Finding the right fitness instructors can be a challenge for campus rec centers — trainers with the right combination of people skills and training qualifications typically don’t just walk in off the street.
You might not realize, however, that the perfect instructors for your students are already part of your rec center staff. Hiring in-house instructors who are already passionate about fitness and share your vision can help enhance the culture of your rec center.
The University of Northern Iowa has followed this principle for years, primarily promoting student staff members to instructor positions. This is accomplished through a training program that provides education and employment opportunities for students.
“We offer a semester-long instructor training program for group exercise and personal training, and we utilize ACE curriculum — we promote it as a prep course to take the [training] exam,” said Dana Foster, the fitness and personal training coordinator at UNI. “Many students have taken the exam after completing the course, but it is not required to be an instructor for UNI Rec Services.”
And the longevity of the in-house training program has proven to be an important component. “Although it takes a lot of time and resources to offer the in-house training program — which includes both lecture and practical training — it follows our mission to educate and provide leadership opportunities for the students that goes beyond their four years at our university,” said Foster.
By placing students in instructor positions, the UNI group training classes have become better experiences for students and trainers alike.
“The in-house training program gives me an opportunity to work closely with the student to better understand what their strengths and weaknesses are being a group instructor,” said Foster. “I can then focus and fine-tune these skills, and place them in classes that best fit their abilities and personalities.”
Using in-house instructors hasn’t come without its challenges for UNI, however. “Scheduling and fitting the right instructor with the perfect fitness class schedule for your customers is hard because these are college students who have classes, as well as other part-time jobs and activities,” said Foster. “I have to work around schedules each semester. And then finding instructors in the summer is also always a challenge.”
In spite of any challenges with scheduling and finding the right fit in classes, UNI is going to stay the course hiring in-house instructors. The system for doing so has helped developed countless students during their time on campus.
“Teaching group fitness is as much about good people and motivational skills as it is about teaching exercise,” said Foster. “It’s about developing young people with skills beyond teaching fitness classes no matter what their major is.”