Jeremy Jones on the Future of the Coach

Long-time coach and gym owner Jeremy Jones wants big-time change in the fitness industry.

“The industry is broken. If it’s supposed to be getting people healthier and fitter, it’s not,” said Jones to a group of 100-plus gym owners and coaches at the 2017 annual MadLab Summit in Las Vegas.

People are getting fatter and fatter and less and less healthy and fit, and it’s up to us coaches to find a way to change that, said Jones, the founder of Thrivestry, a service that delivers programming to gyms all over the world.

One of the MadLab Group’s solutions to getting the general population healthier and more fit—and one of our primary goals—is to professionalize the fitness coach. But what does that mean exactly?

Jones explained it means changing the way gyms are run so that coaches can make a professional living doing what they love helping others achieve greater fitness. And so that coaches can have lifelong careers in the industry. Currently, this is rarely the case. What is most common today are personal trainers and coaches who work for $15 to $30 an hour. They usually only last a couple years before burning out and moving on to another career.

Being a professional doesn’t mean you can’t also have fun…

Jones said one of the major problems at the moment is that incentives are all off. In other words, there are no incentives for the coach. If you’re making $20 an hour to coach a class, what’s in it for the coach if the clients get fit and stay fit and keep coming to the gym? Nothing! They’re on the clock for one hour, and then they move on with their day.

So how do we fix this?

Jones offered these practical tips to at least set us in the direction of professionalizing the coach to keep him around for an entire career:

1. Incentive-based pay: This means the coach gets paid for bringing in and retaining his own book of clients—the same way a gym owner does. In other words, the more people you get fit, the longer you keep them around, the more you will help them and the more you will earn.

2. Reward top performers: Just like an engineering or law firm, reward your top performers.

3. Flexibility for different styles: Coaches will stick around and pursue a career when they can be themselves, develop their own style, niche and expertise. Currently what you have in the industry is a lot of fakeness (I personally remember when I worked at GoodLife Fitness—a globe gym in Ontario—and I had to answer the phone and say: “It’s a Great Day at GoodLife! How can make you smile today?” BARF!)

4. Co-op for teamwork and support: Again, just like an engineering and law firm, run your gym like a co-op, where coaches have the autonomy and responsibility to make decisions together about things like scheduling, policies, marketing and programming.

5. Ability to set their own schedule: Giving your coaches the opportunity to be entrepreneurs within your facility means giving them control over the hours, days and weeks they work.

6. Paid vacation time: This is pretty much non-existent in the industry today, where people are caged in by an hourly wage. It’s necessary, though, for mental health and longevity in the industry.

Another important piece of the puzzle, Jones said, is to make connections with other health professionals in your community—physiotherapists, dieticians, chiropractors. Together, you can refer clients to each other and work together to help our society become healthier.

While the above criteria is just a start, Jones believes making those changes will go a long way in putting us on the right track.

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