Hiring degreed. Part 2

By Oscar

Front-line management is where experience and personality counts more than education. “I want my snack bar headed by someone who can cook, but personality is the No. 1 thing I look at. The education is secondary,” says Gainsboro. “If you don’t make members feel warm and fuzzy and comfortable, the technical stuff won’t work.”

In personal experience, I have seen employers hire overqualified individuals for a position (i.e., a fitness floor person with a master’s degree) only to find the new employee soon feels stifled in the position and wants more challenge, more research opportunities, etc., while the frustrated employer wants more programming, more member interaction, more social forwardness. The club can promote the qualifications of its staff but most members, once they join, want a person to whom they can relate. Some of the degree programs in applied sciences attract students who are more interested in the science of physiology and would be best served working in a more clinical setting.

Choosing the right degree

If you are a manager seeking someone for the fitness area of a health club, your best bet is to stick with the sciences (e.g., exercise science, exercise physiology, kinesiology, etc.), but also hire someone with a personality that blends well with your members. Look for additional background in coaching, sports activities, education/teaching of some kind, public speaking, etc. This combination will give you the skills you are seeking along with the member involvement needed for retention.

If you are seeking someone to run social or general recreation programs, sports programs, junior programs, clinics, summer camps, etc., look more toward individuals with volunteer or paid work experience in physical education and/or experience with sports teams. People with backgrounds in education (general) or the hotel/restaurant/hospitality industry also tend to be good at programming and usually have good customer service and planning skills. Degrees for these individuals vary from basic physical education to general education and hospitality sciences, to more specific leadership and human performance, recreation management, program management, etc.

To find someone capable of running programs geared toward special groups, look toward the sports sciences and individuals who may have experience in a specific sport or with a specific group. Candidates who have held internships at a major sport training camp or a physical therapy center would be an exceptional find.

For management of tournaments and promotion of your facility, look for a sports management person or someone with a concentration in business and marketing. This candidate would also probably make a great program director and/or public relations coordinator.

If your membership base is at a corporate site, then your natural choice would be someone with a health promotion background. If you offer medical testing and/or medical referrals, seek someone with additional science background. A recreation background is helpful if your corporation has sports teams (softball, volleyball, tennis, golf, etc.) as the person could coordinate and manage programs and develop the relationships necessary to encourage more people to become involved in your fitness and lifestyle programs.

Jean Dalton, department of kinesiology program coordinator for the exercise and leadership concentration at James Madison University, formed the Exercise Science and Leadership Program six years ago to meet the needs of individuals entering the fitness industry. The department hosts three tracks: the first prepares students for graduate school and includes a medically based curriculum of sciences for those entering the medical field, the second track is based on exercise science and exercise physiology, and includes more lab work, and the third track, which is now attracting 50 percent of the students in the department, is exercise leadership. This track includes work in promotion, program development, motivational techniques, nutrition and health promotion. The teachers in the leadership track have practical experience in the health club/fitness industry and the graduates claim that they feel well prepared to work in any type of fitness environment.

Student expectations

Advisors at this program let students know what they can expect in terms of salary and lifestyle. Kay Yuspeh, owner of The Elite Clubs in Wisconsin, is frustrated that schools appear to be giving students the impression that they will work a 9-to-5, five-day-a-week schedule when they graduate. When the students enter a commercial setting, they are disappointed and sometimes resentful because they are expected to work evenings and weekends (when the clients need them most). Especially when the person is a recent graduate and new to the facility, they are “low man on the totem pole” and must work the least desirable hours, while those with longevity start to accumulate the privilege of working the hours they prefer.

Most school programs include a practicum (part-time experience within a course) and an internship (a full-time experience for eight to 16 weeks at a job site). Even so, some students are still upset when they are asked to help clean equipment or straighten up a floor, file records, organize a walking club or run an exercise class. They are not being taught that these type of duties are essential parts of the job.

If schools are preparing students for the professional world, then why are students so disappointed when they get into the field, and why are so many employers disappointed by the expectations that the graduates have?

Robert W. Patton, a professor of kinesiology in the health promotion and recreation department at the University of North Texas, says that the major deficiency in professional preparation institutions is that faculty are hired as exercise scientists into a tenure system requiring data-based publication in nationally recognized refereed journals. Outlets for publication of exercise science research abound in comparison to those for practical research in the club industry. This perpetuates exercise scientists rather than health fitness practioners in higher education. It also creates a chasm between what is needed in the health fitness industry and what is offered in colleges and universities.

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categoriaBusiness commentoComments Off dataOctober 18th, 2012


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