Archive for “Youth Fitness Business” Category

Keeping Young Athletes Training – Brett Klika

Few things will help a young athlete develop physical skills at a higher level than consistent training. As youth strength and conditioning coaches, much of what we know from the legendary Bompa’s, Balyi’s, Drabik’s, and Verkhoshanskys of the world has been based on their observations working with kids daily, in a completely immersive institutionalized setting, for a long period of time.

We are faced with a very different model of consistency here in the United States. If you are working as a youth strength and conditioning coach in the private sector, young athletes’ participation in your program is treated more like an “additional activity” than a necessary aspect of their long-term development. 

When mom and dad’s time, money, and energy aren’t too constrained, their child gets to participate in your program. At the first sign of any scarcity of these resources, parents will find a reason to discontinue.   

To create more consistency, measurable results, and business sustainability, it’s important to evaluate how to create a business model and training environment that keeps kids and parents engaged for the long-term with our programs. 

In my over 15 years of creating youth fitness programs of all sizes, in addition to SPIDERfit Kids’ current consultation with youth sports and fitness organizations around the world, this is one of the challenges I’ve set out to tackle. 

Taking into account my own experiences in addition to parent questionnaires, market research, and other “experiments” done by the coaches we consult with, we’ve been able to identify some critical aspects of creating a business model and training experience that increases long term retention for 5–12 year-old athletes. 

While not all coaches have the ability to impact their employer’s business model, below are some simple aspects of the training environment that we’ve found to increase program adherence.

  1. Coach and athlete name recognition
  2. Parent communication
  3. Incentives for progression  

Coach and Athlete Name Recognition

One of the fastest and easiest ways to create a community where young athletes feel like they belong is for coaches and other athletes to know and use their names as soon as possible. Likewise, young athletes should know their coaches and other program participant’s names. If a young athlete doesn’t know their coach’s name after their first day of training, it’s a missed opportunity that trivializes the coach’s engagement. 

This isn’t something that happens passively for most so I encourage coaches to make it a pillar of their program. It should immediately become obvious to everyone involved that knowing everyone’s names is a critical aspect of your program. 

When a child feels like they belong, they feel a sense of accountability and community. This is relayed when they’re talking to their parents about their experience with your program.  It is more difficult for parents and young athletes to leave a program where they feel like they are part of a community. 

Parent Communication

Remember, most parents of young athletes pay for a program that they don’t’ stick around to watch.  Somewhere between when parents drop their young athletes off and when they pick them up, you’re most likely doing some cool stuff to enrich their child’s life. How do parents know that? 

I’ve learned that coaches can’t assume parents have any idea what’s happening with their child between drop off and pick up.  Young kids aren’t exactly forthcoming in sharing the details of a day of training either. 

This makes it critical for coaches to connect with parents either in person, on the phone, via email, or by text at least once per week.  Once a child is old enough to drive themselves to training, communication doesn’t have to be as frequent. 

To keep this communication concise and effective, I recommend the “4 Sentence Conversation”:  

  1. Tell the parent something their child did well that day/week.
  2. Share a unique personality trait that their child has that allows them to be successful (“Logan is really using her arms well when she runs. She’s such a good listener, she really takes coaching well.”)
  3. Share one thing you are working on.
  4. Share how this skill contributes to one of the long-term goals shared by the parent or athlete.

This level of consistent feedback brings parents into the process. It leaves no question as to where their investment of time, money, and energy in your program is going. They are less likely to discontinue participation when they understand where their child is in the developmental process. It doesn’t hurt that they get to know you better either. 

These conversations are also a very personalized forum to encourage sign-ups for future programs in addition to soliciting testimonials and referrals. 

Another step you can take to bring parents into the process is to regularly text a picture or video of their child in action. Obviously, be sensitive to parent concerns about pictures of their child, but I can honestly say I’ve never had an issue sending a parent a picture of their child in action when they are not there to see them. 

The above steps provide a consistent answer to “what am I paying for?” This increases the value of your program so it becomes a higher priority on the endless list of things kids are doing or could be doing.   

When looking at the different interventions we have taken with coaches in order to help them improve their program adherence with 5-12 year-olds, frequent 1-1 parent interaction has emerged as one of the most important factors. 

Incentives for Progression

Another way to keep kids and parents excited and engaged with a long-term developmental program is to clearly define developmental benchmarks for skills and recognize kids for accomplishing these benchmarks. 

Consider the success of the “belt” system in martial arts for keeping kids and parents engaged with the program. A young martial artist and their parents are aware of universal criteria for progression. To get the next belt, they have to do “X”.  Once they do “X”, they earn a public symbol of accomplishment and acumen; a colored belt.   

In terms of youth strength and conditioning, picture creating levels designated by a colored wrist band, t-shirt, or other designation. To earn a certain color of wristband, a young athlete has to display competency with a list of skills and accomplishments.

For example, for a “Level 1” wristband, youth athletes would need to:

  1. Identify relevant gym equipment by name
  2. Identify specific anatomy
  3. Recite a gym mantra or ethos by memory in front of a group
  4. Perform 1-3 fundamental movement patterns with developmentally appropriate criteria
  5. Perform an at-home chore, activity, etc. a certain number of times with parent signature 

Once the athlete accomplishes these criteria, they receive an appropriately colored wristband or other awards. They are immediately aware of what they must do to accomplish the next level.

Notice the criteria for progression involve skills beyond exercise. This allows a coach to reinforce the expectation, culture, and positive external influence of their program. 

The coaches I have worked with that have implemented this type of system report that:

  1. Kids become more engaged in the learning process. They want to master skills so they can get to the next defined level. 
  2. Parents are more aware of specific skills and why they are important to the process of development. They also value the at-home progression criteria that compels their kids to do things they usually wouldn’t do; like making their bed, clearing their dinner dishes, etc. 
  3. Assessments have become more relevant to the needs of young athletes. The focus shifts to the quality of a movement vs. merely the magnitude. This ensures that the focus of progression at young ages is skill proficiency. 
  4. Coaches are able to expand their expectations for things outside of exercise. They are seeing more at-home adherence in addition to increased attention to other aspects of their program they deem important. Imagine how much more efficient coaching becomes when athletes are expected to understand basic anatomy, equipment vocabulary, and other important aspects of training.  
  5. Kids are staying in their programs longer. 

The more I’ve worked with coaches from different organizations and programs, it’s become more and more clear that when it comes to creating a program that maximizes engagement with kids and parents, it’s not so much what we do, but how we do it. These concepts seem so simple, yet we as coaches often forget their importance. 

The best training program in the world in a disengaged, disconnected environment fails to deliver results for anyone involved. 

There are also quite a few factors associated with the business model, like how payments are collected (EFT!), how frequently programs are run (no “gaps” between programs!), and others that impact program adherence. However, not every coach in an organization has influence over these factors. 

Whether you own a youth fitness facility or work for one, remember to take the above steps to create a training environment that gets parents and kids excited to be committed for the long haul.  

Brett Klika is a youth performance expert and a regular contributor to the IYCA who is passionate about coaching young athletes.  He is the creator of the SPIDERfit Kids youth training program and has run successful youth fitness programs all over the country.  Brett is an international speaker whose passion for youth fitness has helped thousands of people learn how to create exceptional training experiences for young athletes.


The IYCA Certified Athletic Development Specialist is the gold-standard certification for anyone working with athletes 6-18 years old.  The course materials were created by some of the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the industry, and the content is indisputably the most comprehensive of any certification related to athletic development.  Learn more about the CADS certification here:

How to Create a Niche? – Eric Cressey & Jim Kielbaso

A lot of strength & conditioning professionals wonder how others have created strong businesses and niches in the industry.  In a nutshell, creating a niche is focusing your efforts on a specific group or sub-set of a larger population.  For example, you might focus your efforts on female soccer players, athletes 8-11 years old, adults over 65, high school hockey players, offensive linemen in football, or athletes recovering from an injury.  It doesn’t mean you won’t ever work with other people, but focusing on one group of people allows you to establish a foothold in one segment of a larger market, and gives you the opportunity to be “the expert” in a specific area.

Young coaches often look at the success of professionals like Eric Cressey in the baseball market or Jim Kielbaso in speed development and want to make that happen for themselves in other niches.  But, while most people choose their niche then try to market their services, it doesn’t always happen that way. 

“It happened largely by accident” said Cressey in an interview with Jim Kielbaso. “I think there are definitely people that are certainly forcing it. That can be a tremendous thing for people, and I absolutely see the industry going in that direction, particularly as you look at what’s happening in the industry.  I saw the first sub-pectoral biceps tenodesis in major league history. That was a surgery that they really started doing fairly recently.  Cut Schilling was the first guy in major league baseball to have it, and now they’re giving them out like they’re candy.  We’re evolving pretty dramatically, both physiologically but also  in the context of how we treat different sporting demands, so you’re gonna see more of things like Jim Kielbaso is working with football guys, Mike Boyle working with hockey, Mike Robertson is working with soccer – that’s the direction I see this going. With that said, it’s really, really hard to force these things because there are a lot of things you have to realize.”

These people didn’t necessarily set out to dominate a specific niche.  “I was just obsessed with speed training and the mechanics involved early in my career,” says Jim Kielbaso.  “Before people were really talking about it, I recognized that we (strength & conditioning coaches) have a massive opportunity to help athletes by teaching them how to move more efficiently.  I called it Movement Training back in the 90’s, but that term has obviously changed through the years.  I was working more with basketball players at the time, but I happened to help some football players improve their 40 times by teaching them more efficient mechanics.  Well, they told their friends, and those friends told others, and before you knew it I had all sorts of people coming to me to run faster.”

“You have to realize it’s important to be passionate about something beyond just monetary gains,” continues Cressey.  “So as an example, I did a little bit of NBA combine prep towards the end of my U-Conn experience so I had some time in it.  When you get into the baseball world, you realize that you’re swamped effectively the second week in September all the way up until the first week in March. And then you have basically six weeks to gather your thoughts before you start going with your summer guys.  So I’ve had some agents who represent baseball players whose agency also have basketball players and football guys and they’ve asked me if I’d be interested in doing NBA combine or NFL combine prep.  I realized that would literally be walking away from the four weeks of quiet that I get each year. You have to be passionate about it but you have to be passionate about it beyond just monetary gains because if I try to be everything to everybody, it doesn’t work.”

It seems that niches most often grow organically rather than artificially.  It’s not so much about finding a way to make money as it is finding a need, and being the right person to service that.  But, it’s also critical that you are passionate about a nice to become extremely invested and good at it.  It would be very difficult to work with soccer players all day if you don’t like the sport or culture of the sport.  Niches evolve when there is a need combined with passion and expertise.

“Nobody can read all the journal articles about pitching injuries and on top of that know how everything is changing in the NFL or NHL,” explains Cressey. “I think you also have to be good at it. Shoulders and elbows can be really, really complex. I’m a very good shoulder and elbow guy. I’m terrible when it comes to foot and ankle.  I probably wouldn’t be a good foot and ankle physical therapist. So, you have to be able to acquire the information easily to really take over a niche.”

