Bored with the mainstream clientele of 78 million baby boomers, many trainers are looking for something more in their training profession to challenge them. A new wave of training specialist has surfaced over the past few years, and trainers across the country are looking to step into the arena of training athletes. The titles "Sport-Specific Training Specialist" or "Trainer of Elite Athletes" are headings we see now attached to many trainers' names.

Is the sport training world a specialized arena that only a few can expand their business to - or is the market open territory for everyone?

Trainers who are looking to get into the athletic market need to understand that there is a difference between marketing and building a business to train youth, high school, college and elite athletes and establishing a training business for general clients.

Be Specific
A person looking to improve their overall fitness and health can look to
a variety of trainers with a variety of backgrounds. In the athletic market, many times an athlete, a parent of an athlete or the support team that deals with athletes are looking for a trainer that has a specialized niche (e.g. a speed training coach) or a trainer that has a specialty in a certain sport (e.g. a performance coach that works with soccer players).

When dealing with a person looking to improve their fitness or overall health, many times setting up a general structured program over a long period will help them see improvements. With athletes, specific training goals need to be established in the short period of preparation time that the athlete has. In some cases, a trainer may only have a few weeks to:
  1. Build a bond with their athletic client
  2. Work on specific areas that the athlete wants to improve on
  3. Pinpoint the areas that need to be worked on during training sessions
  4. Understand periodization and the phase and cycle that the athlete is in during their workouts with the trainer

A huge key here is to help build trust, a bond and credibility with athletes. Many times "performance specialists" aren't professional trainers at all but past athletes who feel they have an understanding of the sport and how to train others that are doing sports. This isn't to say that past athletes who have taken the time to develop their craft and become professional trainers cannot be great trainers.

Just because someone has competed in an activity, however, doesn't make them an expert to give out training advice. I've worked on my car engine before - that doesn't make me a mechanic! To build the credibility in the athletic field, you need to find athletes that you can work with. The key is to offer them something they cannot refuse.

Offer Complimentary Sessions
A great starting point to train athletes is to offer your services to some of the top athletes in your area - high school, college or even the elite person that may live in your community - for free. Once you have one of the top athletes coming to you for training, you also set up an agreement that you can use their image (if it follows regulating agencies guidelines), testimonials and name as marketing.

An example of this was when I set up a "Six Week Vertical Jump Improvement Program." I had one of the top volleyball players in the area come in for a free six-week program. Word got out that she participated in a program at our facility that helped her increase her vertical jump, and she was signed by a Division program. Over the next month, more than 16 young ladies also signed up for the program, and that number doubled the following year. By offering a free session to one top athlete, we positioned ourselves as a facility that trained volleyball players and helped improve a specific area in training. From this, we were also able to expand to female and male basketball athletes that also wanted the benefits of a sport-specific training program.

Visit Summer Sport Camps
Another avenue to build up credibility and put yourself in a position as a leader in the sport market is to offer your services to a number of sport camps in the area. Speak with the local coaches that are putting together summer camps and let them know that you would be available to come in to do a session on speed training, dynamic warm-up, power development, plyometrics or other areas that you feel comfortable teaching and sharing your expertise on. Most coaches are looking for something to boost their camp and their program.

By getting in with a camp, you set yourself up in a few different ways:
  1. You gain instant credibility with the athletes because their coach is bringing you in.
  2. You get your name and face in the front of dozens of athletes who are looking to improve their performance and are committed to doing something extra - other-wise, they wouldn't be at camp.
  3. You give kids some good advice and drills they can use to improve, and you become an instant expert to them and their parents.
  4. You get permission to collect names, numbers and email addresses to contact the athletes and parents. Let them know of your services and how you came about getting their information. For example: "I did a speed training session at John's camp this past week and wanted to tell you what a great job he did! If you would ever have any questions about John's training program, you can contact me at the address below."
  5. You begin to build a relationship with the coaches, parents and athletes in the area. Let the coach know that you are available to help with their program and would be available if they ever need anything that would benefit what they are doing.

Study Periodization
Another important aspect of training an athlete is to gain a great understanding of periodization, or putting together a long-term plan of training. The higher the level of competition the athlete is at, the greater the need to have a long-term plan in place, along with weekly and monthly plans that vary intensity, volume, density of training, exercise selection and type of training modalities.

The more training the athlete has, the more specific a trainer must be to bring about desired results. When dealing with athletes, the window of adaptability is very narrow, and specific parameters must be in place to help an athlete improve their performance.

While athletic training isn't an easy specialization, the time will be well worth the effort for those looking to not only step onto the field but compete for the top prize!

Mark Roozen is Owner and President of Performance Edge Training Systems in Texas ( and works with Day of Champions Sports Camps. Mark holds a masters degree in education, is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with Distinction and has served on a number of committees through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), currently sitting on the Board of Directors for the organization. Contact him at