When Michelle Obama announced her Let’s Move initiative in February 2010, our first lady created a national focus on the country’s youth obesity crisis. Parents will do anything within reason to insure the health and well-being of their children, and our industry has an opportunity to play an important role within the solution by offering fitness and nutritional programs for children.

Higher average monthly dues and better member retention rates are important characteristics of profitable health clubs. Membership dues pricing is typically based upon criteria that includes if the new member is purchasing a single or family membership. Family memberships command a higher price. Consequently, if your club sells more family memberships, you will enjoy higher average monthly dues per membership. It is also likely that your club will enjoy a higher rate of member retention since more family members are involved in using the services offered. Consequently, one path to profitability is to sell more family memberships.

Many health clubs offer a babysitting service for members. As a general rule, the babysitting room has limited hours and a staff member to look out for the safety of the members’ children. The room itself typically has TV and videos for entertainment services and soft play to keep the children occupied while their parents work out.

An inexpensive, alternative option is to convert your existing babysitting space into a youth fitness exercise area. Fitness equipment is available for purchase or lease for children of all ages. Youth nutritional programs and activities also are available that educate children and their parents about the benefits of good nutrition.

After making this investment, club owners can offer organized youth fitness programs so that children and parents will be exercising at the same time in their respective areas of your club. Changing the focus from babysitting to youth fitness creates an opportunity to offer family memberships with higher monthly dues and to convert your cost center to a profit center.

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Ken M. Reinig, the senior vice president of the Association Insurance Group, a Division of Thomco, advises that club owners and facilitators of youth exercise programming need to take extra steps to ensure a safe workout environment for children and any adult members who will be sharing their space. Reinig suggests that you contact your insurance agent to make him or her aware of your youth program. It should not be a problem with the insurance company as long as you can demonstrate that you have initiated the following risk management protocols:

• Obtain a background check from your sheriff’s department on all staff members who will be working with children.

• Get parents to sign a parent/guardian waiver form.

• Use only equipment that is designed for use by children.

• Keep your youth programming separate from the general population of your club.

Dr. Sal Arria, founder and CEO of International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), says that the best approach to introducing youth fitness in your club is to seek out the personal trainers in your facility who have a passion for working with children. The ISSA offers youth fitness as one area of specialized personal training.

“A specialized youth fitness certification teaches trainers the knowledge and skills specific to working with and training young children,” Arria says. “By adding qualified, competent youth fitness certified trainers to your staff, you are adding a tremendous asset to your club, to the families you already serve and to their children. Youth fitness is the single-most important area personal trainers can tackle today because it's been proven that they can make a dramatic impact on the lives of so many young kids, which is the best way to make a positive lifelong change in their health.”

By adding a youth fitness center, you instantly transform your club to a family fitness center. This valuable service will appeal to parents and to local schools who are working to address the needs of their children. The unique selling proposition of your youth fitness program will add your fitness center to the businesses in your community that are part of the solution to the obesity crisis that our country faces today.

BIO

Paul Bosley is the national marketing director for First Financial. His health club industry experience includes working for Titan Management Co., Healthclubexperts.com, Q Sports Clubs and Bally HTCA/Holiday Health & Fitness Centers. He has a bachelor’s degree in health science and recreation management and is studying to get his associate’s degree in accounting. He has spoken at the Club Industry and International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association conferences. Bosley also works with Champions Youth Fitness, which sells equipment for children and runs youth fitness programs. For more information about leasing, please contact Bosley at 800-956-7313 or by emailing him at paul@ffcash.net.