“I was extremely fortunate to be around some of the right people early in my career that helped me understand speed development,” explains Kielbaso.  “Then, I got lucky with the fact that there are a lot of great athletes in the metro-Detroit area who want to get faster.”

“People have to realize that as well,” continues Cressey. “We wondered if we could this baseball training mecca in Hudson, Massachusetts?  We didn’t really know whether that’d be possible. We had to test the waters and eventually high school guys became college guys and college guys became pro guys and then we ultimately decided we could expand our reach by going to Florida.  I think your business model has to be able to accommodate it. You know it’s hard to really grow a specific niche if maybe you can’t outfit your facility to accommodate it. When you walk in our facility in Massachusetts, we’ve got two big tunnels for hitting, pitching, and video stuff. If we didn’t have that it would be harder to cater to baseball players.”

While you don’t have to change your entire training philosophy or marketing strategy, it’s important that you are constantly evolving and stay current with what is happening in particular segments of the industry.  Reading journal articles, attending conferences and sporting events, and fostering relationships with key people are all part of the process.

“I believe that one of the keys to success is fostering quality relationships,” says Kielbaso.  “I don’t think I could have grown my business without truly caring about the people and organizations I work with.  I’ve worked with groups in the past that I didn’t really enjoy for various reasons, and it’s very difficult to consistently pour your energy into those relationships.  Once you find people you connect with, you never seem to run out of energy.  Things just click.”

Sometimes that’s how you find your niche.  You work with enough people and groups that eventually one of them just feels “right.”  It’s also different for each person, and there is no right or wrong niche.  There are obviously certain niches that are more lucrative or sustainable, but that doesn’t mean they are right for you.

These things also take time, but when you think you’re getting some momentum in an area that is untapped, you may be on to something.

“It’s really hard if you’re not one of the first to market,” says Cressey. “We were probably the first people to do very specific baseball strength and conditioning. As much as the term is overused, we bridge the gap between rehab and high performance. That’s what you need for baseball, so you know, it’s really hard to compete against us if someone wants us to come to Massachusetts and try to compete with us in the context of training baseball players.  It’s a challenge because we’re also very well-connected.  If you have an elbow issue, we can get you in with an elbow specialist that afternoon if we want to. We know who the best physical therapists are. So, from a business standpoint, it’s very, very hard to compete with us in the baseball niche because we were one of the first to market and we’ve really worked hard to stay on top of things and really nurture that presence nationwide.”

Growing a niche is not a necessity in the sports performance industry, but it can be a way to differentiate yourself in a crowded field.  As you can see, niches often develop organically, but it’s also important to recognize when an opportunity has presented itself.

The youth training market is currently a massive opportunity for the right coaches, but there are also great opportunities in specific sports or with specific populations.  The key is to match your skills, passions, and relationships with a need in the market.  By starting general, you will begin to generate momentum and get a better feel for the possibilities.  After that, you can dive deep into becoming the best in the market to make the biggest impact possible.


The IYCA Certified Athletic Development Specialist is the gold-standard certification for anyone working with athletes 6-18 years old.  The course materials were created by some of the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the industry, and the content is indisputably the most comprehensive of any certification related to athletic development.  Learn more about the CADS certification here:

Autonomy: Building Relationships & Buy-In – Jared Markiewicz

This is Part 3 of a 3-part series on developing relationships and buy-in as a coach. All of this comes from Self Determination Theory, and Jared Markiewicz has used these exact processes to work with his staff and clients. Part 1 addresses the concept of Relatedness. Part 2 addresses the concept of Competence, and this edition addresses the concept of Autonomy. We highly encourage you read all three parts of this series and consider implementing these concepts into your coaching or business activities.


Autonomy is the ability to have or make decisions that lead to a direction. 

Basically, you get an opinion that is heard regarding the direction that is taken. And since adolescent athletes have LOTS of opinions, what better way to motivate them than by listening to their opinion.

Additionally, there are levels to autonomy that we will break down simply into two categories:

1) Low control choices are simple THIS or THAT questions guiding simple task selection.

2) High control choices are more complex, necessitating a greater understanding of the variables that exist to drive a team or group towards the mission.

As it relates to motivation levels, the level of control rises as it’s recognized the individual’s motivation is more intrinsically driven.

So, how do we apply this concept to a gym full of coaches and athletes? Simply put, those wanting more autonomy need to EARN THE RIGHT (ETR).

Stated over and over again in this series, “Earn The Right,” gives the person looking for motivation a reason to stay engaged. The more they push to get better, the more they will receive feedback demonstrating your confidence in them.

The end result, they are more in control of their path to achieving greatness than most anyone has offered them before. And you get to be the one providing it to them!

Coach to Staff

When issues or new opportunities arise, they are great times to utilize your team, give them their first amendment rights and often come up with great ideas or solutions.

But to do so, you as the leader need to establish some firm guidelines.

To explain this, let’s compare the process to creating a beautiful house.

The first step to building a beautiful home is laying a solid foundation so it lasts a long time.

In your gym, that is simply your mission or value statement and your core values.

Then a house needs a frame, something it can stand on and can handle most anything you add to it without collapsing over. It’s unlikely to be noticed unless it’s a problem but people are drawn to certain layouts over others.

In your gym, that is the training environment: the actual organization, structure and feel of your facility.

Once you have those pieces in place, your staff understands enough to get involved in the process of how to complete the house and make it incredible.

So when an issue arises or an opportunity presents itself, your team has the tools to weigh in on a solution and be a part of the process.

You as the leader are no longer expected to have all the answers. More importantly, the solution will likely be one with far more insight than if you sat in your office staring at the wall struggling for hours on end.

But insight doesn’t mean perfection. Mistakes are likely to happen. It can be difficult for a business owner to shoulder the mistakes of his staff and not want to step in to just do the job right. That is NOT delegating.

Action Step: offer low control choices for your staff members to allow them to build confidence and truly take ownership in their role on your team. If they make mistakes early, it shouldn’t be devastating to your business.

And, if your approach is slow but consistent, the long-term result will be a collaborative think tank of ideas and solutions by your highly motivated staff members.

Coach to Athletes

Picture this: you are first learning how to bowl.

One coach says, “to bowl well you must take 5 steps, hold the ball in your right hand exactly and cross your right leg behind you after you toss the ball.”

A different coach says, “I’m going to show you a number of ways to get a bowling ball down the lane effectively and then I want you to choose one and try it yourself.”

Which coach do you want? Or, which coach do you want for your child?

Giving athletes choices with constraints allows them to explore, feel empowered and still maintain a safe and effective path to higher performance levels. It’s all about autonomy with constraints.

Choices in a training session can be provided at a young training age as long as the constraints are narrow.

For a new athlete to your program, a simple question of, “did that feel hard OR easy,” will be enough to help you gauge their abilities/attitude while allowing them to be involved in the process. It’s a choice no matter how minuscule it might seem.

As they Earn The Right, the conversation can evolve towards the actual program makeup, recovery from training/practice/competition and optimization of their training cycles.

Providing choices has also highlighted an unexpected outcome for some of our athletes.

Occasionally we come across the “problem athlete.” We have all coached this boy or girl. They struggle with the standards of a school curriculum and a, “do this or else,” approach doesn’t jive with them.

We have found athletes like this thrive when given choices and a say in what goes on. They don’t always get what they want, but the fact that they have a voice and we acknowledge it makes for an adherent and driven athlete.

Action Step: Start giving choices to your athletes during warm ups, as they go through their ramp up sets or in the conditioning portion or play portion of the training session. Areas that will be minimally affected by options and are unlikely to cause you stress about them not doing the right thing (because we all know we will!)

We have the ability to improve the processing and learning of our athletes while instilling confidence through choices; so let’s do it!

Staff to Athlete

It’s your job to create structure for your staff to best coach the athletes they work with.

Therefore, it’s time for your coaches to better manage their groups by implementing the Earn The Right mentality with their athletes.

When they provide athletes some control over the direction of their training, it can generate authentic leadership within the team or group.

It all comes down to questions. This is probably the most difficult systematically speaking. You need to teach your staff not only how to ask quality questions but also how to listen and respond accordingly.

To make it simple and gain traction for your staff with their athletes, they can use the image of a dangling a carrot in front of a horse.

At the beginning of the session, ask the athletes this, “we have 5 minutes at the end of the session that I want to leave open to you to decide how we use it. We can either foam roll or play a game. Tell me your decision and if we are efficient, we can possibly have 10 minutes for Spiky ball hoops (crowd favorite at FIT).

Not only will you get more efficient work done but also you will start to have athletes step up and shepherd the flock when someone is getting off track.

Action Step: Have your coaches ask the athletes what they want. Then provide them an opportunity to earn it without making it a guarantee.

When you create a system for choices with constraints by simply asking questions, it can breed leadership and buy in like no other.

And what leader doesn’t want a staff that has efficient training sessions full of motivated athletes, stepping up as leaders.

It’s a win/win/win!

Wrap Up

As leaders, we all aspire to a weight room culture of massively bought in athletes and coaches.

But, your motivation and passion isn’t enough. You have to put the effort in to learn what drives your team and your athletes.

When you lay down a foundation based on a well-researched model like the Self Determination Theory, you can then build your own creative structure on top! Then the process can be fun and inclusive.

And when you set expectations for your staff and your athletes that ownership isn’t given but EARNED, you are on your way to massive buy in from everyone involved.

jared markiewiczJared Markiewicz is the founder and CEO of Functional Integrated Training, in Madison, WI.  Jared has worked with a wide array of athletes including middle schoolers, collegiate and professional athletes, as well as adults – all looking to find the best version of themselves.  He sits on the IYCA Advisory Board, has gone through many IYCA certifications, and is a regular contributor and speaker for the IYCA.

Jared holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise and Movement Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s also a Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CPT), an Advanced Sport Performance Coach through USA Weightlifting, a Level 2 Functional Movement Screen Specialist, a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach (PN1) and a golf fitness instructor through Titleist Performance Institute.


If you want to be better at coaching young athletes, the IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist certification is the industry gold-standard for youth fitness and sports performance.  Click on the image below to learn more about the YFS1 certification program.

Competence: Building Relationships & Buy-In – Jared Markiewicz

In the first installment of this mini-series surrounding the Self Determination theory, we discussed using relatedness to better motivate your staff, athletes you coach and structuring a system so you can teach your staff how to better motivate athletes.  It’s highly recommended to go over Part 1 first, so take a few minutes to review that if you haven’t already.  

The second part of this mini-series focuses on competency and using it in the same way to drive motivation. So let’s dive in!

Competence: Coach to Staff

Motivating your staff to continually improve can be challenging at times. They may seek out education on a regular basis,  but the question is: How do they actually take what they learned and apply it?

Our solution for a few years now has been a weekly “Trainer Talk”

It occurs every Thursday and all coaches are expected to attend or have a damn good reason why they can’t be there. At the beginning of every quarter, each coach chooses one week in which they will present on a topic of their choice.

