It doesn’t matter if you’re opening the next Tempest Freerunning Academy or building a budget basement Russian gym – if you have dope challenges and word gets out then the athletes are gonna come to conquer them. At some point in your business an athlete is going to ask if they can train at your facility for free. Now when they come you are tasked with answering a very important question: where does the value truly lie? Is it in the cost you charge for open gym or the free marketing and content opportunity you are given by welcoming a traveling athlete to use your gym to hone their craft? Let’s talk about it more down below while you consider your own ideal gym culture.
You went through lots of trouble to build your gym and a business needs to make money. But within our community there exists the desire to travel and better oneself in the same environments as our peers in the sport. However there are circumstances where it may make more sense for you to barter with an athlete than simply swipe their credit card. A good entrepreneur may see the value in an opportunity to charge all those embarking on parkour pilgrimages. But perhaps a great entrepreneur understands the value of a media partnership with an influencer inside your community outweighs a one time purchase.
A traveling athlete may use your gym once or twice a year if you’re lucky or well located. Say that’s worth about $30 total income for your business. It also clearly establishes a dynamic between you and the traveling athlete – having to be sold rather than welcomed. Now unless you’re Apex School of Movement I know you’re not curating enough user generated content from the people who train at your gym. If you think that you create enough media for your business you’re wrong, and if you turn away opportunities to create high quality collaborations for “free” then you’re just silly. Let the eager train.
Let’s run a completely hypothetical scenario real quick. 10 traveling athletes visit your gym twice a year – at the aforementioned rate that should net you up to about $300 in revenue. But if it costs a couple hundred dollars to make a few pieces of content for your business then earning income from those 10 athletes is not the most efficient way to break even. One year long membership fee from an inspired local athlete is worth considerably more than all 10 biannual visits combined. In fact even charging 100 traveling athletes biannually earns you about what 3 yearly memberships do. But for the 3 local athletes that happen to be training the same days as the other 100 – it’s priceless.
That takes us back again to the question of what type of gym culture you want to create. You can rule with an iron fist and charge everyone in sweatpants to use your facility, or you can be open to the idea that there may be more value in people than in just dollars. Assuming your 100 guest athletes make at least a short Instagram video from their visits you’ll now have access to several hours worth of training footage on your obstacles. Within those several hours of media are hundreds of challenges that can influence how your local community trains in their home environment. But you have to see the value.
You do not currently have the budget to pay a media team several thousand a month to film and edit what goes on in your gym (do it if you do). What you do have is an engaged audience of capable athletes that know how to use cameras well enough to make content. The limits of that content lie only within the limits of your own imagination. Do you have students struggling with a certain type of challenge? Making them a Google Doc with several other athletes footage of the same challenge would be valuable for them no? If you don’t have it already, your waiver should have a media clause so you can use the footage that others film at your gym (with proper credit and permission of course).
Perhaps there is an argument against the entitlement of athletes within the inner community that believe they deserve to train for free. But I believe that the numbers speak for themselves, it is worth more for you to have talented people training and filming in your gym than it’s worth to charge them to train. No doubt you should clearly structure any deal you are making with individuals using your facilities for free. If you want to create a culture of respect and mutual gain you have to build it yourself. But the world of tomorrow is built in media blips and sound clips, are you prepared to compete?
Run the numbers. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to let traveling athletes in for big national events for free. But a random Tuesday open gym is gonna be popping if your 3 locals get to throw down with a group of athletes they’ve only ever interacted with via Instagram.
You get to decide the culture that your community reflects and respects.
Do you want them to work with you like a team or just lead them like a sheep?
So you tell me. Should you charge traveling athletes to train at your gym?
Thanks so much for reading everyone. This article deals with a topic that is close to heart for many athletes that feel ostracized from their own community within gym culture. But regardless how you choose to charge the athletes that walk through your doors, that decision will reflect upon the culture and audience you cultivate. It is my opinion that value of a stimulated local community via a constant influx of traveling community vastly outweighs the short term gain of charging those athletes to train in your gym. I would love to hear more opinions and statistics one way or the other on this topic. I hope it provides an interesting conversation for you and your community to ponder together.