As the youth demographic has grown to become one of the largest niches within the entire fitness industry, personal trainers and health clubs can meet this rising need, add a viable revenue stream to their portfolios and assist in reversing the youth inactivity epidemic by designing and hosting youth fitness camps this summer.
The organization, preparation and marketing of these camps should begin immediately. In creating successful camps of this nature, it is critical for personal trainers and health clubs to understand the following unique features:
1. The fitness-related needs of children, youths and teens and how this varies from training adults
2. How to design developmentally-sound and appropriate exercise programs for kids of varying ages and fitness levels
3. How to appeal to this specific demographic and gain an edge in the crowded summer marketplace
The Unique Fitness Needs
Kids are not miniature adults and cannot be trained as such. Depending on age and other definable characteristics, the fitness-related needs of children changes over time but can be described in one basic principle: Teach, do not train. Professionals working with children must adopt this philosophy and understand the notion that fitness for this sensitive demographic is not unlike the contemporary academic system. You cannot focus on where your young clients are now as much as you must look towards the future and see where they are going.
Developmental fitness is a matter of instilling skills, abilities and a love for activity into children, thereby equipping them for a lifelong desire to be physically active. Professionals should avoid the zeal of trying to rid children of excess pounds or improve sports performance ï¿½ these are secondary factors that come as a result of a well-designed training program and do not have to be a primary goal for your camp. Instead, work towards a fun and empowering program that inspires your clients to pursue a lifestyle that includes daily and regular activity.
Designing Effective Programs
With this demographic, the two main objectives to follow in terms of programming are fun and diversity. The youth fitness experience should be rich in both laughter and varied experiences. The more fun a child has during your camp, the more you are guaranteeing they will adopt an active lifestyle. The more diverse the exercise experience is in nature, the more you are filling their developing nervous systems with stimulating activities that lead to them becoming well-rounded and functional organisms. Programming, then, is a matter of creating fun and movement-oriented games and drills that enable children to move in multi-directional and multi-planar ways.
Stay clear of machine-oriented versions of strength and cardiovascular training. Fitness for this age group should be based entirely on free movement exploration that allows the body to gain an understanding of systemic forces, summation sequences and functionality. For strength and mobility training, use light medicine balls, light dumbbells, body weight exercises, tubing and external factors such as hills and stairs. With cardiovascular work, think more in terms of obstacle courses, relay races, jump-rope games and movement-based games such as tag. In doing so, you ensure that the critical features associated with coordination development are being addressed within the context of your fitness program ï¿½ and this is a vital factor in working with this age group.
The Success System
Summer represents a crowded time for parents and families. Summer sports camps, in-season play for certain sports and vacations all make your desire to run a successful youth camp difficult. Here are some keys that, if followed, will ensure your camp becomes a successful one this summer:
ï¿½ Branding ï¿½ If your career thus far has been centered on working with adult populations, then you must take the time to brand yourself as a qualified caregiver in the realm of youth fitness. Rather than taking the time to market outside of your immediate area of influence, you would be better served by discussing your summer camp plans with a specific group that already trusts you and your abilities.
ï¿½ Your current clients ï¿½ More than likely, a significant number of your current adult clients have children of their own, and more importantly than that, they know and trust you as a professional. This is your first and most important target market. Begin immediately telling your current clients about your summer youth fitness camp plans. Ask them if they or their children would be interested, and even offer a price break to them if they would like to enroll their own kids into your program. Once you have targeted this primary group and registered a few camp participants, it becomes exceedingly easier to go outside your circle of influence and market to a broader demographic.
ï¿½ Building it first ï¿½ Before you begin the crusade of filling your summer camp roster, you must know what it is you are offering and what your target demographic is. Baseball players ages six to nine? Female volleyball players ages 13 to 15? A general fitness camp for all children ages 14 to 18? Who exactly will this camp serve? Moreover, what will be the length and per-day sequence of your program? What are your fees and prices? It is critical that you outline and create the skeleton of this camp before you begin the process of marketing it. Although that sounds rudimentary, it is the one step that I have seen personal trainers and health clubs infract on more than any other.
ï¿½ Media involvement ï¿½ It is no secret that youth fitness and obesity is a hot topic and major concern in our society. The media love stories related to professionals who are working to provide solutions to these problems and, in doing so, provide you with a rather significant platform from which to advertise your summer plans. Start sending press releases to your local media outlets outlining your youth fitness camp, and attach attractive ï¿½hooksï¿½ to the story. For instance, explain why you are running a youth fitness camp and how you intend to positively effect the young generation in your geographic. Discuss the virtues of why it is imperative to help young people develop a lifelong love for physical activity. These kinds of human interest realities will almost assuredly have you appearing in your local newspapers or on television, at which time you can reveal your summer youth fitness camp plans to a large and broad audience.
The youth fitness market is on the rise, and qualified, passionate professionals are very well-served to develop summer camps to aid in reversing the inactivity epidemic that is gripping our youth.
It is not an easy road to travel, if you have never worked in youth fitness before ï¿½ hopefully, this article has given you the path to get started today!
Brian Grasso is the Founder and CEO of the International Youth Conditioning Association. Become a certified Youth Fitness Specialist or learn about the specific aspects of training children, youths and teens for free by visiting www.IYCA.org.