Having a set date early in the quarter allows the coach the ability to discuss:

  1. Key topics in our training systems or the industry
  2. Key takeaways from clinics/workshops recently attended
  3. Specific topics of interest that can evolve our training programs 

Once they get comfortable, it allows them an opportunity to teach everyone on staff, head coach included.  As a result, when a coach who has largely been in the student role is given the teacher role, motivation skyrockets!

Additionally, it gives our coaches the ability to seek out training philosophies that excite them and then collectively think tank on how we could implement pieces into what we already do.

Action Step: Implement a version of “Trainer Talk” with your staff at least 1x/month that involves your entire coaching staff.  

Initially, it might be difficult to get volunteers to step into the teaching role so I suggest starting with a mini TED talk day where you and a few other coaches present short education pieces. 

Goal: Bring to light the vast competencies on your staff to foster growth and development of professional knowledge.

Competence: Coach to Athlete

What would your answer be if someone asked you what your biggest strength is athletically? Harder yet, your biggest weakness?

Tough questions, right? 

Self-awareness is such an important part of any athlete’s ability to achieve the best they are capable of. 

Asking difficult questions like this during the initial conversation with an athlete provides 3 advantages:

  1. Create a framework of process vs. outcome based goal setting
  2. Recognize who they are as an athlete and develop a continuous improvement mentality in ALL facets of athleticism and sport skill
  3. Help them understand what they excel at, while recognizing other teammates likely excel at something different, catalyzing high level teamwork

As a coach, understanding their answers can provide a foundation to build an individual’s motivation while training.

During training, we can coach an athlete up on how a particular program or movement will help them overcome their weaknesses. Make sure when you reference this, it’s about them getting better, not matching those that already excel. 

More importantly, when they are performing something they excel at, empower them to be a leader. They have the competence, so acknowledge it and encourage them to help teammates and lead by example. 

Action Step: Implement a question or series of questions early on in the process with a young athlete. The big key here is to keep revisiting it. Part of self-awareness for a young athlete is the coach reinforcing competencies. 

Goal: Improve self-awareness for your athletes

**If you coach in a team setting, asking these questions will provide you the knowledge to position athletes in a role they will be comfortable with. Then you have set them up to thrive individually and collectively!

Competence: Staff to Athlete

Martial arts has this down to a science: if you achieve a set series of skills and can demonstrate them repeatedly, you will earn the next belt. 

Why is this such a motivator?

  1. It’s cool as heck to progress to the next level, developing a sense of PRIDE
  2. Athletes want to keep growing and learning by continuing their progress to the coveted Black belt!

At FIT, we use colored rubber bands in a similar fashion.

Our athletes need to demonstrate competency and proficiency of the core lifts: bench, squat, press, deadlift and clean, to earn the next band.

Testing week is exciting and motivating because if they have put the work in, there is a good to great chance they will level up in the band they have. 

Consistency builds competence, building performance enhancement!

HOWEVER, not all athletes are motivated by this. Many are, but almost every group will have one outlier, maybe more. 

That’s the human element we as coaches have to ALWAYS take into account.

So engage and ask those athletes how they are motivated. And then follow through on that during testing periods. (Just don’t let them tell you they are motivated by money, I only fell for that once!)

Ultimately, it’s about the athlete visualizing a path to “level up” and working to achieve that. Athletes will buy into a good training program over time, but it’s helpful early on to give them opportunities to achieve success, via bands or belts or whatever. We have found this significantly helps motivation when they plateau slightly or even lose some strength during a sport season.

Action Step:  Enlist the help of your staff to identify what structure already exists and figure out where there is the potential for levels or progressions to be created. It’s highly likely you already do something where you have pre-requisite steps that must be completed to get access to doing a movement. For example, to power clean, an athlete must demonstrate the ability to deadlift well and show the ability to get into a good front squat rack position and do a balanced front squat.

Then display it prominently to your athletes and give them SOMETHING as recognition of leveling up. It can be really simple until you get great buy in from them and your coaches.

Goal: Improve ADHERENCE to the training and therefore the speed of skill development by formally recognizing an athlete’s ongoing mastery.


jared markiewiczJared Markiewicz is the founder and CEO of Functional Integrated Training, in Madison, WI.  Jared has worked with a wide array of athletes including middle schoolers, collegiate and professional athletes, as well as adults – all looking to find the best version of themselves.  He sits on the IYCA Advisory Board, has gone through many IYCA certifications, and is a regular contributor and speaker for the IYCA.

Jared holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise and Movement Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s also a Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CPT), an Advanced Sport Performance Coach through USA Weightlifting, a Level 2 Functional Movement Screen Specialist, a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach (PN1) and a golf fitness instructor through Titleist Performance Institute.


If you want to be better at coaching young athletes, the IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist certification is the industry gold-standard for youth fitness and sports performance.  Click on the image below to learn more about the YFS1 certification program.

Relatedness: Building Relationships & Buy-In – Jared Markiewicz

Setting the Foundation for Motivating Athletes

I want to walk you through a situation that happens to me often in the gym:

I see my athlete, Drake, and his heels are coming off the floor as he transitions from the eccentric to the concentric portion of the squat.

So I cue him: “drive down through the floor to stand up.”

Now I walk away to coach someone else since his set is done. 

A few minutes later, I am watching from a distance and I see after his second rep, his heels come off the floor. But then rep 3, 4 and 5, he adjusts and plants that foot hard into the floor, not only coming up more balanced, but faster!

I’m PUMPED!!!!

So after the set I go over, give him a big high five and ask, “Man Drake, did you feel that? You came up so fast and stable, that was great!”

And he goes, “Um yeah I guess I felt that…”

Ever happen to you?

Here’s the thing, almost no one we train is going to get as excited about squatting or a perfectly executed wall drill as we are.

But motivation, or “buy-in” as it’s been termed, is CRITICAL if we want our athletes to excel and stick with us for the long haul.

And if we want to improve “buy-in,” with ANYONE, we need to satisfy three components on a regular basis: relatedness, competency and autonomy.

  • Relatedness: our ability to connect with the individual’s interests, desired outcomes and pain points
  • Competency: providing the structure to develop knowledge and skill sets beyond their current baseline, ideally with carryover to performance and resiliency
  • Autonomy: establishing guidelines and boundaries so the individual can take ownership in achieving the desired outcome

These basic needs were recognized by Dr. Edward Deci and Dr. Richard Ryan, as important factors for increasing motivation levels in individuals and necessary for optimal growth and function. (see Self-Determination Theory)

For the typical coach, you are going to have three scenarios where it is your job to make sure motivation levels are consistently improving i.e. “increasing buy-in”:

  • Coach to Staff
  • Coach to Athlete
  • Staff to Athlete

This short video will help explain these concepts and scenarios, and set up a series on how to implement this information.

In the following video,s and the upcoming series on this topic, I will walk you through some simple action steps and the goals associated to create better buy-in.  We will explore the differences between how you will approach each of the scenarios (coach-staff, coach-athlete, staff-athlete) for the three components (relatedness, competency, autonomy) so that you can slowly apply these techniques for each situation.

By taking and applying these concepts, you will develop stronger, long-lasting relationships with both your athletes and staff – the key to making a big impact on our industry!

Let’s begin with the concept of Relatedness.

Relatedness: Coach to Staff

When creating “buy in” from your staff, it’s important for them to understand your past: where have you been, what have you done and what have you learned.

You want them to know you can relate to them. More importantly, you want to shorten the learning curve.

You have career capital to call upon, both good and bad. Give them a jump start by emulating your good experiences and applying the lessons behind the bad ones. As the Golden Rule states, “do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

And since we are talking the Golden Rule, listening and learning is a two-way street! EVERYONE loves to tell their story. So ask where they came from, what they have done and what they have learned. You will go further faster than ever before.

Action Step: Consistent conversations with your team or staff. Schedule them if necessary. We call ours “Huddles”

Goal: Learn and apply the knowledge you have gained to strengthen the common ground you all stand on TOGETHER!

Relatedness: Coach to Athlete

Scenario #1:

Coach – “Hey, how was school today Camryn?”

Camryn – “Good” –without ever looking up from her phone…

Scenario #2:

Coach – “Hey Camryn, I see you are on your phone, who is your favorite person to follow on Instagram?

Camryn – “Huh? You really want to know? Um, well it’s this hockey player but you don’t probably know her”

Coach – “Probably, but if you like her, I’m curious why. What makes her interesting to follow?”

Pretty easy to see which series of questions is going to stimulate a conversation and develop a level of relatedness not often achieved between adult and teenager.

When conversing with your athletes, you have to meet them where they are. We are NOT working with mini adults, despite what they might want you to believe!

Asking questions relevant to things they care about may take some work on your part. But aren’t the greatest teachers and parents making that kind of effort everyday? Why wouldn’t you, if you are a great coach?

Additionally, technology interrupts every social setting a teenager encounters. So when you do get an answer from them, give your undivided attention and ask follow up questions. You will be amazed how effective this can be!

Action Step: Have five go-to questions to create a conversation (adjust and replace as needed)

Goal: Achieve a response that leads to a brief conversation (at least) from all of your athletes in a reasonable amount of time. If possible, jot down some notes to study and recall later.

For some coaches with only a few athletes, the goal above might mean you need to get creative and you should have a conversation like this multiple times a week. For other coaches, who are in charge of 200 athletes across various sports, this may take some time.

Know your situation and adapt to it!

Relatedness: Staff to Athlete

“Oh man, Coach Jared is training us today! Where’s Coach Max, he’s way more fun!”

Music to my ears ☺

As you transition off the training floor, you don’t need to go out of your way to be an a$$hole coach. Let’s face it, there are plenty of a$$holes in this world already.

Instead, if you empower your staff to develop stronger relationships with your athletes, the above scenario will become more and more common over time.

So how do we get through the double whammy of getting coaches to “buy in” to the idea of getting our athletes “bought in?”

My answer: coCompetition and prizes!

Action Step: Create a challenge where the staff member is expected to get and recall responses from Athletes. To get started, you need three things

What your staff values for prizes
Parameters set: time, amount of touches/recalls, information expected
Opportunity to test and measure it!

For Example:

Performance coaching staff loves burritos (wait what coaches DON’T love burritos!) So the prize is a $25 gift card to Chipotle
Duration: Month of June
Info: Favorite pet/Favorite show/Favorite food
Goal: Ask 75% of their athletes (you calculate the number for them) and expect them to recall five of them at the end of the month.
Give them a spreadsheet to write these down but tell them they can track the info however they like
Test it: Any coach that gets all 75% and recalls the five randomly selected athletes gets a gift card to Chipotle

Goal: Increase trust level between athletes and staff without your involvement.

These videos and descriptions should give you a fairly thorough understanding of how to integrate the concept of Relatedness to multiple situations.  Stay tuned for the rest of this series when we address Competence and Autonomy.


jared markiewiczJared Markiewicz is the founder and CEO of Functional Integrated Training, in Madison, WI.  Jared has worked with a wide array of athletes including middle schoolers, collegiate and professional athletes, as well as adults – all looking to find the best version of themselves.  He sits on the IYCA Advisory Board, has gone through many IYCA certifications, and is a regular contributor and speaker for the IYCA.

