Ask the Expert: Group X

University of South Florida St. Petersburg

The expert advice to answer your most pressing questions. This month, Casey Plastek, the assistant director at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, shares advice on Group X.

What are your most popular Group X offerings?

CP: Zumba and yoga, particularly power flow yoga. Based on Qualtrics surveys we distribute after each class, the feedback consistently highlights that playing current music and offering innovative routines paired with a high energy and a personable instructor are what make them top performers on our schedule each semester.

A newer format that made its debut at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg in fall 2018 is the MOVE IT program from Escape Fitness. This high intensity, interval-based program is growing in popularity on our schedule.

How do you choose what Group X programs to offer?

CP: While quite a bit of our selection is dependent on the skill set of our instructors, we also are sure to look at feedback from the surveys collected after each class from the previous semester. That feedback ranges from instructor style, length of classes, time of day and facility functionality. We also take into consideration offering a variety of classes that engage students in multiple dimensions of wellness, not just the physical realm.

When looking to start a Group X program, what are the top three things you take into consideration?

CP: First, a climate and needs assessment of your current community will be influential to determine what programs you should be considering. Second, assessing your space and equipment is paramount to ensure you can effectively deliver a new format. Third, addressing marketing and budgetary needs to support a program is critical.

What makes a Group X program successful?

CP: Aside from large class sizes, a successful group fitness program can engage patrons in multiple dimensions of wellness, not just physical and should help bridge the gap between campus recreation and wellness. A strong program will foster a sense of commitment and dedication to overall wellness.

Another avenue to defining success is instructor and occupational engagement. Building a program where you have buy-in from instructors with opportunities for continuing education and a platform for them to express their personal style will yield lower turnover and help with consistency.

What is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to overseeing Group X offerings?

CP: No. 1 is determining what is a fad versus a trend so when you are investing time, space, money and personnel into a new format it is sustainable. I think a close second would be staying on top of instructors’ teaching methods and ensuring they align with the department mission and vision.

What is one piece of advice you’d give when it comes to Group X programs?

CP: Keep your finger on the pulse of what your community wants. Stay ahead of gathering that data so you aren’t retroactively trying to justify why you tried a new format or why you invested in different equipment. Incentivizing feedback through a rewards or perks system will help not only to encourage patrons to give feedback, but for your employees to gather it from patrons. 

Heather Hartmann
Heather Hartmann is the editor for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at

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