7 ways to attract younger generations to your sports performance center

A sports performance center is a great way for health systems to expand their reach to a younger, more fitness-focused population. Though these centers benefit people of all ages, athletes, weekend warriors, and fitness enthusiasts usually form the core client base.

And if you’re looking to appeal to a younger crowd, there are two groups you should focus on: millennials and Generation Z. When combined, the two groups outnumber baby boomers and Generation X. But what appealed to older populations doesn’t interest today’s youthful client base.

“Younger generations are gravitating toward edgier, more innovative types of fitness, such as CrossFit, boot camps, and small group training,” says Amanda Radochonski, senior director of business and operations at EXOS. “That edginess is often lost when it’s within the hospital environment.”

Sports performance centers can be used to overcome this challenge by attracting youthful, health-focused clients who will use your facility for years to come. Use these strategies to help position your facility as a top, modern training program in sports.

1. Create a social media strategy.

It’s always beneficial to engage the community, but the methods companies are using to engage with potential customers have changed enormously over the last decade.

These days, it’s important to stay up-to-the-minute with platforms like Instagram and Facebook that allow you to broadcast your offerings widely to younger generations. “It’s all about social media with these younger generations, and it has to be powerful since you only have a short amount of time to get someone’s attention,” says Radochonski.

“Action shots and images with personality behind them appeal to younger clients,” says Josh Adams, performance manager at EXOS. “They want to see people having fun, being pushed, and working hard, and health systems shouldn’t be afraid to let that personality and culture come through.”

2. Build community.

When it comes to attracting younger generations, emphasizing the community component of health and fitness is a must. Most young people don’t want to spend time just on the treadmill or doing bicep curls alone in front of the mirror. “The generations you’re trying to appeal to are drawn to the physical and mental benefits of exercise, but a lot of it also has to do with the social aspect,” says Adams. “You want to create a family or team type of environment.”

Younger generations are gravitating toward edgier, more innovative types of fitness.

3. Change the layout.

The big box gym atmosphere — huge facilities, machines everywhere, not much open space — just doesn’t cut it for a younger crowd. Modern gyms are rethinking space and equipment to work with trends such as bodyweight workouts and group and interval training. “To facilitate a more athletic style of training, move the machines to the sidelines of your sports performance business and incorporate open space to allow for small group classes and movement,” says Adams. This format also allows for more personal interaction, which younger clients like and translates to the playing field.

4. Don’t forget about nutrition.

Younger clients are often savvier than their parents about healthy eating, but they’re still looking for guidance, especially when it comes to how nutrition can improve performance. “Today’s athletes are always looking to learn more about how to eat clean, fuel correctly, and feel energized,” says Radochonski. “Having sports dietitians on hand to speak about pre- and post-workout fueling, supplements, and healthy eating will help draw that younger crowd.”

5. Integrate tech.

Younger generations live on screens and expect to have access where they live, work, shop, eat, and sweat. Online scheduling systems, training software (such as BridgeAthletic), and apps that help them track their goals even when they’re not at the fitness center (such as EXOS Journey) are key. Still, you can’t just hand people off completely to tech. “At EXOS, we think of in-person interaction being supported by technology, not the other way around,” says Radochonski.

Data provides an objective story that young clients can use when sharing their progress on social media.

6. Track the data.

At medical fitness centers, coaches and other clinicians are gathering data to share with doctors. While you’re often not reporting back to a physician at a sports performance center, data is still vital, especially when you’re working with millennials. “Besides tracking health stats like resting heart rate and blood pressure, you should also track body composition and trends in strength and power,” says Adams. “The data provides an objective story that young clients can use when sharing their progress on social media.”

7. Take the worldview.

Besides wanting to be part of a community and being more culturally aware, younger generations are also socially active and concerned about the environment and sustainability. Policies that emphasize energy conservation, recycling, and organic materials will appeal to clients who try to align their activities with their values. For example, provide recycling bins throughout the center, use cloth instead of paper towels in the locker room, or invest in a digital system for signing waivers.

Looking for help designing or managing a sports performance center? Find out how EXOS can help.

About the Author

Janet Lee

Janet Lee, L.Ac., DACM, is a health journalist whose work has appeared in Self, Shape, Real Simple, Consumer Reports, SKI, and Cosmopolitan, among other publications.

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