Building a community through your club.

Many people join a gym to socialize. So if you have basketball, racquetball or tennis courts, etc., you are well equipped to help your members get acquainted. If you don't, you can devise your own team events to help build these friendships.

Here are some ideas on how your club and your members can benefit from a little teamwork.

  • Meet and greet. Team events add a new excitement to your club and get your members to mesh with others they normally wouldn't associate with, notes Mindy Mylrea, owner of Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Jump Inc., a provider of fitness training programs: “You have people come in from the weight room and the aerobics room and the solo exerciser, and suddenly they are working together on a team building new relationships.” This builds a positive and social athletic network for your members.

  • Added value. Members see a team event as an extra service that adds value to their membership, notes Nestor Fernandez, regional manager of Western Athletic Clubs in San Francisco.

  • Physical attraction. Not only will team sports keep your members coming back because their teammates are depending on them, but team events help attract new members. If a prospective member comes in for a tour and sees that you have tennis lessons and tennis teams, that may be the final push they need to join your club.

    In addition, let's say each team needs 10 members, but you only have six on one team. Your current members may ask their friends to join, adds David Dickenson, owner of Dickenson Tennis Services, in Gresham, Ore.

  • Builds your bottom line. While most clubs create team events as an added service to their members, these events can build your club's revenue. At Dickenson's club, for example, tennis teams are scheduled on off hours.

    “Prime times are easy to fill,” he points out. “If you have indoor courts, that is a lot of square footage to leave empty so schedule your team events then.”

    Dickenson also benefits from lessons. Members of the tennis teams want to make sure they are playing well because they don't want to let their team down, so they pay for lessons.

    Finally, team events can add revenue to the pro shop because the teams buy uniforms. “So if you have 10 teams at your facility, you're looking at a lot of sales,” says Dickenson.

    If you like what teams have to offer your members, here are some suggestions for organizing your own events.

  • Evaluate the interest. Have a sign-up sheet or a general meeting to see if you have enough interest to create some teams.

  • Find a time slot.

    Survey your member to find out what times they would be interested in participating. You don't want to pick a random time and have none of the people who signed up be able to make it because they aren't available, notes Mylrea.

  • Create the rules. Once you've established interest and available time slots, you need to establish the league rules. Make sure all team members get a copy, whether or not they are familiar with the sport/event.

  • Find referees. If you're not charging for the league, which is up to you, then you may use a staff member or club member to do the refereeing, suggests Mylrea. If you are charging, you may be able to get an outside person.

  • Designate a point person. There should be someone — it could be a staffer or a member — whom the teams report to and who can troubleshoot if an issue arises. But an employee needs to oversee the league so that everything runs smoothly.

  • Hold tryouts. Doris Dodge, regional group exercise director for 24 Hour Fitness in Costa Mesa, Calif., emphasizes the importance of keeping the teams balanced in terms of level of ability. “This way it is fun and fair, and everyone gets a chance to play,” she says.

  • Promote it. “The one thing we do to promote our basketball leagues is we display the weekly stats on the wall as to who is winning, who had a personal best, etc.,” comments Dodge. “That is a popular thing. People love to see that stuff.”

  • Determine awards. Decide early on if you are going to give out awards so that you can promote them.


Alternative Team Events

Don't have tennis, racquet ball or basketball courts? No matter, you can still have team events. Here are some ideas any club can do to create team camaraderie.

  • Create running, hiking or walking teams. You could also have these teams compete by awarding points for each mile covered over a specific period of time, and give out prizes to the winning team.

  • Hold a triathlon. You can train your members and then watch them compete in teams. It is very rewarding for the members and your staff.

  • Create a fitness day where your members compete against each other on teams in different relays. They can be serious or silly.

  • Develop a fund-raiser in which your members create teams and raise money for the time they spend on the treadmill, elliptical, bike, etc.

  • Team events don't have to be athletic in nature, notes Nestor Fernandez, regional manager of Western Athletic Clubs in San Francisco. Find out your members' interests and connect them with members with similar taste. How about creating a theatre group? “Remember, you can't catch all fish with one lure,” Fernandez says. “Variety is what your members look for.”