Did you know that throughout the United States there are currently more than 35 million active athletes aged 5–18 competing in youth sports (Statistic Brain 2014)? That means there is a growing opportunity for personal trainers to offer services in a new way.
To put the value of youth sports into perspective, consider that recent stats show up to $7 billion spent per year on travel expenses alone (Koba 2014). Another $5 billion was spent last year on leagues and equipment (Vigeland 2012). It’s clear that parents are willing to invest in their children’s sport pursuits. The time is ripe for you to plan your approach to this growing, profitable business segment. Read on to see what you need to consider before working with this market.
Why Work With This Population
For many trainers, the youth athletic market offers a training population that’s parallel to their existing client base. Your clients’ children are the perfect place to start when you begin your youth training business. If you currently train in a semiprivate environment, youth training offers a way to expand your business quickly. By starting with one or two semiprivate time blocks, you can test the market—without carving out expensive one-on-one sessions that may be difficult
to sell in the beginning. You can run the pilot time slots and gradually fill them with new clients.
The International Youth Conditioning Association is one organization that specializes in training youth athletes. IYCA provides easily accessible educational information and best practices for working with this group (IYCA 2014).
Additionally, the kids can use some of your current training equipment; other, more specialized items—such as speed ladders and cones—are inexpensive and easy to store.
Formats for Training
The training format you are currently using is most likely the one you will use to train youth athletes. However, consider the advantages and disadvantages of several others.
One-on-One. Training clients one-on-one is the simplest way to launch a youth profit center, as you will not need additional space or equipment. However, while you can charge your current rate, one-on-one training limits you in terms of hours. Most youth athletes can train only after school and up until a certain point at night. Because of these restrictions, you are forced to train youth athletes from 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm along with your general-population clients, which limits how much you can build your youth business. (Note: Students who are homeschooled may be an exception.)
Semiprivate (2–5 clients). This is the method I prefer for beginning a youth training program. You can charge less than you do for one-on-one clients, but you can make more money per hour. This route also allows you to offer free trials and bring-a-friend sessions, without losing an hour of your time. While this method has many advantages, it has one big disadvantage: If you are not well-organized, managing multiple athletes in individualized programs can be difficult, especially when an athlete is attending for the first time.
Small-Group (6–12 clients). The small-group option allows you to train small teams and multiple athletes simultaneously. This format can be the most profitable, because once you meet a breakeven point, each additional athlete increases your profits. This is also a great option if you are doing speed sessions outside on the field at local high schools or colleges. The downside is that you need a greater number of athletes: The barrier to training is lower, but you need a high volume to make it profitable. Additionally, the overhead of renting or owning a facility substantially increases your costs.
If the weather where you live is generally not an issue or if you want to train athletes seasonally, outdoor speed training is a great way to get into working with small groups. The costs of going outside can vary. If you use a local high school, you may need to pay for field access. However, if a local park meets your needs, speed training can certainly be done in an open environment such as this.
Large-Group (15+). This method is generally reserved for working with teams and organizations in clinics and various larger formats. This type of training offers a chance to charge a small amount per athlete, but to make up the money in volume. Training a team of 30 athletes for $10 each yields $300 for roughly an hour of your time. Not bad work if you can get it (and handle it!). Downsides to training large groups are the equipment and space requirements. If you do not own or have affordable access to a large facility, training a full team will be difficult. However, if you can do it, training this size of group offers you a chance to build your business quickly. Not only do you train the team, but you may be able to roll a number of these athletes into your full-time programs.
If you are starting a business from scratch, use your judgment regarding what you can afford to rent. When I first started, I trained youth athletes at local high schools for speed, power and conditioning. If they wanted strength training, I invited them to a small gym I had set up at my house; I could comfortably train six athletes at a time.
If you have already been training inside someone else’s facility, make sure you follow the guidelines laid out in your current agreement, as well as the location’s policy for young athletes. Some facilities will not allow clients under 16 years old to train; check the age policy before starting to market your services to children and teens.
If a facility is available, I believe that it’s the best environment for training any population. You can house the equipment you need and be independent of outside weather conditions. You can grow and scale your programs to fit your location. However, the amount of space you rent should be dictated by the type of training you want to do. It is unrealistic to train large groups in a 1,000-square-foot facility. By the same token, it’s not prudent to rent a 6,000-square-foot space for one-on-one or semiprivate sessions only. Tailor your facility needs to your preferred method of training.
How to Find Youth Athletes
To market your business, begin with your current network of clients. If your clients have children who are currently playing competitive athletics, ask those parents if they would be interested in their children joining a pilot program
that you are putting together. By offering a pilot program, you can ensure that you are not locked into any long-term commitment or format.
For example, if you have 10 active clients, you could double your current business by adding a youth client for each adult client. This is the easiest way to get started, and it can have a sizable impact on your business.
If kids play on outside teams, the best way to connect with these organizations is by offering free clinics and training to the entire team. This strategy gives you a chance to market your skills to both the customer (the parent) and the consumer (the athlete). While public speaking is an effective way to gather personal training clients, providing free clinics and camps is an effective strategy for getting started with youth athletes.
Connecting with local physical therapists is another way to build your business. These experts often deal with recently injured athletes who will need conditioning after they’ve finished their therapy. Providing this post-recovery service can make you a go-to resource within a community, and it enables you to use the connections that were built by another trusted business.
Last, offer bring-a-friend sessions, where athletes can bring a friend to train with them for free. You can use this repeatable process multiple times a month, month after month. As long as you consistently provide a great experience, you can continue to grow your program and let your current athletes help.
A Potential Profit Center
Do you have a passion for helping young athletes improve their skills and fitness levels? As the youth sports market continues to grow, more and more personal trainers will be looking for ways to tap into this market. Be ahead of the curve, and you may be able to take your business to the next level.