schedule is based off the program the athletes sign up for (Weight room, speed or unlimited) We do speed Tuesday & Thursday and weight room work Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
All of the sports performance programs are set schedules ranging from 1 to 4 days per week depending on the program. We have three Alpha Athlete classes (6:30am MTThF, 5:30pm MTWTh, 6:30pm MTWTh). This typically provides enough freedom to work around our athletes busy schedule and avoids Friday evening (which we found people just wouldn’t show up to). Our adult fitness classes are unlimited. Each day is a different focus so we work with the client to decide which days/times/classes to come to to best meet their goals but ultimately it is up to them when they come.
4.Do they schedule online, and if so what platform do you use? Are athletes limited on the # of times they can come in during a week?
We’ve tried scheduling online through a few programs and I’ve found it just works better in person. It forces the athletes to interact with me to set their weekly schedule and to take responsibility for the schedule they ask for.
They do schedule online, we use the Mindbody service. I recommend that they not train more than 4 times per week.
I don’t do online scheduling but creating an option for that is a feature I will have on my revamped website
All scheduling is based off the programs, or if they are personal training clients. For athletes we do a max 5 times a week.
We do online scheduling. We use Mind Body Online as the platform. Each athlete has a username and password to log into the app or website and reserve there spot in a class. The adult fitness classes are capped at 10 people so after 10 sign ups the class is closed. The Sports Performance program is sold out so we just don’t sell any more after a specific session is capped and we expect them to show up to that session each week. When the athletes get here they check in on an iPad at the front that tells the coach and our staff who is showing up etc.
5. What challenges have you found with your current system?
The only problem is when people try have flexible scheduling over the summer. We see about 100 athletes a day in the summer and it’s a huge problem if kids are jumping sessions or asking for special times.
Mindbody updated their app and it lost functionality in several areas. It’s been that way for a couple of months now. Kids also forget their password and end up making multiple accounts for themselves which is annoying.
I hate talking about money with my clients. I hate it so much that I have actually avoided telling clients they are due for payment and as a result I have allowed plenty of clients to train for free. Another big weakness of this industry is how much of our work is unpaid. I am sure you spend a large amount of time planning your athletes training and unless you have that time built into your rates, you aren’t paid for it. My fiancé is an attorney and she gets paid for sending an email. She gets reimbursed for driving to a settlement or a closing (she does real estate law). It makes me realize how much work I do for free. While I know it isn’t reasonable for us to get paid for all the time we spend working I would like to get paid for more of my time.
There hasn't been many challenges so far, luckily. A lot of people complain about having to register for a "program" rather than just having random sessions when ever they want, but that alone speaks for the commitment of those athletes. The athletes that buy into the "program" and are committed, love it.
We are constantly tweaking things so we are more than happy to admit a mistake and change the way something is being done. Currently we have athletes in all different sports/seasons/times of school/etc and these variables are causing some issue. Our coaches are great at regressing/progressing/lateralizing exercise and changing the volume for a specific athlete but I want more control over that.
6. If you could change one thing about your current system, what would it be?
Auto payments or EFT would be really nice, we just haven’t found a system that works for us yet.
When the app was fully functional I had 0 complaints outside of the lack of a multi-client check in option.
I want to figure out a system of recurring monthly payments. I don’t want to handle money directly from my clients and I want to get rid of daily payments. As I mentioned above, I would like to set up a system where I am paid for more of the time I put into the business.
The one thing I am working on, is guaranteed monthly income, when doing the monthly payments, athletes can stop coming and there goes that income, with long term commitment or automatic payments it would save a lot of time and fix that problem.
Our solution to the above problem is I am currently developing an iPad app that each athlete checks in at the beginning of a workout. The app asks for basic information regarding readiness (sleep duration, if they ate recently, when was last competition, next competition, current injuries, mood, etc). This will then put the athletes into 3 different categories that ranges in volume, intensity, and recovery methods.
7. What advice would you give to new or even experienced performance gym owners on pricing?
Know how much you’re worth, find how much they’ll pay, and get those two numbers as close as possible. I realize private training isn’t for everyone, but you are a professional and have bills to pay.
Find out the cost for similar services within a 40-50 miles radius and be competitive with those, but also bear in mind your own experience and worth. I would laugh at an inexperienced/novice coach charging as much as one with years of experience.
Figure out your worth and charge accordingly. Do not undercut yourself. This is a great industry to be in but you might not want to train people all day for the rest of your life. Figure out what you need to charge in order to put some money away each month.
Don't be the cheapest facility just to get clients. Value your time. Provide the athletes more than what they are paying for.