Jared holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise and Movement Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s also a Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CPT), an Advanced Sport Performance Coach through USA Weightlifting, a Level 2 Functional Movement Screen Specialist, a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach (PN1) and a golf fitness instructor through Titleist Performance Institute.


If you want to be better at coaching young athletes, the IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist certification is the industry gold-standard for youth fitness and sports performance.  Click on the image below to learn more about the YFS1 certification program.

Narrow Your Niche, Increase Your Impact – Brett Klika

We’ve all heard the old adage “A Jack of all trades is a master of none”.

This holds true to nearly every aspect of life, including the role many of us have assumed as a youth strength and conditioning coach.

In becoming a youth coach, we’ve definitely narrowed down our focus of mastery. However, within “youth” there are now more varied needs than Youth Fitness Coachever. Sport coaches, classroom teachers, and parents are now looking for specific solutions to the specific needs of niche populations within youth.

These niche populations may not be served effectively under the “come all” strength and conditioning program model many offer within their facilities and institutions.  Strength and conditioning coaches willing to be in tune with, and master, solutions to specific needs within their community have an opportunity to change the message of their program from “We can help A child” to “We can help YOUR child”.

As you can see, the latter is a much stronger message and mission if I’m a parent or organization selecting a program for my young athlete(s).  This makes your program not merely “A” program available. It makes it “THE” program available for a specific demographic. The result is an ever-growing, long-term, successful program with a uniquely positive impact on the community.

Consider the 4 youth niches below that may represent underserved needs within your community.

5-8 Year Old Athletes

Despite the ages of 6-12 representing some of the most critical years for motor development, few quality development programs are available for the youngest cohort in this age range. There was a time that physical education took care of these kids, but statistics suggest that is no longer the case.

Many professionals shy away from working with young children due to inexperience, lack of patience with short attention spans, and children’s largely unfocused, endless energy. With proper training, resources, and experience however, this energy can fuel a fun and engaging program for this demographic of kids who need it the most.

While many shy away, tremendous opportunities exist for those who are knowledgeable, passionate, and focused on helping grade school age children.

Female Athletes

Fortunately, sports are not the “boys club” they once were. Sports participation amongst young women and girls is at an all-time high.  Despite this increase, young women’s access to quality strength and conditioning programs is often limited compared to their young male counterparts. Due to an inaccurate cultural convention, misinformed coaches, and a variety of other factors, strength training has not traditionally been embraced as part of young female athlete culture.

Coaches that create exclusive opportunities to educate young female athletes and their communities about the importance of strength training for performance and injury prevention have the opportunity to stand out in a crowded market.

Athletes with Special Needs

A growing number of youngsters are being diagnosed as “special needs” due to behavioral or developmental pathology. These kids benefit greatly from exercise programs, however, few coaches have experience or expertise with this demographic.

A variety of courses, certifications, and other educational opportunities are becoming available for those looking to help these kids.  Programs that specialize in working with athletes with autism, ADHD, and other special needs offer a much-needed service to an underserved population.

Homeschooled Children

Nearly 2 million children are homeschooled in the United States. These kids have standard academic requirements that include physical education. They also participate in sports. Parents of homeschooled children often struggle when it comes to creating a physical education curriculum for one child.

Additionally, homeschool parents are challenged with finding opportunities for their kids to socialize with other kids during school hours.

Coaches and facilities that are in tune with the needs of homeschooled kids and parents have an opportunity to offer a needed service with little to no market competition. Additionally, these kids are not bound by the hours of the typical academic day. Groups and classes can be run during the typically “slow” hours in the morning or early afternoon.  

Serving these special niches requires more than merely adding a class to your schedule. Parents, coaches and communities value experts. An expert will prompt a parent to overcome the barriers of money, transportation, and time to bring their child to a program.

If you are looking to grow your programs by becoming an expert that serves a niche, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are the specific aspirations/fears of the parents/athletes associated with this niche?
  2. What education/experience is necessary to serve this niche?
  3. Why are you passionate and committed to serving this specific population?
  4. What are the needs outside of exercise that could be addressed with these kids/parents?
  5. What key organizations could you create a relationship with that could act as a referral or endorsement for your program?
  6. Who are others that have created programs for this specific demographic?

The answers to these questions can help you and your business increase your success and positive impact within your community.


Brett Klika is a youth performance expert and a regular contributor to the IYCA who is passionate about coaching young athletes.  He is the creator of the SPIDERfit Kids youth training program and has run successful youth fitness programs all over the country.  Brett is an international speaker whose passion for youth fitness has helped thousands of people learn how to create exceptional training experiences for young athletes.


If you want to be better at coaching young athletes, the IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist certification is the industry gold-standard for youth fitness and sports performance.  Click on the image below to learn more about the YFS1 certification program.

Top 10 Posts of 2018

The IYCA would like to thank you for another incredible year.  We have several amazing things coming in 2019, but before we get there, let’s take a look back at the Top 10 posts from 2018.  

Find a nice place to read (or watch videos) and spend a few minutes during the holidays to go through anything you’ve missed.  There is a TON of great information from some of the best in the profession (These are NOT necessarily in order of “importance”):

#10 Power Clean Progression – Tobias Jacobi – Tobias was named the High School S & C Coach of the year, and his exercise progression series was a great addition to our Free Content area.

#9 Early Sports Specialization: Getting Them to Listen – Brett Klika – Brett is clearly one of the best youth trainers in the world, and this article gave advice on how to educate parents/coaches.

#8 Rethinking Long-Term Athlete Development – Jim Kielbaso – Sometimes the status quo needs to be challenged so that we can move forward.

#7 Bodyweight Training Progressions – Jordan Tingman – College S & C Coach, Jordan Tingman, joined the IYCA community with some awesome content that incorporates written and video material.

#6 A Strength Coach Career Path: A Winding Road – Joe Powell – A long-time contributor, and another college S & C coach, Joe uses his personal experiences as a backdrop to developing a career in sports performance.

#5 You Can’t Microwave an Athlete – Jim Kielbaso – One of the most “shared” articles of the year, this piece is very helpful for educating parents/coaches about why our approach works.

#4 The Stretching Conundrum – Dr. Greg Schaible – A talented and well-respected Physical Therapist, Greg has been another great addition to the IYCA community this year.  This article gets you thinking about how to best utilize stretching/flexibility work.

#3 Strength Coach’s Guide to Achilles Tendinopathy – Dr. Greg Schaible – One of Greg’s most popular pieces, probably because we all work with athletes who experience Achilles pain at some point.

#2 Plyometrics: 3 Ways They May Be Hurting Your Athletes – Phil Hueston – IYCA Advisory Council member and long-time member of the community, Phil is one of the most entertaining writers in the industry.  This article explains how many coaches mis-use plyometrics.

#1 The #1 Predictor of Coaching Success – Karsten Jensen – International S & C expert Karsten Jensen created this post after a conversation about surface learning began.  It turned out to be one of the most important pieces of the year because it creates a framework for expanding your knowledge.

If you just can’t get enough, here’s one more for you:

Bonus Practical is the New Functional – Jim Kielbaso – Most of us don’t coach in a vacuum.  Athletes are doing a million things, and we usually don’t get to control all of it.  This article discusses how important it is to create programs that are practical instead of “perfect.”

#1 Predictor of Coaching Success – Karsten Jensen

This brief article is inspired by a recent newsletter posted by Jim Kielbaso on the topic of diving deeper with respect to educational knowledge.  If you’re not getting the newsletter, sign up HERE.  


For some individuals, diving deeper into a topic appears as natural as walking. If you fall into this category, you may question the usefulness of an entire article on the topic.

At the other end of the spectrum, however, are coaches and trainers for whom diving deeper does not seem to come as easy. How can that be?

There appear to be at least two pre-requisites to diving deeper.

  • Motivation and willingness to learn and grow – without this element diving deeper will not happen.
  • Skills to ask the questions that guide the process (the dive) – without this skill, there might be uncertainty about what books to read, which courses to take, etc.. Trainers/coaches might feel that they read a lot but that it is not helpful in their work.

This article discusses practical tools to: 
1: Increase motivation to learn and grow as a coach or trainer.
2: Determine how to dive deeper.

1. How to increase motivation and willingness to grow

A component of my work is to teach a fundamental certification course for the Certified Professional Trainers Network in Canada. Within the first hour of the four-day workshop, I typically mention the following quote:

I jokingly say, “If you truly live and apply this, then we can all go home.”

Do you accept the idea that a willingness to learn is a powerful attitude? If so, consider the following statement that takes Zig Ziglar’s quote one step further and applies it in a training context:

Make the next program better (than ever before).
Make the next session better (than ever before).

If you truly live this attitude, you might experience a couple of really cool benefits:

  • Your growth as a coach/trainer skyrockets from daily incremental improvements. It is really the law of compound interest applied to the learning process.
  • Your motivation during program creation and the sessions with your athletes may increase. It is no longer: “I have done this before.” It is now, “What am I going to learn today? How am I going to grow today?”

If you are still not–on a visceral level–excited and committed to the idea of constant learning and growing, then fill out a pain-pleasure diagram. This form of diagram relates to the saying:

“If you have a big enough WHY, then you will figure out the how.”
Jim Rohn
(Please check the work of Anthony Robbins for more information).

To execute the exercise, make 4 big squares on a sheet of paper, and label them as in the example below. Begin by writing the components that come with the strongest emotional drive. Next add elements that you intellectually agree with, but do not necessarily feel on an emotional level.

Your goal is to reach a point of an emotional shift that “locks you in” to constant learning and growing. Below is an example:

Learning Just showing up
  1. Faster growth as a trainer
  2. Increased motivation
  3. Potentially higher compensation due to increased skills
  4. Increased referrals due to better client experiences
  5. Learning skills that might be useful if you ever leave training/coaching
  6. More fun
  1. It is easy
  2. More free time in your schedule to do other things
  1. Time commitment
  2. Cost of books,  workshops, etc.
  1. A subtle feeling that you are winging it
  2. Frustration because you don’t understand why the athletes are not motivated to follow your program
  3. Frustration because you don’t understand why the athletes cannot execute the cues you give
  4. Lack of results and lack of promotions
  5. Boredom during sessions because you feel it is just a chore and you don’t really know how to be involved
  6. Frustrated with program design because you feel it is just about getting it done

One of the big challenges for many self-employed coaches is that they have to be both a coach and a business person. On one hand, they want to learn and grow as a coach. On the other hand, they may find their coaching growth is sacrificed in order to stay on top of the business side of things.

Personally, the coach/business dichotomy has never really sat well with me. On the deepest level, I feel like a coach or a teacher. For that reason, I absolutely love the following sentence that merges the objective of the coach and the businessperson into one.

“Be so good that they (the athletes) can’t stop talking about you.”

I first heard this quote ascribed to Disney and I do know a couple of very successful businesses that are built completely on living that statement.

