Abstract The successful YMCA's of the future will capitalize on all the major trends that are occurring. "Health is neither achieved nor compromised in isolation. An individual's health and the health or his or her environment and society are inextricably interrelated." - P. Fabiano
In the early 1980's I heard a presentation by Marilyn Ferguson,
author of the book The Aquarian Conspiracy. Marilyn's
advice was, "There is a major shift coming, from the grass
roots level, in which people will be more concerned about their
health and well-being." Speaking to a fitness leaders audience,
she advised that we "get out in front and pretend you are
leading the way!" The successful fitness leaders have done
As we look to the future of YMCA's and their local Communities,
several major emerging trends must be recognized and, where possible,
these trends must be incorporated into management strategies.
Trend I Diversity Is Reality
Attainment of extensive membership in the future will by necessity
include a diverse population. Diversity in race, religious preference,
sex and sexual preference, age and socioeconomic level will be
an important objective for most YMCAs as we enter the next millennium.
The political, financial, and moral support that YMCAs need to
be successful will depend more than ever on their commitment to
meeting the needs of diverse employees and members. Do the pictures
in your publications and publicity reflect diversity?
Trend II Knowledge to the People: The Information
Age Has Actually Arrived
The emerging and merging technologies of telecommunications, computer
information systems, online services, Internet, expert systems,
high density CD-ROM's and digital TV are creating the most significant
upheaval since the Reformation. It is likely that in the near
future, our YMCA members will know more about their particular
health and fitness needs than the professional staff member working
in the YMCA. Virtual personal trainers will be able to track and
offer suggestions on their clients' progress on a planet-wide
basis. The Internet is expanding the access to millions world
Trend III Opportunity Knocking: Surgeon General's Report
on Physical Activity
The Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health helped kick
off a three decade shift in the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors
of people concerning tobacco. The recently released Surgeon General's
Report on Physical Activity and Health will give the YMCA industry
an enormous opportunity. Even if there is no office of the Surgeon
General a year after the report is released, strategic plans to
leverage the message in the report are worthy of serious consideration.
Trend IV Health is Wealth: The Old Adage is Even More True
While the cost of medical services has not been increasing as
much in the last year or so, elevated medical expenditure is
still one of the grave concerns for business and industry, including
the YMCA industry. Developing or expanding partnerships with
local business and industry clients as well as disease care providers
can improve the bottom line for all participants. Each year more
studies confirm the dollars saved when employees participate in
regular physical activity. How many YMCA CEO's have met with
the CEO of the local hospitals or managed care executives to discuss
how discharge plans could include physical activity options for
the people being discharged?
As more of our citizens achieve senior status, let's compete for
their time and money. Have you noticed how successful the casinos
have been in rounding up seniors to fill their gambling halls
during the day? You could explore activity times with the group
homes, senior living centers and senior apartment complexes.
Often these people have free time that coincides with your less
busy hours. There is excellent research documenting the improved
physical health and mental health when seniors get involved in
weight training. Their numbers are growing each year. The
cover of the Jan-Feb issue of Modern Maturity tells a powerful
Trend V Physical Education Classes on the Decline: Kids
Slipping Out of Shape
The American Health Foundation recently released its 1995 AHF
Child Health Report Card. The report rates the overall health
and health behaviors of America's children. The grade given was
a "D", down from the "C-" grade given in 1994.
Many schools have reduced or eliminated physical education.
Is there a void in your community that you can help fill? Ask
Judi Sheppard Misset why Jazzercise goes into grade schools.
Are you only looking to the next quarter? Your long term survival
depends on the next generation using your YMCA. Have you met
with any PTO or PTA members to explore ways that they can help
encourage children to participate fitness activities after school
or during school hours?
Trend VI Spiritual Hunger Swells Churches: The Body, the
Temple for Your Soul
Many churches have reported increasing membership in recent years.
A greater percentage of church leaders are looking for programs
that have some tangible results for their parishioners. Does
your YMCA have less busy times that would match some of the time
slots that churches have typically scheduled for adult and family
groups? Can your facility compete with the taverns and bars for
recreational league activities?
