Building a Successful Training Camp for Your Coaching Business

Building a Successful Training Camp for Your Coaching Business

While there is no magic formula for creating the perfect triathlon training camp, there are a few key steps you can take to help ensure the success of your training camp.

Are you considering adding a training camp to your offerings? A camp is a unique opportunity for you to strengthen bonds with athletes, recruit new athletes to your team and learn from other coaches while improving your just-in-time coaching skills.

At No Limits Endurance Coaching, we describe our flagship triathlon training camp in Lake Placid as “summer camp for adults.” While we schedule rigorous training for our athletes, we also ensure plenty of time for fun and camaraderie.

Despite the advantages, a training camp is a lot of work to organize and execute, so it is crucial to think through the value of a training camp for your coaching and business. This article aims to help with this process by identifying the key steps in developing a training camp.

Safety

Begin your planning with a safety mindset. Some primary aspects are the terrain and conditions, medical facilities, emergency planning, safety staff and insurance.

Do your research to create a safe environment for your athletes. For example, can you provide aid at critical points on the routes you will use? Is the weather conducive to training during the time of year you host camp? Is there ample medical assistance in the event of an emergency? Will you need dedicated medical personnel, lifeguards and the like?

Keep your business safe from unforeseen emergencies, as well, by obtaining event insurance. If you already have liability insurance, contact your carrier. You may already be covered, or they may be able to write you a policy for an affordable price.

Consult your national governing body, if applicable. For example, we sanction our Lake Placid triathlon training camp through USA Triathlon, which provides cost-effective insurance for the event. Additionally, we have a USA Triathlon-sanctioned club, which affords an additional layer of insurance for group training and an umbrella liability insurance policy.

Athletes

A successful camp will serve a specific group of athletes who want to work on related goals. First, identify the target athlete to ensure a beneficial experience for everyone. Your target athlete may be defined in one or more of the following areas:

  • Sport – This may include a camp for multi-sport athletes or a single sport, such as running or biking.
  • Distance – Your camp may be specific to the training demands of short or long-course athletes or variations of those categories.
  • Level of athlete – Will you accommodate all or a specific ability level? In our experience, it is possible to serve multiple ability levels, but you will need enough staff to lead those different levels.
  • Specific demographic – do you want to support a particular demographic, such as a women’s specific or youth camp?

Once you know who the camp is for, consider how many athletes you will accept. This will impact other decisions, such as the number of staff you need, lodging, food, etc.

Lastly, what is the purpose of camp for these athletes? Are you working on general training, skills training, race- or course-specific training or some combination of these or other objectives? Athletes will consider camps based on how it will serve them and their goals, so it is helpful for you to have a clear sense of what the training objectives are when you market the camp.

Our Lake Placid triathlon camp is designed to support 70.3 and 140.6 triathletes preparing for a hilly long course event, particularly IRONMAN Lake Placid. The camp is designed to develop fitness while also incorporating a considerable education component. We serve athletes who want to be students of the sport.

To keep athletes informed of camp events, set up a messaging system. We primarily use email newsletters before camp, including links to a digital itinerary that can be updated in real time, contact information, routes and so on. During camp, we make announcements and reminders at camp headquarters since our camp is relatively small.

You may still want to set up a just-in-time messaging system using text messages or a group chat app, such as WhatsApp. Text messages may prove most manageable since that won’t require participants to download a separate app.

Location & Duration

Where will you host the camp, and what does that location offer regarding safety, access, appropriate terrain and conditions, beauty and other attractive characteristics? Of all the factors, safety is paramount, including safety features for group training.

For example, if campers are riding on public roads, are those roads super busy with traffic? If so that may not be an ideal location. If you are hosting beginner athletes, are you selecting less technical routes to ensure the athletes have the proper skills to learn on the terrain?

Account for access as well. Are the routes open for public use or will you need permits? For example, if you are planning a trail running camp, many public land management agencies require a permit. While the trails may be on public lands, that land has regulations. The size of your camp may impact the need for permits. Before you settle on a location, be sure to do your homework.

Once you’ve settled on a geographic location, you can think about where you will stage the headquarters for your camp. We’ve used hotels, as well as rented housing. We host a smaller camp and prefer the ability to create a tight community. As such, we find that renting houses works best for our purposes.

