Editor's Desk - March 2011
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Say It Ain't So…

Things don't look the same from a different point of view. And sometimes you need someone to pull back Oz's curtain to help you get a better idea of how things work—and how they should work.

On page 24 of this issue, you'll find a feature story looking at some of the latest trends in fitness and exercise, as compiled by leading fitness associations American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. From boot camps to specialized classes for specific age groups, the industry continues to evolve. And this isn't going to change. In an effort to get more patrons in the door, fitness clubs and other facilities must constantly do the necessary research and adapt to the latest trends—or be left in the dust.

And this is how I've always thought of fitness and recreation facilities: Well-meaning entrepreneurs and public officials who really want to get the public moving and grooving its way to better health and a longer life.

But then a few weeks ago, a friend sent a blog post penned by Jonathan Fields, titled "Making Money from Quitters." (You can read the post, too, by visiting www.jonathanfields.com/blog/making-money-from-quitters/.)

In this post, Fields talks about how one of the cornerstones, in terms of moneymaking, of the fitness industry is the members who pay every month but don't bother to show up. He even pointed to people who've paid for personal training sessions and stop coming.

And while Fields gives a nod to personal responsibility and offers up several other caveats, he ultimately questions whether the fitness clubs are doing something wrong that is leading people to pay but not show up.

"As much as the mainstream fitness industry claims publicly to be working like crazy to figure out how to up participation and retention," Fields writes, "fact is very few providers have made even the slightest dent in their awful numbers. Because the fundamental model is built on the backs of paying quitters."

Fields uses his post as a call to action, asking the fitness industry in general to think about how it can boost its effectiveness by thinking harder about what members are really looking for.

Fields' post made me stop for a moment to think. While I know for a fact that clubs can make money off of non-attending members (being a bit of a non-attending member myself), I just can't believe that this is the way we want things to be.

For one thing, a member who pays but doesn't come in to work out is eventually going to stop paying. What's more, down the road when they're ready, it'll take some pretty hefty motivation to get them back through the doors. And once they're out the doors, what's the story they're going to tell friends and family about membership at a fitness club?

On top of this, I'm still not ready to give up my belief that people working in the fitness industry genuinely want to help people get fit.

I believe in the value of this industry. Am I wrong?

I don't know. So I'm turning the question over to you, readers. Do you think there is—and should there be?—a built-in profit center in members who don't show up? And, what would happen if all of your paying members started showing up on a regular basis?

Let us know what you think by sending an e-mail to editor@recmanagement.com.


Emily Tipping
Editorial Director

Editor's Mailbox

Feel free to drop us a line. Any feedback is great; establishing an industry forum for the open exchange of ideas is even better. So don't be shy with your thoughts, opinions and questions. Any topic is fair game, and no query is too big or too little.

I just wanted to say thank you for the article that was published in the January 2011 issue of Recreation Management. "Play for All: Thinking Outside the Ramp" is a wonderful article that was very well written and touches on a goal many members of our community have been working on for several years.

We are in the process of raising funds to build an accessible playground at our Regional Park, here in Richmond. This process has been slowly moving since 2005. However, in the past year, we have picked up much needed support and funding to help make this dream a reality.

The article highlighted a point that many people looking on the outside would not have thought about. One of the parents who has been involved in the planning process of our playground said, "Why does there have to be a ramp? Why can't we have everything on one level?"

We took the idea and ran with it. We were able to get more features for the budget that we have. Plus, it provided the inclusiveness we were hoping to achieve. Hopefully the grant we are applying for will pan out, and we will receive the remaining funds needed to build this community playground. Your article is a great reference point for the grant application. Thank you!

Erin Moore
Assistant Director
Richmond Parks & Recreation Dept.
Richmond, Ky.

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