I laid most of my advise out in the previous question. The thing I want to reiterate is you must value yourself. I had very hard time with that out of school as a chiropractor at first and then certainly as a coach. I listened to a podcast once with the advise to imagine a projector shooting out the back of your head that shows who ever you are talking to exactly what you are thinking. People pick up on what you really feel versus what you are saying. If you believe your product is valuable your athlete will too and everyone benefits.
8. How far do you pull athletes from ie 20mile radius? What is the size of your market/how big is the city you run your facility in?
St. Cloud has a population of about 50,000 and is surrounded by a few smaller towns that add about 20-30,000 more people. There’s 7 high schools within 20 miles of the gym that we draw from, with a few kids driving from farther than that. Almost all of our recruiting is from word-of-mouth and athletes bringing friends in. We do some marketing in the form of apparel, buying ad space in sport programs where our clients play, and giving gift packages to local fundraisers, but all of these account for about 5% of our marketing. I would say 95% of our clients are from referrals and “bring a friend” days from our athletes.
Social media is the king of marketing for me. My athletes beg to be on my Instagram and you’re a local celebrity at high school if you make it on there. I have no idea how this became a thing, but it’s been great for business and awareness with the kids in this area.
We will occasionally have athletes come from up to 70-100 miles away to train but routinely draw athletes from up to a 30-40 miles radius. The city we operate in has a population of 53k, with bordering cities at 130k. The population within a 50 mile radius is estimated at 2.4 million.
I honestly couldn’t tell you how far our clients travel in terms of miles. I would say most of my clients travel between 5 and 25 minutes to the gym. I opened my facility in a small town because the rent was low and I had very little money. I am looking to move the gym or open a second location in a much more heavily populated area.
In recent months we have had athletes (college and professional) commit to driving 2-6hours to come train at our facility. It isn't a HUGE market here, and new gyms seem to pop up every week now a days. Our city population is about 320,000.
We chose Ankeny because it has a massive sports market. The city itself has a population of 59,000 and is currently the third fastest growing city in the US. They value their sports performance here and always have. When I was growing up Ankeny athletes were always incredible and the parents and fans were great. I chased that to this community. The vast majority of our athletes are local and live within a 5-10 mile radius. We have a couple that come from Carlisle, Waukee, and West Des Moines (about 20 miles in any direction) and that seems to be the farthest people have traveled.
I've spent the past 7-years coaching in both the private and public sectors. That's 7+ years owning my own sports performance facility working with athletes from 1st Grade -> Middle School -> HS -> College -> Professional -> Adults.
In a few months, I'll also be wrapping up my 5th year handling the Strength and Conditioning duties for various college teams ranging from baseball, lacrosse, golf, and tennis. I also spent my 4-month internship at the University of Minnesota, primarily working with football, hockey, basketball, swimming, and wrestling.
While short in comparison to others experiences, this timeframe does give me a pretty decent amount of experience and appreciation of both sectors, and many of the nuances of each.
Young coaches are often dealt with the task of deciding which field to enter, and unfortunately in our field, the deeper you go into one field, the harder it becomes to switch to the other field; so understanding the pros and cons of each sector can help young coaches hopefully make better career decisions.
I'd like to add that as a whole, both fields need to do a better job of coming together and working together INSTEAD of competing against each other. A week doesn't go by where I don't see some quote or tweet or hear from an athlete about a coach in the public sector bashing the private sector.
Believe it or not, most private sector coaches are NOT in it for the money; they're actually in it for the same reasons public sector coaches are - they love to coach, they love to work with and be around athletes, they want to make a positive impact. Another believe it or not, many, if not most, coaches in the private sector are not making much money, they're just trying to make ends meet and provide for their family.
I also know, athletes only seek out services from the private sector when they feel they're missing something from their school. For me personally, the quality of product I'm able to provide is much better in my private facility than with my teams. The 20-30 athletes at one time, freshman through senior athlete experience, 1-hour time window, and facility/equipment restriction all handcuff many aspects that I'm otherwise able to provide at my private facility.
So before bitching about athletes seeking out the services from a private facility, ask yourself
Instead of getting mad at your athletes and holding it against them, how about you look at yourself and auditing your own program. If a team sport athlete of mine sought after private training, I would understand why and I wouldn't get upset that they need the team training and they're being selfish. I would understand the limitations I can provide and know the athlete is just seeking what's best for them.
So in no particular order, here are some broad categories pertaining to each the private and public sectors...