However, we hosted our first camp through a hotel, which made some organizational logistics easier. So, for your first time, you may find a hotel easier to manage than team housing. Most hotels will work with you to offer a block rate. But, be forewarned: when going through a hotel, they will charge you for everything: conference room access, AV equipment and more.

Lastly, consider the camp duration. We offer both two-day and four-day options for our Lake Placid camp. The four-day camp provides extended learning and clinics, while the two-day camp is meant to support athletes who want to have a supported training weekend on the course.

Staff

Staffing choices are based on the number of athletes you’ll serve, the camp’s focus and safety. As I mentioned, our Lake Placid camp is focused on an educational experience, so we have a minimum of 5 coaches, along with additional support staff, who assist in various ways, such as ride leads, aid station support or SAG. Our camp sells out at 25 athletes. We have five to six coaches, three to four aid/SAG support staff and a chef. Our goal is to provide a personalized experience, so we err on the side of a close ratio of staff to campers.

From there, determine how much you will pay the staff, as this will impact the camp pricing. Pay may depend on the level of experience, type/duration of contribution or some combination of these factors. I pay coaches based on these factors and a percentage of profit sharing. Generally, we do not use volunteers. Although, in some cases, I have bartered with our aid station help, providing free meals or lodging in return for staffing an aid station for the day. All staff get free accommodation and meals for the duration of camp, in addition to any stipend they receive.

Pricing

With the above details figured out, you can set a price point. It is helpful to research current market pricing for similar camps. Next, you’ll want to tally your projected costs, including (but not limited to) staffing (often the most significant cost), food, lodging, swag or other giveaways, insurance and anything else. Be sure to add an extra “contingency” fund.

Return to the projected number of athletes you will serve and determine the per athlete cost to attend camp. Don’t forget to pay yourself and the business!

In our experience, camps are not a significant source of revenue. However, they are an excellent opportunity to strengthen your team’s community (improving retention) and recruit new athletes. We typically onboard at least one to two new athletes following each camp. Meaning the value extends beyond the profit made for that specific camp.

The Training!

Now for the fun part: the training! Design the training sessions, keeping your stated purpose for the camp at the forefront. Structure each day as a subset of that overarching training objective. Perhaps one day is designed for skill work, while another day is designed for muscular endurance.

We typically include two primary training sessions daily, with a shared training objective such as endurance, muscular endurance, skills or strength. For our four-day campers, we also include skills-based clinics for bike handling, run drills and open water swim drills.

Create sessions that are fun for groups. For example, we do 200-meter paired relays for our campers. We obtain their swim pacing information before camp and then pair them to create mostly evenly matched groups. Then, we race!

Post-Training

Perhaps the single most important post-training feature is the food. In fact, after safety, food may be the most essential part of your camp. While not all camps include food, I strongly urge you to consider including at least a few team meals during your camp. Sharing meals creates a strong team vibe and provides a chance to unwind while sharing the events of that day’s training. Our campers also have the opportunity to sit shoulder to shoulder with the coaches and ask any questions they want.

You will have a group of very hungry athletes. Provide healthy and nutritious options for your athletes, along with some treats. We use a chef to cater our camp, with the added bonus that he is also a member of our team. Other options include catering, eating out at local establishments, or sharing cooking responsibilities among the staff. For the latter, however, you and your staff are going to be BUSY. So, if someone on your staff does cook, that should be the main task for the day. The bigger the group, the more likely you will want to outsource this job.

Our post-training time also includes educational presentations led by our coaches or invited experts. These sessions are tied to the camp’s focus in some way. We feature sessions on physical and mental aspects of training, fueling, nutrition and hydration and more.

the author and four of her camp coaches on the shore of Lake Placid after a training camp

Experts or professional athletes can be a draw for some campers. If you plan to invite guest speakers, don’t forget to factor it into the cost of your pricing.

Hosting a training camp is a labor-intensive endeavor. There are plenty of moments when I question whether to continue with our training camps. But, once I’m at camp: I love it! I enjoy connecting with athletes for an extended time frame. We watch the athletes grow throughout the camp, which is especially rewarding. There are also benefits for your business in the form of athlete retention and business development. But perhaps my favorite part of camp is the opportunity to connect with my fellow coaches. We learn from each other, share a lot of laughs, and work together to create a truly extraordinary experience for everyone.

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