There are currently nearly 200 names in the Cressey Sports Performance intern alumni database. Each and every one of these individuals has taught us something valuable along the way. In this eighth edition of Gym Owner Musings I will share a tip for internship candidates, a frustration about the state of the internship industry as a whole, and a valuable reminder for the business owners currently leading programs of this nature.
1. Attention Candidates: You Are More Powerful Than You Realize
Seth Godin has said that “the closer you get to the front, the more power you have over the brand.” When he speaks of “the front,” he means the client-facing portion of your business. In a gym setting, this would be the fitness professional delivering a memorable experience on the training floor. When I give an intern the opportunity to engage with our athletes, I am effectively giving him the keys to my brand.
If you are a coach considering internship opportunities, make sure to ask your interviewers what kind of autonomy you’ll have on their gym floor, and if you will have an opportunity to impact the character of the training environment. As the person sitting on the other side of the table, I can vouch that there is nothing more refreshing than finding a motivated candidate who is requesting a structure that sets high expectations while also providing the freedom to be remarkable.
2. The Frustrating Thing About Low Barriers to Entry…
There is almost no barrier to entry for personal trainers. This is obviously dangerous for the fitness consumer who is willing to put his or her faith in fitness professionals. Similarly, there is nothing stopping mediocre gym owners from throwing an Internships tab on their website and declaring that they provide a great resume-building experience. Many internships prioritize driving unpaid employees through the doors of gyms over the education of the coaches who will one day move on to influence the direction of our industry. Buyer beware.
The internship program offered at CSP is far better today than it was a decade ago. We’re constantly improving our onboarding processes, the overarching curriculum, and the on the floor coaching of coaches.
Despite our dedication to improving the experience, the volume of applications is on a bit of a downswing in recent years. Today I have to think about my program as a business within my business that needs to be properly branded, positioned, and marketed. I have no doubt that we’re on the cusp of seeing targeted internship program advertising on platforms like Facebook as similar businesses look to continue developing talent.
In the long run, we will all be reminded that survival and success are not the same thing, and the strongest programs will have the staying power that keeps them relevant a decade from now.
3. A Reminder for Program Coordinators
Making a bad full-time hire hurts bottom line, negatively impacts the optics surrounding your business, and can set you back months. This is exactly why we will only hire through our internship program at CSP. With 300-500 hours of coaching experience under our roof at the conclusion of an internship period, we can safely say whether or not a coach fits our culture and possesses the necessary skill set to thrive as a member of our team.
I don’t make bad long-term hires. I do, however, swing and miss on the occasional intern. It is important that I continue to do so in order to ensure that we are regularly identifying the character and personality styles that align with our goals, or introduce new aspirations. There are plenty of phenomenal coaching approaches and training philosophies out there, but they don’t all make sense for my business.
If you offer an internship program at your gym, embrace the fact that you’re going to choose poorly from time to time. What you can’t afford to do is fail to learn from each poor decision you’ve made.