Let’s assume that you are motivated and locked in on learning. The last part of the article discusses a process for actually doing it and diving deeper.

2. How to Dive Deeper and Learn Every Day

In some of his workshops, Paul Chek talks about how his career in fitness and healing began.

He was stationed at Fort Bragg as (I believe) a paratrooper and was simultaneously boxing and doing triathlons. He did well and his superiors said that if he trained the other soldiers he would get extra time to train on his own.

He accepted that premise and started training the other soldiers, even though he had no formal education at the time. Thus, during this early stage in his career, the sequence he experienced was:

1: Someone presented him with a specific problem.

2: He had to figure out how to fix it.

The point is not that learning in advance (such as through longer formal education) is not useful. The point is, regarding your continued education, one of the best approaches is to choose education (books, workshops, conferences) based on where your biggest questions are with respect to working with your athletes.

The approach is the opposite of trying to “stay updated” (impossible) or to follow what is “new” (big risk of wasting time). To help you determine your areas of focus, download my continuing education self-assessment here.

The 5-hour rule

With the overall approach laid out, the first thing to do is to schedule time weekly to learn. The 5-hour rule is great, but something is better than nothing.

Whatever time you assign should be divided between:

    1. Reading
    2. Thinking about and structuring what you read so you are able to apply it to your program design, sessions and career

Learning during sessions

From my experiences, there are three sources of learning during the session that can be used as guidance for how to dive deeper:

    1. Direct questions from athletes or clients.
    2. You instruct an exercise in a certain way and the athlete is not able to execute it correctly.
    3. The session goes as planned but you get a subtle feeling – or you consciously ask the question, “What could be improved?”

Always take quick notes and address them during the designated learning time.

Learning after the session

The following questions tie into the three areas above. However, additional insights may arise when you sit down with time to think. The sooner after the session you get the time to sit and contemplate, the better. Ask yourself:

  • Is there any aspect of the program that did not work and must be adjusted?            
  • Is there any aspect of the program that is not adequately defined and should be refined?                                                           
  • Is there any aspect of the program that works but could be improved?       
  • Are there any questions that could provide the basis for future research?

If it is not natural for you to ask questions, you might not feel that there are any answers to the questions listed above. If that is the case, you must be more aggressive and put your subconscious mind to work.

Ask the following questions with complete awareness, but don’t force an answer:

  • What is the most important question about < insert topic> that I have not asked yet?
  • What is the most important insight about < insert topic> that I have not had yet?
  • What is the most powerful strategy or tactic with respect to <insert topic> that I haven’t applied yet?

The answer will appear as an idea popping into your head seemingly out of nowhere, from a fellow trainer mentioning a specific book or workshop, or a Facebook post that “magically” seems to be just what you were seeking.

When you read, watch videos or attend workshops, one of the easiest traps to fall into is the thought that I have heard this before. I know it already.”                                                        

If you feel that this applies to you, then contemplate the following:

  1. Does the fact that I have heard something before make my programs better? (No.)
  2. Does the athlete/client benefit from me having heard something or “know” something? (No.) 

Only information that is applied to creating, supervising, instructing or evaluating training programs is beneficial to your work and to the client. Therefore, after reading material/attending lectures or workshops, ask yourself:

  1. Have I heard this before?
  2. If I have heard this before, am I applying the principles, and if so, how well am I applying the principles?  
  3. How can I apply these principles better?


Don’t ever accept the idea that you can’t execute a particular element of your work better. One of the worst situations you could be in is to not have a clear vision and plan of action for how to get better.

There is a great story told about legendary Spanish cello player, Pablo Casals. At 86, he was asked:  Why do you still practice?

He answered with the trademark of a true master, “I think that I am still improving.”

We find the same type of thinking within our own field. I spoke to Dr. Stuart McGill after the recent SWIS Symposium in Mississauga, Canada. He said:

The best assessment that I will ever do is the last one before I die, because I will be the wisest and most experienced.

Karsten Jensen has helped world class and Olympic athletes from 26 sports disciplines since 1993. Many of his athletes have won Olympic medals, European Championships, World Championships and ATP Tournaments.

Karsten is the first strength coach to create a complete system of periodization, The Flexible Periodization Method – the first complete method of periodization dedicated to holistic, individualized and periodized (H.I.P) training programs.

Karsten shares all aspects of The Flexible Periodization Method (FPM) with his fellow strength coaches and personal trainers through The Flexible Periodization Method workshop series (Levels I-VIII).  Find more information at www.yestostrength.com.

Is the Guru Always Right? – Brett Klika

As a young strength and conditioning coach, I would read an article or watch a presentation by one of my “big name” industry idols and immediately rush back to my own programs to employ what I had learned.

Sometimes, bam! It was like magic. The little programming secret I had learned from coach X helped transform my ability to help kids. Other times, it was more like, thud! The kids didn’t respond. It appeared unsafe for my training environment. I didn’t have the facilities, program setup, or coaching support required.

Assuming the problem was on my side (a guru would never lead me wrong), I often continued to torpedo my program with these strategies that weren’t really working for me or my athletes, but were apparently the “right” thing to do. After all, I didn’t want to seem like I was out of the loop when talking shop with colleagues.  The unfortunate result of this blind faith ranged from athlete and parent disengagement to unnecessary injury.

There definitely are “ideal world” or context-specific youth program strategies that can help improve kids’ performance. In the real world, however,  coaches find themselves in vastly different situations with the athletes, facilities, and training environments.  When we can be open to trying new things, but become reflective and honest enough to determine what works for us, it optimizes the performance and safety of our athletes.

Take an activity like crawling, for example. I personally tout the benefits of this training activity for nearly every level of athlete. However, in my touting, I may not mention that I primarily use this when I have a smooth indoor training surface. Outdoor synthetic turf gets too hot when the sun is out. Asphalt is out of the question, and poorly maintained real grass can get too muddy, sticky, and allergy-inducing to be a safe, effective surface for this activity.  

I only do crawling games when there is ample space because I’ve experienced multiple injuries from fingers getting stepped on when kids are moving in an over-congested area. I have primarily trained in upper-middle-class areas of wealthy Southern California, suggesting that the kids I’ve worked with are less likely to be morbidly obese than those training in more impoverished areas.

If this disclaimer was provided with every strategy a coach shares with the masses, our advice would take the shape of one of those drug commercials with the fast-talking “this drug might kill you” guy at the end. The truth is, within a majority of the context from which I coach and train, my athletes are engaged, parents see the value, and kids safely improve their strength from crawling activities. You may experience something completely different.  

Odds are, we’re both right.

Below are some of the alleged “must do” activities and equipment that many love, but I am willing to admit I’ve had either safety or practicality concerns within my own programs, particularly with groups of kids under the age of 8.

Medicine Balls

Gasp! How dare I question one of the original “4 Horsemen” of fitness? Don’t get me wrong, I still use medicine balls with nearly everyone I work with. However, when working with my youngest kids, I’ve developed concerns over the years.

For one, rebounding medicine balls often rebound too quickly off of the ground or off of walls for this age, resulting in frequent bloody noses and similar mishaps. Tossing balls back and forth hasn’t worked well with this age due to hand/eye coordination challenges and the relatively large size of many balls.

Soft-coated balls work better, but I’ve found these to be expensive and with the concrete area I’ve used for training, durability becomes a concern. I’ve also been challenged with balls rolling away or errantly being tossed in the wrong direction, causing tripping and “falling debris” hazards.

For my youngest athletes, I’ve had better success with softer weighted implements, like SandBells® that have similar benefits without the risks of most medicine balls. For rebounding types of activities, I’ll often use playground balls.


While it’s obvious we have to train youngsters to be able to move in every direction, I have grown to be extra careful when teaching kids to move backward. This activity requires movement with very little visual feedback. Young children rely almost exclusively on visual feedback, so their balance and spatial orientation are going to be severely compromised.

I’ve witnessed numerous falls and collisions, some resulting in concussions and broken bones when I’ve turned kids loose to do relay races, agility drills, and other activities while moving backward.

I still help children develop this skill, but I have learned to take the following considerations:

  1. Spend a significant amount of time teaching reverse marches and skips prior to running in this orientation. This includes performing agility drills using these regressions.
  2. Only perform back-pedaling in an open area where tripping will not result in colliding with other objects or people.
  3. When running backward, keep distance relatively short, i.e. 10-15 yards
  4. Never have young children race while running backward, particularly outside of 10-15 yards.

Resistance Tubing with Handles

For many, resistance tubing with handles has proven to be an easily transportable, safe, and effective resistance training method for nearly every age. While I’ve found this to be true with adults and more advanced, body-aware athletes, I have not found it to be true for youngsters.

For one, when training on a field with a group, there must be a fixed anchor to attach the tubing. I’ve found I can’t always depend on this. The elastic nature of the bands is a safety concern for young kids as well. Despite repeatedly sharing instructions and safety expectations, the temptation for kids to test the elastic boundaries of the bands is too great. One mis-handling can result in a band snapping another child. Yes, I have seen a child nearly “put an eye out”.

Even under regular training conditions bands can break under load, particularly when outdoors in the heat. When performing exercises, young children struggle with eccentric control, so the elastic recoil of the bands highlights this disparity.  Kids find this “ragdoll” phenomenon entertaining, so they are slow to correct.

I prefer using SandBells® and even medicine balls for resistance training with young children when away from an established weight room environment.  

The reason I share the above with you is to show that despite what “others” have said, I myself am challenged with some of the “established” paradigms when it comes to training youth. But, I have found ways and methods that work for me and my athletes in our training environment.

How do you determine if a training tool or program suggestion is truly working for you and the kids you work with, or if you’re merely trying to force square pegs into round holes?

Quickly answer these questions:

  1. Has your program grown objectively (in participation and profitability) since employing a new strategy?
  2. Does it improve athlete engagement?
  3. Does it improve value to parents?
  4. Has it resulted in more, or fewer injuries during training or game play?
  5. Does an increase in the amount of cost, administration, and/or time result in improved athletic AND BUSINESS results?
  6. Do you truly believe in the intended purpose and/or outcome?
  7. Does it improve the rate and magnitude of results with your athletes without compromising your training culture, business, or other critical factors allowing you to continue to help kids?
  8. Does it allow you to “be yourself” and connect with kids in the way you feel is the most critical?
  9. Does it objectively contribute to the longevity of your program and/or training business?
  10. Is the program model from which the advice comes relevant to yours?

As coaches, it’s essential that we employ programming tools that create the path of least resistance to the greatest magnitude of outcome for our athletes and our business.  

These tools can be different for everyone.


Brett Klika is a youth performance expert and a regular contributor to the IYCA who is passionate about coaching young athletes.  He is the creator of the SPIDERfit Kids youth training program and has run successful youth fitness programs all over the country.  Brett is an international speaker whose passion for youth fitness has helped thousands of people learn how to create exceptional training experiences for young athletes.


If you want to be better at coaching young athletes, the IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist certification is the industry gold-standard for youth fitness and sports performance.  Click on the image below to learn more about the YFS1 certification program.


