The most interesting phenomenon (in my opinion) in the training world is the desire of most young trainers to work with professional athletes.
Around the time that Crossfit exploded and planted itself in every town in North America (sometimes multiple times), personal training and performance training centers starting popping up all across the United States. I guess I probably notice it more because I live in such a densely-populated area – the South Shore of Massachusetts is literally freckled with people and businesses.
These training centers all came with the same common theme: nobody was naming the business after themselves. Instead, the business name frequently center around words like performance, power, premier, advantage, optimal, and ultimate.
The business names were designed to convey an elite status, that this personal & athletic training institution was the best and unsurpassed by any of its other local doppelgängers. I mean, training professional athletes seems pretty cool. They’re the top 1% of 1% at their craft and have triumphed so magnificently that we can only hope to brush elbows and hope that some of their dedication and talent rubs off.
So we designed these institutions to attract them.
We use the word sport and athlete in all of our marketing, hoping that if we can’t attract some professionals, then at least maybe we can attract some high school kids that might charge down that path someday. Maybe we can find an Average Joe who wants to become an Above-average Joe and we’ll finally get to use all that cool information on plyometrics and carb-cycling that we learned in our CSCS textbooks.
I love training high school athletes. Though it’s not the primary offering at my studio, there’s some sort of nostalgia that comes along with building strength and resilience in a high school hockey player.
There’s something different about being a “coach” versus a parent – you still have skin in the game. You watch plays more closely, take more mental notes, and have a drawing board to go back to at the end of the day.
Training for athletics requires a different stimulus than training for general fitness. There’s a greater focus on speed, agility, power, and explosiveness. Dietary needs are different because goals are different. Motivations are different so your training style should be different.
But if you’ve recently opened up a training institution hoping to nab a few high school studs and turn them into the next Tom Brady, let’s reexamine the math:
According to NCAA.com, there are nearly eight million high school students that participate in high school athletics each year. Of those students, both male and female, only about 2.5% ever make it to Division I athletics. Of those athletes, just over 3% will ever play professionally. This means that approximately one out of every 1250 high school athletes will ever play professional sports.
Now, if we consider that the best estimates of high school sports participation are approximately 50%, you’ll realize that you’d need 2500 high school seniors to find just one professional-bound athlete.
Let’s use my hometown high school as an example. There are about 300 seniors at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School in any given year. These numbers indicate that we’d need not just one, but eight Whitman-Hanson’s in order to find one future professional athlete (male or female) in the senior class.
This also means that you’d need a total population of about 200,000. And we haven’t even discussed the possibility (read: certainty) of competition from other gyms and studios.
Even then, who says that one high school athlete will have the means to pay for your services?
Okay, so let’s say that you’ve decided that waiting for the just-right-high-school-athlete to walk in your doors is a tad ridiculous. How about snagging some current professional athletes and letting them speak the good word for you?
There are about 20,000 professional athletes in the United States, give or take. Assuming that the U.S. population ranges in age from zero to 100 and the population is spread evenly throughout all of those ages, about 20% of any given population will be “eligible” to be a professional athlete (between the ages of 18 and 40ish).
Since there are 300 million people in the United States and only 20,000 athletes, we can conclude that you would need to market yourself adequately to approximately 3,000 people before you found one professional athlete. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? I guess you had just better hope that the one athlete that you find isn’t already training somewhere else.
Now let’s say you’re looking to make approximately $75,000 each year (because that’s the average amount of money that will buy you happiness across all 50 states – go ahead, look it up), plus another $20,000 for expenses such as having equipment, a room to put it in, and some lights.
Even if you’re charging $200 an hour, which is hefty though not ridiculous in some circles, you’d need nine sessions to keep your head above water. That means two athletes, because they probably won’t be training more than four or five times each week.
(Yes, I know this math isn’t all perfect, but work with me here.)
Although, most athletes are only training for approximately one-quarter of their year because the other three-quarters are spent in and around the season. Now you need eight athletes.
And you need 24,000 people to market to. You need twelve towns the size of Hanson, Massachusetts in order to find enough 18 to 40-year olds. There will be competition. Marketing will get expensive. And there are many other variables that I didn’t even touch on.
But all of this isn’t the point.
In 2015, a little less than 20% of Americans had a membership to a gym or some sort of fitness facility. And a CBS News report from 2013 noted that the CDC reported an equal amount were exercising regularly (or at least getting their recommended weekly dosage – which only amounts to 2.5 hours of exercise each week). This included some sort of vigorous activity and resistance training on at least two days.
The problem? These types of studies are usually self-reported. When’s the last time you noticed a CDC employee taking the census at your local gym? If casual observations are any indication, those 20% numbers are probably a bit inflated.
Here’s the point: more than 80% of Americans aren’t exercising. They don’t even belong to a gym. They aren’t taking care of their bodies and it could be for any one of a multitude of reasons.
Could it be that gyms are intimidating? Or that there isn’t enough good information out there? Or maybe there just isn’t enough time in the week (even though the average American adult spends an hour and a half a day on their phone and another four watching Netflix, so, yeah).
The truth is this: it doesn’t matter what the “excuse” is. The problem is that what we’re doing isn’t working.
It’s hard to say that when you’re in the fitness industry. I mean, just look at all of the people that we’re helping. Look at the before and after pictures, the sensational testimonials, the cool gym websites where the trainers are shirtless and oiled up while they jump around and shake those long rope-things.
The hard truth is that, as an industry, we’re missing more than 80% of the population.
For all the good that we’re doing, we’re still failing on some level. Yes, the masses are “exercising” more than ever, but we’re also as unhealthy as we’ve ever been.
That’s why I named the studio after myself – because for all of these training centers built around words like performance, power, premier, advantage, optimal, and ultimate, we’re still missing the mark.
The purpose of Josh Mavilia Fitness isn’t to build more football players, more Spartan race contestants, or more physique competitors. The purpose of the business is to help those that need it most, to find just a few people that really want to make a change and help them make it.