Do you need a recipe for an incredible group fitness experience? Mix several parts passionate, enthusiastic instructors, and place in one class. Voilà! Instant success! Just like a successful sports team, a successful group fitness department depends on teamwork. Coaches combine the various talents of players and encourage them to work together toward a common goal. Teams do not win the championship by relying on one talented player alone; nor do they propel themselves to the top using 10 players with different game plans and directions. Unique talents, when brought together, can produce winning scenarios for the team, the coach, the organization and, most important, the fans. The same holds true for team-taught group fitness classes.
There are many benefits to implementing team-teaching at your facility. It strengthens your instructors’ connections to one another and boosts their presenting skills. It assists you in managing your staff and schedule. The facility boasts a more marketable group fitness program, and participants—your most precious commodity—get to attend a class taught by a cast of exceptional professionals with one goal.
An Old Trick?
When two or more instructors combine forces, they have a chance to learn from one another. They absorb each other’s strengths. Learning in this way can help your team members develop respect for one another while tapping into their own strengths. This talent sharing improves each instructor’s professionalism.
Not Just for Newbies. You may have team-taught with a veteran instructor when you first started. While team-teaching is commonly used to break in a novice, it should not be reserved solely for newbies. All instructors have room to grow, no matter how long they’ve been teaching. Sometimes the best resources are fellow teammates. You can teach an old dog new tricks—as long as the old dog is willing to learn!
A Boost of Energy. Team-teaching may also positively affect the energy level of class. Instructors sometimes feel less pressure when sharing the stage, because they don’t have to teach the entire class. When they’re not the lead instructor, they can cheer on their teammates and the participants. Who couldn’t use more motivation? When members see the playful antics of their instructor team, they tend to mimic their reactions and energy level.
A Chance to Groom Groupies. As we know, many participants are faithful followers. They latch on to one instructor and follow him into any class he teaches. Team-teaching exposes those regulars to other instructors. Many “groupies” can then connect more easily with other stars on the schedule.
Room in the Spotlight. As a group fitness manager, you have many responsibilities: growing your team by bringing in new instructors, assisting current staff with professional growth and ensuring that all classes are filled with happy participants. Team-teaching can easily take care of all these duties. Expose new instructors to members by letting them teach with vets, who give their “stamp of approval” simply by sharing the spotlight. This helps new instructors get familiar with your members and their expectations. Also, the new instructors bring their own ideas and energy.
Super Subbing. Finding a suitable sub is now made easier as well. Team-teaching helps prepare an instructor to fill in when necessary. The beauty of it: members have already made a connection with this instructor, and the sub knows the members’ expectation, the pace of the class and its format. This smooth transition makes subbing a successful experience, not only for the instructor, but also for the members and even the program director. You will get fewer calls and concerns about who is covering Sally’s class next week while she is on vacation.
No Prima Donnas. Team-teaching can be a useful tool to help you determine who your true team players are. You can smoke out the diva on your team when you ask her to team-teach and she bristles. In most cases, a diva will be unwilling to share her class time with another instructor, particularly another strong instructor. Her excuses should be a red flag to dig a little deeper. Divas can destroy teams and poison programs.
In addition, the team approach may help you identify instructors who are not current in their practice or who feel as though they have “arrived.” They will fear sharing the stage with another instructor because their weaknesses could be exposed. In reality, working with another professional would strengthen those weaknesses.
Focus on Formats. Management truly benefits by featuring classes that are team-taught. Your group fitness program will be stronger—more program-dependent and less instructor-dependent. And your sales department will find this strong program easy to market, as it will draw more focus to the benefits of each class and place more emphasis on the participants.
Our center recently added a high-energy dance class to our schedule. It features three distinct styles of dance and is being marketed to members of all ages and fitness levels. When we launched the program, three of us decided to teach the first few classes together. Each of us chose the dance style we were most comfortable with. We chose to teach together as a way to support one another, to offer assistance during the program and to let participants see each style being taught in its most authentic form. We did not realize at the time how this would affect our participants. Once our initial introduction was over, we began to get requests from members to team up again. They loved it. And so did we!
What inspired our members to move? It was the energy we created. We attracted a variety of members because of our own diversity—our ages, styles, personal backgrounds and experience. Each team member offered a unique connection. We had fun and fed off one another, thus creating a less stressful workout experience. We also helped out with the class in other ways, which is another advantage of team-teaching. Take a strength class, for example. When not “on stage,” instructors can more easily and effectively assist clientele with form and technique. These extra hands and eyes can also assist in mind-body classes, where precise alignment is even more important. When participants are more comfortable and successful early on, they are more likely to return to class.
Participants may also find themselves wandering into other classes they never had interest in before. They see the value in your team’s teaching skills and dedication to their practice and may be willing to try other formats that your team players are leading. This gives members a more balanced workout experience and helps them incorporate cross-training into their regimen. Participants are no longer “locked” into one particular class, format, time or instructor.
Creating Your Dream Team
As the group fitness director, you are responsible for organizing team-teaching experiences. It is not simply a matter of two instructors who are friends deciding to teach together. Pair people who share a common goal. They must both understand the team player’s role and know that the focus is still on the participants. Teammates must also have the desire and respect to work with one another and display a superior ability to interact. Also, pair instructors who possess opposite strengths; this can help each individual grow. For example, your introverted instructor may come out of her shell when teaching with someone more gregarious and entertaining.
Once you have teamed up instructors, make sure they have plenty of time to practice together. Just as with a championship game, success lies in practice and rehearsals. As the “coach,” you must make time to attend scheduled rehearsals and ensure that every player understands her role. During pregame practice, the teammates can determine which portions of the class they will be teaching. Make sure they practice the “changing of the guard,” which includes switching the microphone, music and equipment. Encourage them to wear a “uniform”—perhaps the same colors or style of clothing. Strong communication and organization prior to class will provide a smooth, seamless experience for all.
It’s a Wrap
The word group in “group fitness” can refer to more than participants—it can also refer to group teaching. Many members prefer to work out in groups; they feel more comfortable, more successful and more motivated. Your instructors can derive these same benefits when placed in team-teaching situations. By coming together, they collectively raise the bar on the group fitness experience.
Your payroll budget may limit your ability to provide a team-teaching experience. Following are some ways to overcome this obstacle.
Reserve Team-Teaching for Special Events. This can include special holiday classes, charity events or classes to introduce a new format or instructor.
Prioritize the Schedule. Pinpoint a class that is not as strong as others. Evaluate whether team-teaching could breathe new life into it. You may be able to justify additional dollars if it means higher attendance.
Adjust the Pay Rate. Consider paying instructors a slightly lower rate when they share a class. For example, pay them $15 per class as opposed to their usual $20. Justify this by educating instructors that (1) they are not responsible for an entire class; (2) they are learning additional skills from another professional; and (3) they are gaining exposure, which can increase member participation in their other classes or grow their stable of personal training clients.
Set a Value. Determine the class’s value by averaging the number of participants drawn to it. The larger the class, the larger the value. For example, you may place a value of $50 on a class that draws 35–40 participants on a regular basis. Your team can then split the $50 value.
Trade Favors. We have three dance classes on our schedule and three instructors who teach that format. They enjoy it so much that they have chosen to accept pay for their one class and offer assistance in the other two. These instructors have proven to be true heroes and have continued to grow through this experience.
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