How To Avoid the Post-Summer Slump – Brett Klika

June, July and August are a whirlwind for many performance coaches.

The absence of school and organized school athletics allow for plenty of time to train.  For many coaches, this is the rare time of year they can apply their knowledge while gaining experience working with kids from morning until night. The days are long, but the experience, impact and financial reward is often much greater than any other time of the year.

Without a little planning however, the spoils of summer can quickly turn into the famine of fall.

Veteran youth S&C professionals have undoubtedly experienced the near burnout rate of summer only to find themselves hustling to find clients to make ends meet during the fall. Summer’s frenzy can distract coaches from creating a plan for the season right around the corner. This often forces coaches to put themselves in training situations during the fall that they don’t want to be in.  

After experiencing this “feast and famine” cycle for many years, I realized that amongst the craziness of summer, I would need to start marketing for the fall. Believe me, this is the last thing I wanted to think about after a 12-hour day under the hot sun.  However, once I learned to operate training more like a business and less like a hobby, both my year-round impact and income have received a significant bump.

Parents and coaches plan ahead, so to have the opportunity to work with kids and teams in the fall, they need to know what is available by the middle of summer. Once summer is over and kids go back to school, it’s too late.  Imagine waiting until the day kids get out of school to tell a parent about a summer camp you are having. That parent would politely list the 30 other things they had already committed their kids to.

Below are some summer strategies to end the annual “feast and famine” cycle and begin creating opportunities for fall and beyond.

Construct a Coach/Program Database

Every youth S&C coach should not only be familiar with all of the seasonal and year-round sports in their area, they should have an active database with contact information for school and club coaches. This information can be obtained through websites and even from kids/parents. This provides an outline of possibilities for any time of year.  It also provides a starting point for creating a relationship with coaches and organizations.

Create a Conversation with Coaches

For every child you work with, make sure to obtain the contact information for their coach/coaches.  This not only goes into the large database, it provides a valuable opportunity to connect. Contact this coach and introduce yourself. Let them know you are working with their athlete and ask them for their perspective on what the child needs. Do not pitch a camp initially. As long as you are working with the child, provide occasional updates. Additionally, if there is a relevant article, blog or other pieces of valuable content you come across that impacts that coach’s sport, send it to them. 

This way you are not only displaying that you care, but that coach will also begin to value your perspective. Enriching these relationships creates year-round opportunities.

Use the same approach with all the coaches in the database. Every day, make it a point to contact 5 of them. Even if you don’t work with one of their athletes, introduce yourself and your business. Share a link to a blog or other piece of valuable content. Let them know you’re sharing the “3 Exercises to Prevent ACL Injuries” blog with videos because you and your business are committed to “helping athletes perform for life.”   No sales pitch, only a link to your webpage in the closing. If they reach out to thank you, it’s an opportunity to start a conversation and eventually work with them.

Understand Seasonal Cycles

All sports have an annual cycle of peak competition periods, off season, pre-season, etc. Most coaches will be the most interested in training during the 10-12 weeks leading up to their season. While summer is when fall athletes and coaches will probably be the most interested in training, fall is when winter sport athletes and coaches will be the most interested. Assuming you know the seasons, coaches, sports, etc. (your database), and you have created a dialogue with coaches, July is an ideal time to start offering pre-season training in September/October.

Mid to late July is also a time to start promoting general fall programs. Obviously, this means that the logistics and marketing materials are being created in early June. The marketing angle should address the winter sports and possibly even spring sports.  Additionally, receiving this information during the summer allows parents to prioritize the idea. Early bird pricing, etc. can be a great way to get a commitment before school starts.

The details for these fall offerings (days/times/prices) should be established prior to the beginning of summer camps. Kids and parents can sign up for “in-season” participation in training at a slightly discounted rate when they sign up for a summer package.

When it comes to in-season, there should always be an offering for teams to train during this time. Many teams are hesitant to commit to training during the season, so consider offering alternate programs that meet the needs of in-season athletes. For example, offer a weekly “recovery” session focusing on mobility, injury prevention or other recovery-based exercises. It may only be one day per week on a weekend, but it could be key to building a year-round relationship.

Consider All Sports

Many youth S&C coaches focus their marketing efforts on the most popular sports in their area. While the majority of children participate in these sports, other activities that are less mainstream can actually become tremendous markets. Dancers, figure skaters and other such athletes are often encouraged by their skill coaches to seek S&C coaches. Since many of these aren’t school sports, they aren’t subject to a seasonal ebb and flow. It’s important to include these organizations and coaches in your coach database.

I found that after school went back into session, young golfers and figure skaters were looking to train. I had formed relationships with local ice rinks, as well as a few golf pros by the process outlined above.  My fall schedule would fill with these athletes and I was able to eventually consolidate individuals into large training groups.

Know the Pros

Working with professional athletes is highly seasonal. However, professional athletes are able to train during the daytime hours when kids are in school. During the fall, many minor league baseball players begin to return home. By the end of October, most major leaguers are ready to begin their off-season training, assuming they didn’t go deep into the playoffs.  

If you don’t know any professional baseball players, get to know local agents. Understand who the baseball agents are in your area. Make sure to contact them and introduce yourself. Offer a tour of your facility or to meet them for coffee to let them know what you can do for their athletes.  Study their players and stats so you can make specific references. If the agent feels you are vested, they are more likely to suggest training with you.

Use the Momentum of Summer

Mid-summer (Mid to late July) is when athletes, parents, and coaches are the most “bought in” to a program. They have been watching their youngsters grow under your care and the value of your program has never been higher. It’s essential to have offers for fall available during this time.  A parent or coach who just witnessed their child do something better than they ever have, or catch their child doing a little “flex and smile” in the mirror, is going to be ready to commit. Again, the logistics and marketing materials need to be started in June.

Of course, as soon as fall training starts, it’s time to start creating opportunities for spring athletes to train in the winter!

Whether you own a gym/studio, or are employed by one, start thinking ahead to avoid the post-summer slump. Spend 30 minutes per day on the above steps to extend the success of summer far into the fall and beyond.


Brett Klika is a youth performance expert and a regular contributor to the IYCA.  He is the creator of the SPIDERfit Kids youth training program and has run successful youth fitness programs all over the country.  Brett is an international speaker whose passion for youth fitness has helped thousands of people learn how to create exceptional training experiences for young athletes.



How to Write & Launch a Book or Product – The Principles of Athletic Strength & Conditioning Story

Principles of Athletic Strength & ConditioningMany strength & conditioning and youth fitness professionals talk about writing a book or producing an information product.  Most feel that they have something inside them that will make a positive impact on the world, so there is an internal desire to share that knowledge.  The problem is that most people get stuck way before the book/product gets anywhere near completion.

In this episode of The Impact Show, Jim Kielbaso discusses the process of creating and launching a book or product, and he goes into detail on how the most recent IYCA product was created.

The new IYCA book Principles of Athletic Strength & Conditioning took over a year to complete, but now that it’s available, it is definitely making a difference in the youth training industry.  With 17 outstanding professionals contributing to the project, PASC is one of the most comprehensive textbooks available on training athletes.  Getting to the point where the book could actually be offered to the public was a lengthy process that a lot of people can learn from.

Listen to Jim talk about the idea formation process, content decisions, author selection and coordination, editing, design/layout, printing, fulfillment, promotion, launch, distribution and all of the things that happen behind the scenes to make a book available online.

Whether you have a book or product idea or simply want to learn about the process involved in a product launch, this episode will open your eyes to the entire process.  Hopefully, this takes some of the mystery out of the process and encourages you to move forward with you big idea.

If you haven’t gotten a copy of Principles of Athletic Conditioning yet, click on the link or the image of the book above.

To listen to this episode of The Impact Show, click on the player below or listen on iTunes at The Impact Show Episode 39 – How to Write a Book or Launch a Product.


4 Simple Strategies to Increase the Value of Your Programs – Brett Klika

“Little Timmy loves working with you, but this guy comes to the park right next to our house.  He played some college baseball, so he knows strength and conditioning stuff.”

As passionate, knowledgeable, and experienced youth performance coaches, we’ve all heard the old “right by our house” dodge.  Regardless of our resume of experience and parents’ quest for the best for their child, very few aspects of a program can beat convenience.

Heck, the selection for my 3-year old daughter’s Saturday dance class was based on a Google map search of “Dance studios near 92131”.  I’m pretty sure her teacher knows about dance.  She wears very dance-like clothing and says very dance-like things.

Notice however, I said very few things can beat convenience.  To quote Lloyd Christmas from the movie Dumb and Dumber, “So you’re saying there’s a chance…”.  While short drives and minimally impacted daily schedules are powerful motivators for parents, the degree to which they value a program is the ultimate decider in how long they will have their child participate.

Convenience has a high value in everyone’s life.  If parents value two programs roughly the same, the most convenient one is the one they will choose.  The question then becomes, how do we make the value of our program stand out to parents?

In my near twenty years of experience directing extremely successful youth performance camps, I’ve discovered there are four distinct opportunities we have as youth performance specialists to establish a unique value to parents that can actually trump the convenience card. These opportunities lie within each time we work with a child, and can be thought of as the 4 “E’s” of creating value in a program.

  • When kids Enter your program daily
  • When they Exercise
  • When they Exit your program daily
  • When you Extend your influence in their lives

When kids Enter your program

For young children, parents are dropping them off to train with you.  They are observing everything from the time their child leaves the car.  This is put in the mental value bank.

Never be late.  If you are at a field, arrive extremely early and be set up prior to parents arriving. If you are at a facility, end your sessions in a timely manner so you can begin sessions on time.  Parents notice the clock and relate this to a time/money value proposition.

This should go without saying, but greet the child by name. If there is a front desk staff, they should be expected to learn names as well. All coaches in a facility should be encouraged to learn names.  Parents should feel like they are dropping children off with a family.  Families call each other by name.

Greeting is also a time for life skills.  A firm, eye-contact handshake should be taught and expected as part of the program.  Right away, parents see you are teaching skills larger than fitness.

Engage them immediately with activity.  Even if they are early, parents see an idle child as the devil’s playground.  Part of your program should offer responsibilities and expectations for what children should do when they arrive.  This could be a few simple stretches or foam roll exercises posted on the wall.  It could be an on-going “high score” challenge (balance, hand-eye coordination, jump rope) they are working on.  They may have a folder where they write down everything they’d eaten that day.

Whatever it is, it should be simple, independent, and consistent.

Consider what you currently do when kids show up to your program.  How could you add value to this?

When Kids Exercise

We can lecture parents all day on our youth training dogmas, but at the end of the day, parents want to see kids sweating, smiling, and getting smarter.  It is important, however, that parents understand what we are trying to accomplish with their child.

Educate parents on the purpose of the program.  Extremely short (less than a page), concise (bulleted), and consistent (once per week or month) send-homes or emails help keep them in the loop.  If you can include any sort of general celebrity endorsement for your approach (links to interviews, articles, etc.) it immediately increases your credibility.

