IHRSA Convention Reignites Gym Owner’s Love for Training

Scott Gillespie of Saco Sport & Fitness recalls the day he rediscovered his passion for training at one of his first IHRSA conventions.

For more than two-thirds of his 37-year career in the health and fitness industry, Scott Gillespie has participated in IHRSA’s Annual International Convention & Trade Show—to excellent effect.

His involvement in the business began in 1982 at Healthtrax International, Inc., where he served as a “fitness technician”—a job title that predated that of personal trainer—at the company’s club in Wakefield, R.I. Over the following decade, he was employed in a number of capacities—e.g., sales management, finance, and general management—at seven different Healthtrax facilities throughout Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Then, 26 years ago, he graduated into the role of club owner, taking over a foreclosed club in Saco, ME. Since then, he’s invested about $2 million in Saco Sport & Fitness.

He’s expanded the property from 17,000 to 25,000 square feet, added brand-new equipment and programming, and, most recently, introduced preventative care.

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Scott Gillespie at Saco Sport & Fitness.

Convention Plays an Important Role

A former member of IHRSA’s board of directors, Gillespie attributes much of his success to the association’s portfolio of products, services, and events, particularly its convention and trade show.

At one of the first conventions he attended, he had the opportunity to meet and ride with Johnny G (Jonathan Goldberg), the creator of Spinning and a serial industry innovator.

“This was 20-plus years ago, when Spinning was brand new. I was a triathlete and pretty competitive, but Johnny G crushed me—his calves were bigger than my quads,” he says with a laugh. “Johnny put his hand on my shoulder, and told me it wasn’t a competition—that I needed to ride for myself.

“He suggested that I try the workout two more times, and I had a catharsis.

“I rediscovered my reasons, and love, for training!”

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IHRSA 2019 attendees pose next to IHRSA signage.

Bringing Lessons Home

As a result of the inspiring interaction on the trade show floor, Gillespie acquired Spinning for Saco Sport & Fitness, making it the first club in northern New England to offer the program.

He also taught Spinning classes at the club for 10 years, and continues to climb on a bike when his schedule permits.

Equally productive encounters and experiences now prompt him to encourage convention attendees to make the most of IHRSA’s two-day trade show. “It’s the single best place to discover where our industry is heading,” he says.

“The easiest way to become obsolete is to stay within your own four walls and think everything’s going to stay exactly the same.”

Always Something New to Learn

Gillespie still appreciates both of the event’s two major components, but his approach, he observes, has shifted slightly. “Today, for me, the most rewarding thing is the camaraderie I enjoy with other people in our business. One of the most under-utilized tools is face-to-face networking.”

For novice and veteran attendees alike, Gillespie recommends walking up to someone new and asking three simple questions: What’s your club like? What are you really good at? What are you struggling with?

“You can get so much out of the conversation,” he says, “and you might learn something valuable that could really help your business.”

“It’s the single best place to discover where our industry is heading.”

Scott Gillespie, Owner

Saco Sport & Fitness - Saco, ME

Gillespie has for years served as a convention speaker, tackling subjects such as membership sales and program development, and he’ll be presenting at IHRSA’s 39th Annual International Convention & Trade Show, taking place March 18–21, in San Diego.

“I’m passionate about the industry’s ability to serve more people,” he says, contemplating the future. “There’s a tremendous growth opportunity in reaching the 40% of the population that’s yet to join our clubs.”

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Jennifer H. McInerney

Jennifer H. McInerney is a contributor to Club Business International.