Caliber of Athlete
In the private sector, you're typically dealing with HS and middle school kids, and often kids who are absolutely new to a performance program. When I was young I wanted to own my own facility so I could work with professional athletes. I was going to train these athletes with advanced techniques and create absolute monster’s!
That’s everyone’s dream right?
Well quickly you’ll learn that this probably won’t happen. Heck if you work with a handful of college and professional athletes, you’ll be pretty lucky. More than likely, most of your population will be young beginners and general population clients that have very low training age.
Understand that 90% of your clients will never be ready for most of the advanced and intense training regimes we read and study. Advanced tri-phasic, shock method, stimulation method, Westside, French Contrast, APRE, etc are all great, but in most private settings, these will be out of the realm for most of your clients.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are gyms out there that have elite athletes and can train with some of these advanced methods, but understand this won’t happen overnight.
Oh the hours of being a S&C Coach! No matter the sector, you’re going to be working some long, crappy hours.
First get used to being up by 5:30am every weekday, and that’s late. I arrive at my facility around 4:45am every morning to get things prepared for 5:30am groups. Some college S&C’s arrive even earlier and often have a pretty decent commute to get there!
If you are not a morning person, you should start looking for a different career, because by the time regular Joe’s and Jane’s wake-up, we’ve already put a couple hours under our belt.
If the early mornings weren’t enough, then the 12-16 hour days might be. In a public setting, coaches are typically there from 5:00am until 3:00-4:00pm. Don’t forget about traveling with the team to games and working weekends.
At my facility, during the summer it’s pretty much straight through 6:00am until 7-8:00pm. During the school year, I’m a little more lucky because it’s 5:30-11:00am then off until 2:30pm, and then go 2:30-9:00pm.
No matter your choice, they're LONG days and not only that, you’re on your feet for the majority of it. Standing, walking, demonstrating, changing weights, cleaning, etc. Doing this everyday takes its toll. This is one of the first things coaches learn when they enter the field.
In the private sector, you'll typically get an athlete for an extended period of time, and KNOW that you'll have that athlete for 2-4 years.
In the private sector, you don't know whether you'll have a certain athlete for a month, 3-months, 3-years. Obviously you hope they return for your services year after year, but in many cases you might only get an athlete for a certain 3-month stretch every year, and then not see them for 9-months.
This means how you program and introduce concepts is vastly different between jobs. Knowing you have multiple years, and will be with an athlete for 11-months of the year allows you to have a much better idea of how to plan and progress athletes.
Not knowing if you will have an athlete for 1-month or 3-months changes how you approach their training. You might exclude things that have longer learning curves, you will have a greater sense of urgency, you might stick to progressions longer, etc.
Planning for athletes in the private sector involves much more conversation and daily/weekly tweeks to an athletes program compared to the public sector - some coaches enjoy this, others do not.
Duties of the Job
Working or own your own private gym is great and all, but be aware you’ll be wearing many different hats.
My “cool” title as owner and head of sports performance is nice on a business card and it allows me to design programs for all my athletes and plan out all the aspects of physical preparation.
Now what you don’t see are all my other titles: receptionist, marketing and advertising, janitor, account manager, handy man...
There are a ton of non-pretty tasks and jobs that need to be done, and if you’re in the private sector, that’s your job! If you're lucky you might be in a position where you can hire cleaning services or are in a public building that does some of these jobs, but it's been my experience that most of these jobs fall upon the business owner.
In the public sector, these jobs are probably not your worry. You don't have to worry about the bathroom, or vacuuming the facility, or taking phone calls, or worrying about marketing/advertising, or filling out spread sheets, etc. You also probably don't have to worry about equipment issues or putting together new equipment - there are people for that.
That being said, you may be part of hiring committees, leadership committees, required to attend athletic meetings, and sport coach meetings - so getting used to sitting in on hours of meetings becomes normal.
There has been a rise in S&C pay in the past 5-years, and were now seeing strength coaches with salaries of 400k or more. The average DI head Football S&C is making around ~200k - that's damn good money.
That being said, there are still plenty of assistants, Olympic sport S&C's, and S&C's at the DII, DIII, and HS levels making penny's compared to Football S&C.
A rising tide raises all ships - coaches making more money and getting seen as more and more valuable is only a positive for our profession.
Instead of getting jealous or thinking so and so is making 300k! I'm a way better coach. Understand it can only be seen as a positive that coaches are getting paid better and it will only positively effect coaches at all levels sooner than later.
In the private sector, understand, you probably won't make much money during your initial years - especially if you're the one starting the business. With all the expenses it takes to get a facility running and keeping it rolling, it's takes some time before things start paying for themselves.
