How a Well-Crafted Apprenticeship Program Drives Gym Growth: Lessons from Javy Caraballo

by | Nov 6, 2023 | Fitness Business Owner, Leadership, Management | 6 comments

(Last Updated On: March 14, 2024)

Running a successful fitness business is a balancing act. It requires juggling responsibilities like marketing, program design, and perhaps most crucially – staff management. Ensuring you have an adequately trained and engaged team of trainers can be challenging, but the pay-off in customer satisfaction and staff retention is well worth the effort.

Luckily, gym owners like Javy Caraballo from EastieFit in East Boston have cracked the code, discovering ingenious strategies to build a high-performing gym staff.


Why It’s Critical to Build an Outstanding Gym Staff

Employing the right people is the backbone of any successful business, and gyms are no different. Well-trained staff can enhance the overall gym experience and ensure members keep coming back. Your trainers are your product. They are the ones who engage with customers on the ground, instilling in them the passion for your fitness vision, and guiding them to achieve their goals.


Capitalizing on Community Talent with Apprenticeship Programs

Javy has developed a strong gym staff through the ingenious use of an apprenticeship program. He identifies potential talent within his gym community that aligns with EastieFit’s culture and personality. This process begins with an “apprenticeship inquiry,” which is essentially a call-out for interested members within their gym community.

Potential candidates fill out a form, which then leads to interviews. If a candidate is successful, they go on to become paid apprentices, shadowing classes and learning from more experienced trainers.



From Shadowing to Leading

Javy places a premium on mentorship within his coaching staff. He believes it’s easier for the apprentices to learn if they’re assigned to a specific coach. This way, they avoid any confusion while grasping different coaching styles.

The growth journey of an apprentice is incremental. They transition from shadowing a full class to gradually picking up different components like the session’s intro, warm-up routine, or whiteboard briefing.


Creating a Continuous Talent Pipeline

The gym apprenticeship program has not only helped Javy build solid gym staff but also ensures the pipeline of potential hires is always flowing. Running this program is almost akin to maintaining an internal recruitment pool, mitigating the stress of last-minute hiring and bridging the drop in service during the transition period of hiring new coaches.


The Role of Existing Coaches in the Apprenticeship Program

Javy ensures that his experienced coaches are involved in the apprenticeship program. Yet, this participation is not an up-front requirement. Instead, he chooses which trainers he believes can become successful mentors based on their performance. By having more hands-on-deck in the training process, the workload and time commitment become more manageable.


Balancing Coaching and Leadership

Javy epitomizes the delicate balance between coaching and leading a fitness business. With a strong team behind him, he only has to cover a minimum of two classes a week, leaving him free to focus on strategic growth areas. Meanwhile, his Head Coach, Kevin, takes charge of the day-to-day running of the gym.


Acting with Clarity and Leading by Example to Build a Great Gym Staff

Running a fitness business isn’t easy, and Javy acknowledges that no system is perfect. However, the lessons drawn from his apprenticeship model provide valuable insights for gym owners striving to build a self-sustainable team.

Ultimately, it is about creating a learning culture among your staff and nurturing your gym’s talent pool locally. Here are some key takeaways from Javy’s successful gym apprenticeship program:

  • Identify potential talent from local gym-goers who align with your gym’s culture.
  • Design your gym apprenticeship program encouragingly, making the apprentices feel part of your community.
  • Train existing coaches to become mentors, providing an exhaustive learning experience for the apprentices.
  • Constantly work on maintaining a recruitment pool to ensure your talent pipeline never runs dry.
  • Dedicate time for strategic functions without compromising your touch with day-to-day coaching.

Finally, remember that running a fitness business is all about human connections. You can teach someone how to be a good coach, but you can’t teach them to genuinely care about people. Fostering this environment at your gym can go a long way in building a high-performing staff.

Author: Kelly Berry

Kelly Berry is a strategic business leader and business coach known for her operational excellence, ability to drive growth and results across multiple industries. Kelly is the VP of Operations for Fitness Revolution. She is also a podcaster and host of her Life Intended podcast.

A hand drawing an arrow with a businessman on it.


Proven strategies used by over
3,500 fitness entrepreneurs