There’s a stark value difference between “Coach Tony believes in LTAD” and “I just watched an interview by Steve Nash talking about the importance of multi-sport participation and long- term development with young athletes. Coach Tony is right.”  Knowing your parents and who’s opinion they value is important.

Parents are suckers for gimmicks. “I saw this guy using a Vertimax with a 7-year-old at basketball practice, so why aren’t you doing that?”  While educating parents, try to beat them to the punch with gimmicks and fads.  Other local guy crushing athletes with 60 minutes of plyos? How about a short, layman’s terms article (not bashing, just educating) on safe plyos for kids?

Make sure parents see where their money is going. If parents aren’t at a training session, make sure they are getting video clips of their child training. These can be short clips texted from a mobile device.  For groups, sending home a monthly newsletter with a short video training montage works to let the parents know what’s happening when they are not there.

When it comes to programming, obviously, make sure you are on point.  Follow a logical progression, be involved, and offer consistent feedback.  Remember however, that parents want to see their kids sweating, smiling, and getting smarter.  Integrate fun and games with serious fundamental skill progressions.  When parents see a child standing around with a silent coach, they don’t see “recovery time.”  They see idle hands.

Remember, regardless of our fanatical, semantic approach to program design, parents only know what they see.

When Kids Exit Your Program

Parents may not stick around for a workout, but they will always have a presence at the very beginning and end of a workout.  These are essential time periods for building unmatched value.

End a session with a simple “take home” that kids can easily remember.  The simpler the concept, the better.  “Work hard” is great, but it’s pretty broad.  “Say thank you when you get to mom and dad because being grateful makes you great” is better.  Follow with a story about a famous athlete being grateful.  Again, this is a bigger life lesson that parents attach a high value to.

These end-of-the-day concepts are also important because, as any parent knows, the most common answer to “what did you do today?” is “uhh, nothing.”  While parents understand this is the norm, any other answer would automatically have a higher value.  Ending the day with a take-home that you ask the kids to share with their parents gives them something to say when they hop into the minivan.

Deliver the child to the parent, even if they are waiting outside. Parents want feedback. While mini-evals are also an important aspect of parental communication, a 10-second discussion about their child goes a long way. If a parent has been educated and believes their child is in the midst of a plan, they are less likely to jump ship.

Extend Your Influence

A parent knows it’s one thing that a child does what they are supposed to when they are with their coach. It’s a whole other level of value when a coach’s words or expectations impact a child’s behavior at home.

Simplify “at home” workouts.  Between school, sports practice, homework, and life, kids are not going to do their at-home work.   However, “Do 10 facing-the-wall squats before you get into bed every night” is something they will do, and parents will help.  It’s short, attainable, and with consistency, can pay big dividends.  Think simple.

Consider impacting behavior outside of exercise.  Parents will place a high value on anything that can ease their parental “pains.”  Getting kids to eat better, help around the house, speak with respect, etc. are constant battles for many parents.  Again, kids may not always grasp broad concepts, but they can perform small actions.

Making very specific small actions part of homework (assigned in front of their parents, and followed up with in front of their parents) becomes part of their expectation for behavior when they are in your program. Something like “be nice to your brother” is too broad. Assigning them, in front of a parent, to “teach their younger sibling something” that evening is better. The next time you see them, “What did you teach your brother/sister to do?” This way, the parent sees they have another ally on their team. They don’t want to lose an ally.

It’s critical to remember that simplicity is good. “Eat a piece of lettuce every night” is hardly a life changing event. However, it’s a snowball that can grow into more. Parents are more likely to get on board with simple things as well!

Help parents solve their most challenging problems!

With these 4 simple value strategies, you can increase your value over “this guy at the park by our house.”  In turn, you have the opportunity to help the kids of today become the happy, healthy, active adults of tomorrow!

6 Steps to Selling Out Your Summer Program – Brett Klika

We introduced Brett Klika to the IYCA community at the last Summit, and he has been incredibly excited about your passion ever since.  He did a fantastic presentation on youth fitness at the Summit, but his hands-on session was even more incredible.  What we also quickly found out about Brett was that he also loves talking about business strategies, just like many others in the IYCA community.  He came to the Sports Performance Business Academy and added tons of value to everyone who attended.  His combination of coaching, making a difference and business strategies are what makes Brett such a great fit for the IYCA and why we had to have him back on The Impact Show to share more of his knowledge.

In this episode, Brett shares his 6 Steps to Selling Out Your Summer Program, which could actually be used at any time of year in any business format.  The 6 Steps include:

  1. Knowing important dates
  2. Understanding your demographics
  3. Listening to the questions you’re being asked most often
  4. Crushing content year-round:  Establish Authority, Create Value & Solve Problems
  5. Being on-point with your administration
  6. How to properly distribute your materials

When you’re done listening to Brett, you’ll have pages of notes, but you’ll probably want even more.  Brett is now offering the IYCA community his virtual mentorship through the 6 Steps plus his 60 Ways to Play Program for just $39.  This is usually a $136 package, but Brett has been so excited about getting involved in the IYCA that he wants everyone to be able to benefit.

The virtual mentorship is basically Brett walking you step-by-step through his plan in much greater detail than he was able to to on the podcast (which was already pretty detailed).  The 60 Ways to Play plan gives you tons of great ideas for working with younger athletes including templates for Guided Discovery and Creative Discovery.

We get a lot of questions about this exact kind of information, and HERE IT IS!  Take advantage of it by going to:  https://brett-andrew-klika.mykajabi.com/a/4245/PwCEVpFq

Do yourself a favor and listen to Brett’s advice, then head to his page to pick up the special offer for the IYCA community.

You can also listen on your phone from the iTunes store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-impact-show/id1113174240?mt=2#episodeGuid=http%3A%2F%2Fjimkielbaso.com%2F%3Fp%3D3955


Be sure to subscribe to The Impact Show and please Rate & Review the show to help iTunes know how valuable the show is.

Increase Your Productivity & Avoid Business Mistakes

People interested in making an impact are busy.  It’s important that we increase productivity so we can get a lot done in a limited amount of time.  I’m often asked how I’m able to maintain a high level of productivity, but I wish that I could accomplish even more each day.  I truly believe that productive people always feel that way.  Many of the most productive people I know constantly talk about how they wish they had more hours in the day.  They are always interested in getting more done.

Because I’ll never get more hours in the day, I’ve figured out how to maximize my time by using some very simple, yet effective, strategies.  In the first half of this episode, I talk about some of the strategies I’ve learned to apply in my career.

The second half of Ep. 33 includes a familiar guest – Ryan Ketchum – to offer up his thoughts on what he considers the most common business mistakes.  You probably know Ryan as a very efficient businessman, and he always presents ideas in a way that allows you to apply the knowledge.  In this segment, he identifies the most common mistakes he sees in business and teaches you how to avoid them.

If you’d like to increase productivity and avoid business mistakes, you’ll love this episode of The Impact Show – the official podcast of the IYCA.


The IYCA Insiders program offers many more business development ideas, and is an amazing community of professionals working together to make an impact.  Learn more about the IYCA Insiders program.

Brian Sipotz on Getting Started in Sports Performance

Brian SipotzBrian Sipotz is the Owner of Advantage Strength & Conditioning in Ann Arbor, MI and a co-owner of www.HockeyStrengthAndConditioning.com.  When his professional hockey career ended, Brian wasn’t sure what was next.  By taking risks, meeting the right people and recognizing opportunities, he has created a growing business for himself and his young family.

Like many young professionals, Brian Sipotz was faced with many decisions as he set up his new business.  Unlike many others, however, he didn’t know how difficult it was going to be, so he moved forward without worrying about many of the things that would have stopped other coaches from pursuing their dreams.

Brian has a great story about getting started that can benefit anyone looking to make a change in their life.  You’ll appreciate his humility, transparency and thought process going into establishing his business.

Listen to Brian’s interview on the Impact Show – the official podcast of the IYCA – on the player below or listen on your phone by downloading the show from iTunes on your Podcast app or through any other podcast app you choose.  Subscribe to the Impact Show to make sure you never miss an episode.

Brian will be presenting at the 2017 IYCA Summit in Detroit, April 27-29.  Registration details will be available soon.

Eric Cressey on Finding Your Niche

Eric Cressey is at the top of the baseball training world.  His company Cressey Performance has become synonymous with high-level baseball training, but it didn’t start out that way.  Early in Eric’s career, he was simply learning about anatomy, physiology and how to train.  Eventually, he had the opportunity to work with baseball players, and over time, he realized that this was his niche.  He loved it.  He was great at it.  And, it was a good market for him.

At this point in his career, and in the grand scheme of the industry, he feels like developing a niche is necessary for long-term success.  “you’re going see more examples of people specializing.  For example Jim Kielbaso is working with football guys, Mike Boyle is working with hockey, Mike Robertson is working with soccer – that’s the direction I see this going” said Cressey in a recent interview.

“With that said, it’s really, really hard to force these things because there are a lot of things you have to realize. You have to realize it’s important to beeric-cressey-3 passionate about something beyond just monetary gains. As an example, I did a little bit of NBA combine prep towards the end of my U-Conn experience, so I had some time in it.  When I got into the baseball world, what basically happens is you’re swamped from the second week in September all the way up until the first week in March. And then you have six weeks to gather your thoughts before you start going with your summer guys.  It’s a tough schedule.  So I’ve had some agents who represent baseball players as well as basketball players and football guys, and they’ve asked me if I’d be interested in doing NBA combine or NFL combine prep.  While it sounds great, that would be walking away from the four weeks of quiet that I get each year. You have to be passionate about it but you have to be passionate about it beyond just monetary gains because if I try to be everything to everybody, it doesn’t work. Our baseball guys appreciate us even more because they don’t see a bunch of 350 pound offensive linemen walking around, and I don’t look like a guy who’s going to play linebacker in the NFL, so you have to be able to want it for more than just money.”

That’s advice anyone in the training world can listen to, because sustaining passion is hard work.  It takes something deep inside to keep going day after day, even when things are perfect.

“You can’t be a 110% on everything. Nobody can read all the journal articles on something like pitching injuries and everything that goes into that, and also know everything about the NFL or the NHL or youth training. I think you have to find something you really like and you’re also really good at. For example,  shoulders and elbows can be really, really complex. I’m a very good shoulder and elbow guy. I’m terrible when it comes to foot and ankle. I probably wouldn’t be a good foot and ankle physical therapist. So, you have to be able to acquire the information easily to really take over a niche.”

Eric also realizes that there’s more to things that just “wanting it” or being good at something.

“It also has to be substantial or sustainable. You’re probably not going have an incredible hockey development program in Mexico, you know? People have to realize that as well. That was something that we wrestled with for a long time.  We weren’t sure if we could build this baseball training mecca in Hudson, Massachusetts. We didn’t really know whether that’d be possible. We had to test the waters.  Eventually, high school guys became college guys, and college guys became pro guys, and then we ultimately decided we could expand our reach by opening another facility in Florida. Your business model has to be able to accommodate whatever you’re trying to do.”

