At my facility this past summer, I was lucky enough to have the privilege of coaching 40 different athletes four times a week. This was double the amount of kids that I was responsible for the previous summer, so it was really exciting to watch the business grow. With the amount of kids that we saw this past summer, it was really critical that we continued to deliver the results that have made us successful so far, which is getting kids bigger, stronger, and faster and teaching excellent exercise technique in a positive, competitive atmosphere. One thing that has always stuck in my mind was a quote from Mike Boyle—“The biggest compliment you can receive as a strength coach is having someone else train your athletes and be really impressed with how they lift.” That may not have been it exactly but close enough.

The first thing I noticed about the groups we had this summer were how new they were to training. Out of 40 kids, about 25 of them were beginners in every sense of the word. We had a large number of kids who couldn’t do five decent push-ups or a single pull-up. They didn’t even know where to begin for a body weight squat. It became critical to me that these kids leave having mastered the basics. In addition to that, I wanted to teach them how to Olympic lift and trapbar deadlift as well as be able to perform a host of other movements.

As a staff, we tackled these problems by first focusing on reps. The kids wouldn’t magically get better at these movements unless we hammered away with some practice. So I stole something from Dan John—if it’s important, do it every day. Often times, in a two-hour session, the warm up took 30 minutes. We performed it four times a week and it included high knee walks, high knee skips, high knee runs, single leg deadlift walks, reverse lunges with a reach, backward runs, overhead spidermans (Eric Cressey), and wall marches (glute activation) or glute bridges.

Twice a week, we also did 3 X 5 pull-ups, hockey stick overhead squats, and 3 X 10 push-ups. On the other two days, after the eight to twelve dynamic drills, we did a 3 X 5 clean/front squat combination. Beginners used a piece of aluminum fencepost, and the stronger kids used an empty bar. It was absolutely stunning to see the quality of reps that we had in the last week of the program.

It’s important that you don’t allow any subpar reps on things like push-ups and pull-ups. You really have to stress this and enforce it from the beginning so that five crappy pull-ups in the second week don’t turn into 10 crappy pull-ups in the tenth week. I would rather see two good ones turn into eight good ones.

Another thing that became important to the program this summer was building some competition into each week. Some of the things we did were to make teams out of the groups and have them compete in tennis ball drop drills or relay races. On Thursdays, the second hour was circuit style training where the teams competed to see how much work they could accumulate. We kept the exercises basic so we could monitor form and not allow fatigue to affect technique.

I also learned some valuable lessons on the business end that I want to share. Hopefully, these tips will make managing your own facility and/or business a little easier.

  1. Collecting payments: You will always have three different kinds of customers. One kind will either pay in full on the first day or get their checks in on time every month. The second kind will need anywhere from one to four reminders that they owe money for the current month, and the third kind will come and train for three weeks, quit, and not pay anything at all. In my experience, in a three-month summer session, the first month will be the largest by far in terms of revenue, with customers paying in full and then quitting in the second or third month. The revenue will taper off in the second and third months but your expenses won’t. It’s very helpful if you know this ahead of time and can plan for it.
  1. Cash management: Keep an accurate record of everything. Often times, at the end of a couple months, I logged on to check the business balance and was baffled at where all of the money went. I had to go back and rifle through receipts, sticky notes, and spreadsheets to figure it out. Get it right the first time by having a system in place for logging everything.
  1. Daily tasks: In my experience, certain things had to take a backseat during the summer months. Between writing articles and blogs, training, coaching athletes at the facility, writing programs, coaching hockey, and having a social life, some things suffered. For me, it was writing articles and blogs and maintaining a social life that took a backseat during the summer. In order to make sure the quality of the product I was delivering was top notch, I focused on coaching my brains out, and I didn’t have much energy for anything else. I didn’t plan for this. It just sort of happened.
  1. Staff: This was my first summer having three interns/staffers. I did a horrible job at training them for their roles. I made sure they were excellent at performing their tasks as strength and conditioning coaches and were able to coach lifts, correct technique, and keep a group on schedule. However, I didn’t set expectations for things like answering phones, dealing with parents, building relationships, making sales, cleaning the facility, and taking care of other things I hadn’t planned for. The next time around I will need to do a better job of training the staff to accomplish these things.

Miscellaneous: I had some trouble with my next door neighbors during the summer months with things like music volume, parking, bouncing things off walls, and yelling. If you own a facility or plan on opening one, make sure you plan for increased volume of clients and everything that comes with that.