The Biggest Challenge in Offering Semi-Private Training – And How to Solve It

Let’s talk about the biggest headache I face on a daily basis in delivering a semi-private training model. You might be thinking this has something to do with multi-tasking on the training floor, or ensuring that there is sufficient equipment to accommodate multiple clients simultaneously…

It has nothing to do with either.

My biggest challenge in offering semi-private training actually lies in managing client expectations from the moment they walk through the door.


In my business, most clients are youth athletes whose parents foot the bill and expect to feel comfortable in knowing that their son is being appropriately supervised. Rarely does a day pass where a parent fails to ask our Office Manager Julie or a nearby staff member: “Who is going to coach my son today?”

My natural inclination is to respond by explaining that semi-private training doesn’t allow for one-on-one instruction permanently moving forward, but this is an urge I have to suppress.

If I respond as such, parents don’t hear: “Your son will always have eyes on him as he executes these complex movements and lifts.” Instead, they hear: “I’ve already got your money, and now it’s time to toss your son into a busy gym and allow him to get lost in the shuffle.”

Language is Everything

The language I use in explaining my model can take my biggest perceived weakness (inadequate supervision), and turn it into a strength in the eyes of a parent. Here’s how I attack this conversation to ensure a positive outcome:

Your son will eventually transition into an entirely semi-private format, but he’s going to have to earn that privilege in the eyes of our coaches before we loosen the reigns on his supervision. He’ll be coached in a one-on-one format until the moment that he demonstrates a capacity to execute the material safely and effectively. When that time comes, we’ll transition to our standard 5:1 client to coach model.   

If the client in question has aspirations of playing sports in college, it is also helpful to remind the parent that this training environment is extremely similar to that which athletes encounter in a college weight room. The ones who thrive in this setting are well positioned to impress influencers such as the collegiate strength staff at a time when making a team is very much in question.

An Important Tip - Assuming you’re larger than a one-man operation, you should be careful about consistently maxing out the capacity of your entire staff in the semi-private format for two reasons: First, being at the absolute top of your advertised client-to-coach ratio means that you can’t deliver nuanced attention to newer, higher maintenance clients as discussed above. Secondly, it limits your ability to accommodate new business on the fly. During our first year of business at CSP we always made sure to book sessions in a manner that would allow for either Eric or Tony (Gentilcore) to execute an initial assessment on short notice as it was common for athletes to show up with interested friends.

Be Honest With Yourself & the Client

Any good coach and gym owner would agree that allowing an unprepared client to flounder dangerously on the training floor simply to prove a point about an advertised supervision format is a bad look. We need to stop acting like we wouldn’t adjust accordingly to provide the coaching needed while having this conversation with an athlete or parent.

Every parent wants their kid to be capable and self-sufficient, but they also want to know that they’ll be guided to that place in an appropriate and safe manner. Give them the piece of mind they need, and make sure they know that your system is designed with the athlete’s best interests in mind, as opposed to simply to drive the bottom line.

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