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In-House or Off-the-Shelf?

Either way, sport-specific training has arrived in a big way 


What does it take for a 10-year-old, or a high school athlete, or a college sports star to excal at baseball, football, soccer, or some other sport?

Or for a weekend warrior to play their favorite games? For a semi-pro or professional athlete to achieve elite status? For an older individual to remain physically active?

And, importantly, how can they do so safely, without running the risk of injury?

What it may take is greater flexibility and increased upper-body strength ... the ability to sprint and change direction quickly ... proficiency in running, jumping, crouching, lateral movement, torso rotation, throwing, kicking, and punching.

Conferring these and other skills is the defining objective of sport-specific training, which is designed to improve performance in “athletes” of every age and at every level of experience. 

Generally speaking, such regimens focus on the movements and energy systems involved in a particular sport. Among the many issues they address are strength, speed, power, endurance, flexibility, mobility, agility, mental preparedness (including goal setting), recovery/regeneration techniques and strategies, sleep habits, nutrition, rehabilitation, and prehabilitation to reduce the risk of injury.

Sport-specific offerings appeal not only to those who make use of them, but also to parents and coaches. As a result, they’ve been steadily growing in popularity, and are now available at a wide variety of health, fitness, sports, and athletic venues, including many IHRSA facilities. Among the latter are the Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club (GATC), in Denver, Colorado; and the Memorial Athletic Club and Aquatic Center (MAC), in Houston, Texas.

In both instances, these clubs were determined to differentiate themselves from the competition. And, in both cases, sport-specific did the job. 

But to get where they wanted to go, each pursued a different path. GATC developed its own program from scratch, while MAC chose an off-the-shelf package developed and marketed by the Parisi Speed School (PSS), a franchiser based in Wyckoff, New Jersey. “Determining which course to pursue comes down to determining which approach will make your facility ‘the place to go to’ for sport-specific training in your area,” counsels Paula Neubert, the president and general manager of GATC.


GATC is a 153,000-square-foot wellness complex, located in the Greenwood Village district of South Denver, with an impressive list of amenities and programs. It boasts seven indoor clay tennis courts, a 9,600-square-foot weight room, a 32,000-square-foot outdoor aquatics area, more than 130 weekly group fitness classes, and 23 nationally certified personal trainers.

Neubert notes that, while GATC does fitness “really, really well,” creating a successful sport-specific program involved a lot of time, effort, patience, and, yes, aggravation. She and her team had tried a number of approaches, but the resulting programs never generated a great deal of interest. “Honestly, it’s very hard to do this type of training well,” she says. “Nothing ever worked as well as we’d hoped.”

Although frustrated, she didn’t give up. “I knew that sport-specific training expands the range of people that a club attracts,” she explains. “That, in turn, makes it an obvious revenue-generator. ... So we just kept on trying.”

Fortunately, the trial-and-error method, though arduous and, occasionally, tedious, was also educational. “By thinking about what had failed, I eventually came to understand how important it was to find and fill a niche,” she says. “We’d just been copying trends. What we needed to do was to offer something that nobody else was doing.”

What that meant, in South Denver, was creating a proper space, staffing it appropriately, and outfitting it with the special equipment required. GATC began by acquiring three unique pieces: a high-speed treadmill (up to 30 mph) for acceleration training that offers a 30% incline; a hip machine with a 580-pound weight stack; and a jump machine with a 980-pound weight stack. “These machines are unlike anything that anyone else has in this area,” Neubert points out.

The equipment was provided by Perform-X Training Systems, based in Colorado, which is currently letting GATC use the items on a “test” basis. “So, for now, they’re free,” she indicates. “If everything works out, we’ll purchase them next year.” A specialized, companion circuit routine, Action-X, was acquired from a Perform-X subsidiary.

A number of other companies, including IHRSA associate members, also offer sport-specific training equipment. Among them: Perform Better, of Cranston, Rhode Island; Power Systems, Inc., of Knoxville, Tennessee; SPRI Products, Inc., of Libertyville, Illinois; TRX, of San Francisco; Twist Conditioning, Inc., of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; and ViPR, also of Denver.

“It took about six weeks to get everything up and running,” Neubert reports. “The 1,200-square-foot space, formerly a group fitness area, was outfitted with turf, and we brought in an engineer to make sure the floor could support the equipment, which is much heavier than normal. And we’ve got a team of skilled and certified trainers, who, we’ve made sure, have been properly educated with respect to sport-specific.”