You also have to make the environment friendly to the group you’re trying to attract.  One step into Cressey Performance and you know it’s all about baseball.

eric-cressey-facility“It’s hard to really grow a specific niche if you can’t outfit your facility to accommodate it. When you walk in our facility in Massachusetts, we’ve got two big tunnels for pitching and throwing and now doing video, and stuff like that makes a big difference. If we didn’t have that it would be harder to cater to baseball players.”

There’s also something to be said for being the first at anything.

“It’s also really hard if you’re not one of the first to market. We were probably the first people to be really specific in baseball strength and conditioning. We effectively bridge the gap between rehab and high performance. That’s what you need for baseball and we did it first in our area, so it’s really hard to compete with us if someone wants us to come to Massachusetts and start training baseball players.  It’s a challenge because we’re very well-connected in that area.  If you have an elbow issue we can get you in with an elbow specialist that afternoon. We know who the best physical therapists are. You know we can get guys passes at Fenway before a Red Sox game.  We can deliver a quality experience that goes with the expertise, and while they’re here, chances are they’re rubbing elbow with other big league baseball player in the office. So, from a business standpoint, it’s very, very hard to compete with us in the baseball niche because we were one of the first to market, and we’ve really worked hard to stay on top of things and really nurture that presence nationwide.”HSSC

Eric is a co-author of the IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Certification – the only certification focused specifically on training high school aged athletes.  Read another article by Eric Cressey on Youth Training.

A Message from Dave Jack

Dave Jack’s Powerful Message

If you feel compelled to work with kids, you need to watch this! In this powerful message, Dave Jack explains just why our kids need you. You have the power and ability to change lives and speak LIFE into our youth…see what he has to say.

About Dave Jack

Dave Jack 1Dave has been in the industry for nearly 15 years and has worked with top professional athletes and teams throughout the National Football League, Major League Baseball and more. His vision is to inspire people to live healthy lives and provide them with tools to do so.

In addition to being the Fitness & Wellness Director of TeamWorks Fitness in Acton, MA, Dave is a national advisor and consultant for brands like Reebok, Rodale, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Prevention and NBA All-Star Paul Pierce’s Truth on Health Foundation.

Dave is also a National Level Speaker on Sports Performance, Fitness and Wellness and Co-founder of “Sports and Life,” a wellness curriculum for schools.

Check Out the IYCA Store!

If you are ready to take the leap into youth fitness and be a part of the IYCA team, check out our STORE today!

What Makes a Successful Program – Build a Community

Build a Community to Have a Successful Program

If you want to have amazing success in this industry, it’s all about having the best, most technically sound programming available to you, right?


Take a look at some of the most successful performance training programs. Is each and every single one stellar in their program design, implementation, progressions/regressions, periodization, etc.? Not necessarily.

So what made the program outstanding in developing high performing athletes? It’s quite simple.

It’s all about building a community.

note-881421_640To us, a community is defined as a welcoming, positive training environment that includes supportive coaches and teammates. The community pushes and encourages each other.

Building a community takes effort, that is for sure. But if you have a passion and desire to make your athletes better, you are off to a great start.

I recently had the opportunity to watch IYCA contributors Adam Feit and Bobby Smith present at a clinic. They own an athlete-based training facility in New Jersey, and their energy was incredible – they engaged every athlete/coach in attendance. It didn’t matter if you were participating in the demos or not.

Think back to when you were an athlete and had a coach. Did the ones who spoke to you in monotone and went through the motions make an impact on you? Or was it the ones who engaged with you, high-fived you, and injected energy into the practices or training sessions? My guess is the coach with energy had a much greater impact on you.

Pro Tip: When you can inject YOUR energy into the athlete’s training sessions, they recognize it. They will FEED off of it! That energy starts to resonate, creating a culture that is palpable. Athletes will be excited to train, won’t want to leave, and you will have to tell them when to stop more often than you will have to push them to go!

Once you have that enthusiasm for training, you can build a community.

Here Are 3 Simple Tips to Build a Better Community in Your Program

Tip #1: Swag Up!

Athletes love to wear gear from their teams and places where they train, so give it to them! We just integrated a new process where our athletes advance through a tier system.

Each time they go through our performance testing, they have an opportunity to achieve a new level. Each level has a colored shirt they receive after achieving said level. When they go to school, they sport their swag and brag to their other friends, while also showing it off to athletes we may not train yet.

It’s like we sponsored a race car driver or golfer. They wear our gear that they earned, and when they dominate in their sport, everyone knows why.

Tip #2: Watch Them Play!

This is no joke. Every time I have gone to a game to watch one or more of our athletes, they exclaim, “Wow, that’s really cool you came out to watch. No one has ever done that before.”

We are all busy, I understand. I am no exception to being busy. I do not make every single game for all of my athletes. But I make a concerted effort to catch one, maybe two games a season, particularly big rivalry games or important ones.

Plus, seeing them play helps you as a coach. You can see what things carried over to the sport and what things broke down for your athlete that can be focal points in upcoming training blocks.

Afterwards, you have something to chat with the athlete about and connect with them on a deeper level. Remember, you are a COACH, not a trainer.

Tip #3: Create a Performance Team!

The best athletes in the world have a team of people helping them out. You can do the same for your athlete.

The team may consist of:

  • Parent(s)
  • Coaches
  • Health Practitioners (includes ATs)
  • Athlete

Don’t hesitate to reach out to parents if you feel athletes drifting and lacking focus in the gym. And, ALWAYS let parents know when their athlete has done something particularly outstanding.

Sport coaches can be difficult at times. They think you are trying to steal their athletes. It’s your job to reach out the olive branch and let them know it is your objective to make the athlete better for their sport.

In the very least, ask the coach what things they see need work, and then revisit after some training to see if the coach has seen improvement. If possible, take them out for coffee and have an actual conversation with them so they see you as part of the team, not enemy #1.

Healthcare practitioners and ATs need to have a great relationship with you, your athlete, the athlete’s coaches, and their parents. Befriend them and refer as often as you can. They help keep your athlete training with you and with the team, helping them perform better. They also save your butt from time to time when an athlete presents with something out of your scope of practice.

When you add a solid relationship with your athlete, you have a top tier team, and a community for your athlete to thrive!

Creating a Community Starts With You

Once you have a culture of excellence and engagement from your athletes, making them earn some swag, attending their games, and creating a performance team will have a profound effect on the community, and thus, the success of your program.

Want to read more from Coach Jared? Check out his last blog on Standardization.

ADAPT and Conquer,
Coach Jared

Looking for ways to inject a little fun into your programs and keep your athletes engaged?  Check out the IYCA’s Game Play Performance program created by Dave Jack and Dave Gleason.

About the Author: Jared Markiewicz

JarredJared is founder of Functional Integrated Training (F.I.T.). F.I.T. is a performance-based training facility located in Madison, WI. They specialize in training athletes of all levels: everyday adults, competitive adults and youth ages 5-20+.

The long-term vision for F.I.T. is recognition as the training facility for those desiring to compete at the collegiate level in the state of Wisconsin. Alongside that, to also develop a platform to educate those in our industry looking to make strides towards improving the future for our young athletes.

Find out more about Jared’s gym by visiting F.I.T.




3 Reasons To Become A Youth Fitness Specialist

Reasons To Become A Youth Fitness Specialist

youth trainingAt the International Youth Conditioning Association we are proud of the fact that we provide education for coaches and trainers just like you.

It is important to us to provide research-based information coupled with practical application.

Our Youth Fitness Specialist Certification does that, and there are many reasons that being a Youth Fitness Specialist can be a benefit to you and the athletes/kids you work with. Here are just a few:

Reason #1: A Youth Fitness Specialist is Confident

Working with young kids can be challenging, from programming to exercise selection and timing, there is a lot to know.

Training kids like “mini adults” is simply unacceptable. This is why it is important for the Youth Fitness Specialist to know all the details on working with kids during crucial developmental phases to provide them with the optimal training.

Confidence is reflected in the quality of the programs and presentations as a coach. The Youth Fitness Specialist knows how to coach each athlete as an individual, even in a group/team setting. They can provide customized experiences and build long lasting relationships with clients based on research and practical application.

The Youth Fitness Specialist can be confident in getting results.

Reason #2: A Youth Fitness Specialist is Marketable – Be the Go-To Coach

Look around your community, do you know any Youth Fitness Specialists? It’s likely that there are very few that specialize with kids. Specializing can differentiate you from other coaches and trainers in the area.

Of course, becoming the go-to trainer takes a lot more than a certification, but becoming a Youth Fitness Specialist will give you the tools and resources to prove just why you ARE the go-to trainer in your area.

Use the credential to expand your programming, coach athletes in the way they need to be coached and build a network of trusting clients.

Reason #3: A Youth Fitness Specialist Can Educate Others

Probably the most important thing you can be when working with kids is a “student”. Simply put, coaches should never stop learning.

One of the greatest benefits of becoming a Youth Fitness Specialist (or in educating yourself on any topic), is that you can educate others. Answering the “whys” of youth fitness and performance is an important component of any coach’s job.

Educate yourself so you can educate others.

Julie Hatfield

Want to Become a Youth Fitness Specialist?

Become a Youth Fitness Specialist today for $100 OFF.

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3 Easy Ways to Grow Your Fitness Business this Summer

Growing Your Business this Summer

Step outside and take a deep breath…hopefully you are getting the first sniff of that summer air. Then it hits you. This is the time of year where all craziness breaks loose.

You know what I mean. Routines are on the brink of being completely thrown out of the window and your beach-going clients and vacation craving kids leave your facility, making it look like a ghost town. Or maybe it is quite the opposite.

Either way, this time of year is a time of opportunity and growth for any performance trainer.

3 Easy Ways to Grow Your Business this Summer

Option #1: Host a Summer Camp

friends-1084598_640Now this one may seem obvious, but I wanted to throw it out there.

Hosting a summer camp is a great way to keep your programs exciting. It isn’t out of the question to earn $10k+ in a week of summer camps, if done right.

Check out our Camp & Clinic Checklist to get started today.

Option #2: Be a Guest at a Summer Camp

This is a favorite. Guest speaking and attending summer camps in your area not only builds relationships, but it is a networking opportunity that can’t be turned down.

You don’t have to recreate the wheel. Be a guest at a sport-specific camp and provide them with a multi-sport training approach. It is a Win-Win for all!

Pro Tip: Start researching local camps now!


Option #3: Host an Event

Hosting your own event is a great way to get the old and the new through your doors. Think outside of the box:

  • A summer camp or clinic
  • Take a trip with your athletes
  • Bring in special guests
  • Host a day of fun that will provide parents with a day that they don’t have to worry about childcare

Walt Disney once said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” 

No matter which option you may choose (one of the above or something else!), try something new this summer to grow your fitness business.

Want to Minimize the Work in Planning for Camps and Clinics?

Some people may enjoy the novice approach of figuring out on their own, and that’s ok! But if you want a tried-and-true system for planning a camp or clinic, download our FREE Camp & Clinic Checklist today to help you get started.

Download FREE Checklist