I spent my first year owning my business sleeping on a futon in the back storage room on my facility. I lived on protein shakes and $5 pizza's from Little Ceasar's. I hustled for every penny, busted my ass for every client, and knocked on every door I could to get things going.
No one saw what that first year was like, no one saw the 1am working on a programs or a project around the facility; no one saw the Sundays; no one felt the fatigue from coaching for 16-hours; no one felt the hunger from not eating solid food for days at a time .
But this is why I'm picky about every penny I spend, this is why I don't like not coaching every session - because no one can understand what I sacrificed to now have a gym filled with athletes and they'll never understand the sense of urgency and energy needed every single day.
People take for granted when they see something without appreciation for how they got that way. New interns or coaches take for granted having every session filled with athletes and think that's normal BUT they didn't go through any of the pains or hustle that got it that way.
That being said, I truly think everyone should go through periods of their life where they struggle, they're poor, they're living week to week, they have to hustle for every dollar, go hungry - it's makes you appreciate the small things and the experience and lessons learned serve you well down the road.
Sorry for the rant, but the beauty of private coaches is they don't have a ceiling for pay. If they do a great job, organize a well structured business, and are able to charge for their services - they can continue to increase their earnings.
In the public sector, minus being at a Power 5 conference, you're typically set in your salary for multiple years. Teams could win championships, athletic programs can have tremendous success, but the S&C coach will likely stay at their set salary.
This is a major reason coaches move quite frequently, in search of those higher paying jobs. For every DI coach making 200k-400k, there are another 100 coaches at other levels/schools making 20-30k.
One of the often unseen benefits of working in a public setting is the benefits a coach receives. Typically, full health insurance, matched retirement, PTO, and vacation.
In the private sector, don't expect any of that. No health insurance (hopefully your spouse can provide that), you're responsible for long-term financial investments, no built in sick days or vacation.
I have many friends in the college realm, and depending on the sport(s) they coach, they typically get 2-3 stretches of the year where they won't have any teams for 2-3 weeks. So typically, a solid 4-6 weeks with no teams - great opportunities for vacation and/or a chance to recharge their batteries and catch up on project, programming, etc.
In the 5-years of my business, we've never been closed for more than 3 days in a row. I've taken one 10-day vacation for my honeymoon, and when I do take a long vacation, not only do I have to pay for the vacation itself, but for my assistants to be there during my absence, so I'm basically paying for it twice.
If I get a weekend of no coaching, it's a small miracle.
As coaches get older and start families, many of these added benefits are huge and may override some of the potential luxuries of the private sector.
Working in the private sector generally gives you a lot of freedom in terms of programming, duration, and timing. While coaching in the College setting you’re usually restricted to certain time frames and restricted hours; in the private sector, I can spend just about as much time as I want with an athlete and coach at many different times.
I have said this before, and will continue to say it - I'm able to put out a better product in my private facility than I am with my college teams.
In many instances S&C coaches are at the will of their Head Sport Coach. If a Sport Coach wants his team to Olympic Lift, you’ll likely have to implement Olympic Lifts. If a Coach wants his athletes to run 300-Shuttles, you’ll probably have to follow his or her will.
Also, many assistant S&C coaches are also at the will of the head S&C coach. So they may be implementing the head S&C's program or have certain restrictions based on what the head S&C stipulates. So even if it’s something you don’t agree on, you might be forced to include exercises/drills you don’t want to.
Now coaches for years have gotten around this by doing whatever pleases their coaches, but in low doses. If coaches have good rapport and experience with their Head Coach, they can often talk to them about why they don’t want to do certain things or are given freedom to do what they please. But for many coaches, the big boss runs the show and what he or she says, goes or you may risk losing your job.
There are plenty of pros and cons of each the public and private sectors, and it really comes down to each individual coach.
As a former athlete, I'm driven towards the team setting and to me nothing beats a big game. But as a coach, I feel more impact and more influence as a coach in the private sector.
As I get older, the public sector may be a better calling with the less physical stress of being my feet for 14 hours, added benefits, less stress of owning a business, and more time off for family.
For now, BBA is what I enjoy most. The population of athletes, freedom and growth as a coach, individual attention able to provide for each athlete... plus I get to bring my dog to work everyday too!
You might also enjoy a Podcast I did with Matt Gifford (NXLevel), Steve Brown (UW-Oshkosh), Zach Cahill (Northern Illinois), Korey Van Wyk (Northwestern College) where we talked about working in the public vs private sectors.