GATC’s new training program, introduced in June, is sold in packages of eight sessions, at a cost of $30 per class for members, and $35 for nonmembers, with payment due one month in advance. “We quickly sold out our first class,” she says, “and had to add more—it’s been that popular.” The club currently offers three classes per week, each of which meets twice a week, and intends to launch more soon.

The classes are limited to five or six students each to ensure personalized attention. Neubert is convinced that the program will attract many of the current members who, generally, haven’t participated in the club’s other nondues programs. “For instance, we have a family with teenage athletes,” she says. “They’ve probably been involved in sport-specific training elsewhere, but now, with this program, we’re hopeful that they’ll train with us.”

Another bit of wisdom that Neubert acquired via trial and error is that consistent and well-timed promotions are essential. “One of the other big lessons I learned is that marketing matters a lot.”

To promote their new venture, GATC has, for example, teamed with members of the Denver Broncos. “We’ve been able to have them do some workouts here at the club, which has generated lots of excitement and interest,” she says.

“During the summer,” she continues, “our advertising is aimed at kids. In the case of adults, we’ll choose a specific sporting event, cycling or a triathlon, perhaps, and then target them in the off-season when they’re looking to build their conditioning base. We do this with testimonials and demonstrations—it’s a great hook.” 


Like GATC, MAC, a 50,000-square-foot facility with a lush complement of amenities—racquetball courts, indoor and outdoor pools, a state-of-the-art cardiovascular center and weight room, and nutrition counseling—was eager to acquire an extra edge over its competition.

And, as in the case of GATC, it found what it needed in sport-specific training. Having decided that it wanted to introduce a program, the club considered a number of options. “We looked at a variety of prepackaged programs," recalls General Manager David Cardone, “and even considered creating our own system.” Six years ago, though, MAC chose to sign on as a franchisee of the Parisi Speed School (PSS), which currently has more than 75 locations in 26 states.

“Colleagues that I’d met through IHRSA had recommended PSS, so I checked it out,” says Cardone. “I wasn’t able to find another system that had the same depth. Plus, I was impressed by Bill Parisi, the company’s founder and CEO, and his team.

“All things considered—including an investment of between $75,000 and $90,000 for the equipment and materials required to outfit the 3,000-square-foot space we’d selected—there was no way we could have developed a comparable program of our own.”

Among the other providers of franchised sport-specific packages are Athletic Republic, of Park City, Utah; Catz Sports Performance, Needham, Massachusetts; House of Speed, Sugar Grove, Illinois; Twist Conditioning, Inc., Burlington, Ontario, Canada; Velocity Sports Performance, Costa Mesa, California; and VERT Fitness, Great Neck, New York.

Once it launched its program, MAC quickly became the leader in athletic training in its market. “It was nearly an instantaneous gain for us,” reports Cardone. “We never had to waste time trying to figure things out for ourselves. Today, our clients anticipate having an experience unlike that offered anywhere else.” 

The PSS assortment of services continues to drive the program’s success, Cardone attests. “Every year, with the PSS name behind us, and as we gain more exposure by offering clinics according to their guidelines, we see more growth. Participants get such great results that they become repeat customers and refer their friends.

“We’re currently averaging more than 200 clients per month, and seeing gross monthly revenues of about $25,000,” he continues. “Also, it’s worth noting that our general membership numbers have climbed by about 300 over the past five years—from approximately 3,700 to 4,000.”

The majority of those clients are in the 7–14 age group, though teens and adults participate, too. “Our primary target is the youngsters in that bracket,” says Parisi. “There are more than 20 million kids participating in sports in this age group. Most clubs are just going after the high school athlete, but there are only 8 million in that category.

“The 7–14 cohort is a huge missed opportunity.”

One of MAC’s goals in pursuing sport-specific was to tap into that promise. “We wanted to better target the youth market—the kids too old for daycare and too young for general membership,” Cardone explains. “PSS has taught us how to market to and effectively work with this demographic. Before, our membership was a fairly mature crowd composed of a lot of baby boomers, but now, a fresh, younger population is coming in.

“Our whole business is so much better since we added this program,” he concludes.  


Product Showcase

It takes a lot of knowledge, skill, patience—and the right equipment—to motivate and prepare a client for a specific sport or activity that requires speed, strength, and agility. These IHRSA associate members can help. 