Trend VII People Tend to be Less Intense about Their Exercise:
Moderation Is In
There is evidence that Americans are exercising less intensely than in our recent past. How are you positioning your YMCA to respond to those who are not interested in maximum effort? Do you have program leaders who appeal to the less fit and less motivated client? I recall one program in New Jersey in which the fitness leaders were selected because the were not models of fitness. Their clients, beginners in fitness, reported that they felt more comfortable and felt that the leader understood their limits better than the super fit, lycra clad , leaders they had previously encountered.
See cover story CBI February 1996
Trend VIII The Science of Understanding Personality Types
Sophisticated YMCA leaders are gaining an appreciation of the
growing science that relates to personality typology. There are
several national training programs that enable people to assess,
by observation and/or paper pencil tests, the various personality
types. One of the simplest to use is the True Colors SM approach
introduced by Don Lowrey. Leafgren and Sullivan have written
Corporate Communications Guide. This guide and
other materials can be used to enhance employee communication
and increase sales. A sales force that can identify types quickly,
can tailor their communication to increase the likelihood the
potential client will join.
Staff communication can be enhanced with modest investments in
training time. We all view the world with the bias of our own
type. One of the original books on typology was entitled Gifts
Differing . As we begin to use the science of types and
preferences in our personal and professional lives, we can increase
our effectiveness and decrease the strife that leads to wasted
time and effort. I have often referred to the Myers-Briggs instrument
as a tool for human understanding. How could typology help you
or your YMCA?
Trend IX Flat Organizations Are In, But Still Need Direction
Self directed or self managed work teams are just one example
of the consequences of the organizational flattening that is occurring
in many businesses and organizations. Many variations of Continuous
Quality Improvement, Total Quality Management or Quality Improvement
exist in modern YMCAs. Implementing self-directed work teams
has improved the service or products in hundreds of settings.
Have you considered how you could experiment with these approaches?
Trend X When It Seems You Might Be Hitting The Wall, Build
Indoor climbing walls are growing in popularity throughout the
nation. In addition, many facilities have expanded their offerings
to include experiential team building activities through the use
of low and high ropes courses. You can become a training facility
for many of the large and small businesses in your area. By offering
people a chance to use your facility, you may gain long term users.
Trend XI Alternative Medicine:
A New Division Within The National Institute of Health
There is a growing interest in and acceptance of the field of Alternative Medicine. What new opportunities does this present for your YMCA? While there is often skepticism among the traditional medical care providers, there is a growing body of knowledge and research that document the benefit of these new (often actually very old) approaches to the pursuit of optimal health.
Yoga, Transcendental Meditation, Relaxation Training, Massage,
and many other activities once thought to be fringe may add to
your members health and your bottom line. Do you have facilities
that are available to support these activities?
Trend XII You Know You Are Good, But How Do You Prove It?
There is a growing trend for service providers to be anointed,
certified, accredited, fellowed, or otherwise approved by this
or that body/organization. This approval or affirmation that
you or your YMCA are in compliance with some set of standards
can increase your credibility, and in some cases decrease your
liability exposure. Standards are available from the National
YMCA office. There is a growing list of employee certification
programs offered by a wide variety of organizations.
While there are some who tend to minimize the importance of having
staff and facilities meeting standards for accreditation, the
paying member/customer will usually opt for the facility or service
that appears to be high quality. The competition for the accrediting
dollars will likely expand over the next five to ten years.
As you assess your YMCA and its perceived professionalism, you
may wish to focus on three main areas.
Facility Do you have a public area that displays the
Health department inspections
Meeting standards of the YMCA of the USA
Staff Does your staff have any of the following certifications?
Red Cross (or some other) CPR Training
American College of Sports Medicine
American Council on Exercise
Aerobics & Fitness Association of America
If yes, how do you display their accomplishments?
Program Are you affiliated with other national bodies that give your programs
increased perceived value ?