I keep an open Word document on my computer where I write up all my random thoughts, quotes I hear, research I like, notes from books/podcasts/lectures. I look back on this document every couple of weeks to remind myself of things I found important.
Decided I would take a little time to organize this file and post it in hopes other coaches may gain something from it.
You can read here, or download the file.
It's common practice in the strength and conditioning world to bash the use of a belt.
Common arguments include
I've heard recommendations from coaches ranging from - never allowing a belt, to only on max limits, to only on lifts above 80%
All-in-All the trend seems to point to limiting belt usage to heavier loads.
So the question begs, is there any validity to these recommendations; more so, is wearing a belt bad and why do certain coaches resist using belts?
Let's take a look at an old study out of Auburn University back in 1992 (3). This was one of the first studies looking at the effects of a weight-belt on the back squat. This study was also very useful because the participants could actually move a respectable amount of weight.
To qualify for the study, subjects either had to move 277lbs for 8 reps or have an 8RM of at least 1.6x body weight. While these may not be eye-opening numbers, we can all agree moving 1.6x body weight for 8-reps is pretty strong and by all means they aren't newbies, which can be rare to see in most S&C studies.
The researchers measured force output via a force plate, intra-abdominal pressure, muscle activation, and time of each phase of the lift.
A couple of interesting things the researchers found
What Does This Mean
These findings shed some light on a few things. Most people wear a belt to take load off the midsection, well this study showed that there was no difference between the belted and un-belted group in spinal erector and external oblique EMG activity. All the while increasing intra-abdominal pressure (IAP), which increases spinal stability and reduces shear forces on the spine.
IAP helps to stabilizes the pelvis, helping it resist excessive pelvic tilt (both anterior and posterior). So wearing a belt increased intra-abdominal pressure, which was expected and others studies have also shown this (1,2,4,5), but it did not reduce core activation levels, which is contrary to what most people theorize.
Wearing a belt increased activation levels of both the biceps femoris and vastus laterals. So at the same weight, wearing a belt increased the activation levels in quads and hammies; this sounds like a win-win for the belt. A possible reason for this (only a theory) is that since the lumbo-pelvic region was more stable due to the increased IAP while maintaining muscle activation levels of this region, this allowed more work to be done by the prime movers instead of being wasted on stability.
Overall, this study showed that lifting with a belt allows you to lift heavier weights or maintain current weight load and still increase muscle activation. When you break it down in this manner, it almost seems like NOT wearing a belt would be counterproductive.
The great thing about this study is the group they studied. The subjects clearly have experience lifting and they used pretty respectable loads. Many studies that look at belts look at them in different settings, mainly manual labor settings. Many people have taken the results of these studies on manual labor workers and tried to carry over the results to the strength and conditioning world. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.
Renfro & Ebben (2006) summed it up well... "sport science evidence suggests that lifting belts may be beneficial in reducing spinal compression, stabilizing the spine, increasing motor unit recruitment in prime movers, and increasing exercise velocity as our meta analysis showed 5 of the 8 sport science and strength and conditioning studies supported it's used. Two of the 8 sport science and strength and conditioning studies showed mixed results and only 1 of the 8 studies showed no positive effect" (5).
Different Ways To Implement A Belt
1. Bauer, J. A., FRX, A., & Carter, C. (1999). The Use of Lumbar-Supporting Weight Belts While Performing Squats: Erector Spinae Electromyographic Activity. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 13(4), 384-388.
2. Lander, J. E., Simonton, R. L., & Giacobbe, J. K. (1990). The effectiveness of weight-belts during the squat exercise. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 22(1), 117-126.
3. Lander, J. E., Hundley, J. R., & Simonton, R. L. (1992). The effectiveness of weight-belts during multiple repetitions of the squat exercise. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 24(5), 603-609.
4. Miyamoto, K., Iinuma, N., Maeda, M., Wada, E., & Shimizu, K. (1999). Effects of abdominal belts on intra-abdominal pressure, intramuscular pressure in the erector spinae muscles and myoelectrical activities of trunk muscles. Clinical Biomechanics, 14(2), 79-87.
5. Renfro, G. J., & Ebben, W. P. (2006). A Review of the Use of Lifting Belts.Strength & Conditioning Journal, 28(1), 68-74.
I've done this in the past, and after reading Stuart McMillian's list, I thought it would be nice to jot down some of the books, podcasts, research I've really enjoyed in 2016.
Hope you enjoy!
Planned For 2017
I have the following books laying around and haven't gotten around to them yet or they are on my Amazon wishlist.