For more information, or to contact any of these companies, visit



Clubs and fitness professionals that want to offer one of the most in-demand workouts around should consider the P90X Certification, which instructs fitness professionals about the moves, the science, and the nutrition that have helped millions of people get into the best shape of their lives. With built-in buzz from infomercials, Facebook fans, and satisfied users, getting the P90X Certification can help make clubs more profitable than ever—especially when certified trainers join the Pro Team. This certification has been designed exclusively to help top professionals take their business to an elite level. 



Consider the Spinner Blade ION, which can revitalize a club’s Spinning program with power-based training. Clubs that incorporate this type of training within their Spinning programs can provide members with science-based training principles for individual weight loss, fitness, performance goals, and tangible results. The Blade ION takes the proven accuracy of strain gauge technology and combines it with the highest level of power-based education. Power meter innovation has proven effective in maximizing training efficiency and enhancing fitness and performance results for cyclists of all levels. 



The Hammer Head Anchor Gym PRO Configuration is a wall-mounted exercise system designed to anchor resistance bands, suspension straps, large loop bands, and stretch straps. By providing the platform for four training protocols, the Hammer Head Anchor Gym PRO delivers hundreds of exercise options in a single location. Made of all steel components, the Anchor Gym is a space-saving powerhouse capable of supporting up to 300 lbs. of resistance. Few other training systems deliver the versatility and value of the Hammer Head Anchor Gym PRO. 


TRX, the creator of Suspension Training bodyweight exercise, has recently introduced TRX TEAM Blocks and TRX TEAM Camps, two programs that have been customized to help commercial facilities of any size attract, engage, and retain members. Both offer best-in-class marketing and programming support. The TRX TEAM program delivers authentic, small-group, and boot camp–style workouts that may be fee-based, and that are fun, engaging, and highly effective. TRX also provides hands-on education, comprehensive marketing, and launch and post-launch support, as well as personalized account management, to help ensure the program’s success. 



BILT by Agassi & reyes is a proprietary arsenal of fitness equipment featuring innovative technologies, including the unique C.O.D. Machine. This unit, which combines weight resistance and movement, allows users to move laterally against resistance and perform squatting/ knee-bend movements—along with lateral movements, such as side, shuffle, or skip steps. In addition, IntelliLift, a proprietary, spring-enhanced, weight-stack system, provides a higher level of efficiency and intensity. Now members no longer have to choose between working out harder and working out safer. 



Jacobs Ladder is a patented commercial cardiovascular machine designed for athletes and fitness professionals and enthusiasts. Its unique design places the user at a 40-degree angle, placing the spine in a more neutral position, thus reducing stress on the back. Jacobs Ladder is self-paced and also self-powered, eliminating the need for a plug. The unit’s full 12” step, which affords a fuller range of motion, combined with its upper-body movement, allows Jacobs Ladder to raise the heart rate faster than nearly anything else on the market today. 



The innovative and premium design of the Precor Adaptive Motion Trainer (AMT) 885 now offers the Open Stride feature. This single piece of equipment fully engages exercisers of all fitness levels with an infinite range of stride paths to create a uniquely effective low-impact workout, making every workout a personalized experience. With a stride length of zero to 91 cm (36 inches) and a stride height range of 17 to 25 cm (6.8 inches to 10 inches), exercisers enjoy cardio variety with no need to change machines. 



NETA training is invaluable. NETA-Certified Personal Trainers are equipped with the knowledge to “move” clients toward their most desired fitness goals. NETA’s two-day exam preparation workshop covers the exercise sciences, health and fitness assessments, nutrition and weight management, guidelines for exercise programming, effective communication skills, and principles of behavioral change—and includes NETA’s NCCA-accredited certification exam. A “test-only” option is also available at over 500 Comira Testing Centers located across the U.S. 



For over 15 years, Hampton Fitness Products has remained at the cutting edge of innovative free-weight design. By listening to the needs expressed by club owners and addressing the issues that benefit their businesses the most, Hampton Fitness has been able to provide valuable solutions. The urethane-coated JELLY-BELL aerobic dumbbell, urethane-coated GEL-BARS, and urethane-coated GEL-Pump-System all deliver what club owners want. Every Hampton Fitness product is backed by a five-year commercial warranty. 

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