Youth Fitness and Training Programs
Two main issues have prompted a dramatic increase in the demand for training young children. The first is a significant increase in childhood obesity. Because obesity in children is now considered an epidemic in the United States, there is a growing focus on increasing physical activity. Despite this issue, there has been a decrease in physical education classes in schools across the country due to budget concerns. Some school departments are also cutting sports from the budget in an effort to decrease spending. Youth fitness programs are one significant way parents can keep their kids active and healthy. The second factor increasing demand for youth training is the younger ages at which kids are beginning to play organized sports. Competition is more intense and people are looking for ways to give their kids an advantage. With the additional skills and conditioning, their child may make a team or get more playing time than someone who did not participate in a training program.
In 1994, one in five children was overweight. By 2004, only ten years later, one in three children were found to be overweight. As a result, the incidence of Type II diabetes among children has skyrocketed, and nearly 50 percent of all newly diagnosed cases of diabetes are Type II.
How to Begin Training Children
The first step to beginning a program is deciding what population you wish to focus on. If you want to work with athletes, you could create after-school programs, summer youth programs, or sports clinics. If you are more interested in health issues, you may choose to create programs for overweight children, sedentary children, or children with a specific illness such as Type II diabetes.
Once you have narrowed your focus and have your ideas on paper, you can begin networking. You need to connect with adults who are influential with young people and their parents. The parents are the decision-makers and are paying for your services, so you have to convince them of the worth of the program. Coaches, teachers, administrators at local Boys and Girls Clubs or YMCAs, and pediatricians already have rapport with large numbers of parents. If you have relationships with anyone in those types of positions, contact them about what you are trying to accomplish and see if they will help you spread the word.
A key to successful selling is following up. Send periodic reminders to the decision maker by e-mail, postal mail, or a phone call. If it is cost effective, you can send a brochure or flyer containing pertinent information about your programs.
If you wish to create programs for overweight children, you will need to advertise somehow. You might think about networking with the local PTA or school committee to do some joint programs with them. You could also contact the local children's hospital and/or pediatricians in the area. They are good starting points because they can refer children with health-related weight concerns to you. Start by sending a cover letter with a brief description of who you are and what you would like to do. Be sure to include your resume and references. Follow up with a phone call so you can discuss what programs they have in place already, and what they feel the need is for your services. Many children's hospitals have dietary programs but not movement programs, because they lack the space and staff to implement them.
If you want to work with athletes, it is helpful to have some coaching experience as well as some contacts who are coaches. You might consider offering a free workout to various teams so the children and parents can see what you are about. If you have connections in a school system, you could go into schools or to team practices and speak to the athletes about what you do. Then send them home with information for their parents. Parents must feel that your services are essential to their children's success, because they are so busy it will be an effort to fit your training into their schedules.
Creating Success in a Competitive Market
Success is a relative term, and means something different to everyone. It may be the number of programs you run, your profit margin, or the measurable difference you make in the lives of the children you coach. Here success will mean all of those things. In order to make a good living, you will need to run multiple programs with good participation. Proper pricing is also important. If you price too low, you will not make a profit. If you price too high, parents will not pay for their children to participate. Finally, the more marked improvement in the participants of your programs, the more likely they will return and bring other clients with them.
Because there is currently such a buzz about youth fitness, you will have a lot of competition for clients. Do some research and find out the locations of your competitors in the community. Your competitors may not necessarily be running programs like yours; they're anyone who may compete with you for program members. Any organized movement programs should be examined. Look into the specifics of each program and figure out ways to set yours apart.
You are competing for the parents' time and money. Your biggest competition for these commodities will not be other trainers, it will be the people putting on soccer, football, field hockey, lacrosse, or other sports-skills camps. Additionally, you are also competing with any other activity that drains families' valuable resources.
Because there is a high turnover rate for participants in these types of programs, you'll constantly need to network, advertise, and upgrade your programs if you wish to remain successful. Develop a mailing list to keep your clients informed of what you are doing. E-mail is the least expensive and quickest form of communication, but every so often you should actually send a flyer or post card by snail mail. The lives of young people are constantly changing, and athletes who participate in one session may not return for various reasons. They graduate, move, switch sports, and change interests rather quickly, so you will constantly need to find new clients.
Designing and Implementing Safe Programs
Safety is always a primary consideration for trainers, but it is especially important when dealing with children. Even if you have experience training and coaching young people, it would be wise to do some reading and/or take a course on training children. Because they are still growing, children require special consideration. Avery Faigenbaum is a leading researcher and expert in this field. He has published numerous articles and books on training children, and has also made videos and lectured around the country on this topic. His work is a tremendous resource for program design and can be found on Amazon.com or at any large bookstore.
To ensure that you are covered in the event of injury or some other accident, have an attorney examine your liability waiver and health questionnaire. Be vigilant in having each participant complete forms prior to participation. Review them carefully and keep them on hand at every session in case you need emergency information.
Before beginning a training program, it is important to require parents to complete and sign a thorough health questionnaire and liability waiver. While most children you work with will be healthy, they may have issues such as asthma, allergies, or diabetes that you need to be aware of. You also want to cover yourself in the event that they have an unknown underlying condition that manifests during your sessions. The bottom line is that you need to protect both yourself and your participants.