IHRSA Conference and Trade Show in Los Angeles Was a Star-Studded Affair

Keynote speakers, panel sessions, award presentations and the Bash for Augie’s Quest highlighted the 31st annual International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) show, held last month at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Kicking off the IHRSA show each day as keynote speakers were two authors, William Taylor and Simon Sinek, and former Apple executive Guy Kawasaki. Taylor shared how key businesses offer their customers something unexpected that helps them differentiate themselves and develop their brand while building loyalty. Taylor’s advice to attendees was to look at other businesses that have great brand loyalty to discover what makes them unique in their industries—and how to incorporate that into the fitness industry.

Sinek spoke about how great companies appeal to people’s emotions and suggested to the audience that rather than trying to help everyone, they should serve those who believe in what they believe in and those who serve them.

Kawasaki outlined his 10 pillars of enchantment, which included likeability, trustworthiness, endurance and overcoming resistance. Kawasaki went on to explain key details of each pillar, such as the importance of a sincere smile and accepting others as they are, as well as the importance of trusting others.

A panel session featuring high-profile members of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition marked the conference’s final day of activities. Two members of the council, track star Allyson Felix and Cornell McClellan, the personal trainer to the first family, joined Roberta Kruse-Fordham, general manager at Sports Fitness & Fun, Florida, NY, and Scott Goudeseune, president and CEO of the American Council on Exercise, to discuss Joining Forces, an initiative started by the White House to help members of the military and their families. IHRSA’s partnership with Joining Forces, which began less than a year ago, has led to the donation of more than 100,000 free gym memberships to family members of active military service personnel.


Rick Caro, president of Management Vision, New York, moderated one of the staples of the IHRSA show, the 16th annual IHRSA financial panel. Joining Caro on the panel were DJ Belock of Goldman Sachs, Matt Shafer of private-equity firm Vision Capital Americas, Brian Maier of Wells Fargo Securities and Mark Harms, chairman and CEO of Global Leisure Partners in the United Kingdom. The panel discussed many of the recent acquisitions that have taken place in the commercial club market.

IHRSA recognized several award winners throughout the conference. Trina Gray, owner of Bay Athletic Club, Alpena, MI, received the Outstanding Community Service Award for her club’s work with children as well as a women’s shelter and a local assisted living center. John Doyle, founder and owner of The Belmont Athletic Club, Long Beach, CA, received the Dale S. Dibble Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to IHRSA and the industry. Doyle was a founding member of the IHRSA board of directors and has been an active IHRSA member for more than 30 years. Polar Electro Oy, which owns Polar USA, Lake Success, NY, received the Associate Member of the Year Award for its membership loyalty, its commitment to advertising and sponsorship, and for being an exhibitor at IHRSA for 18 years. Linda Mitchell, director of marketing and public relations at Newtown Athletic Club, Newtown, PA, received the Julie Main Woman Leader Scholarship for her commitment to Newtown Athletic Club (where she has worked for 30 years), her community and the industry.

The seventh annual Bash for Augie’s Quest, a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s research initiative for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), raised more than $1.6 million. The event marks $32.3 million in overall funds raised since Augie Nieto, the founder of Augie’s Quest, was diagnosed with ALS in 2006.

During the show, IHRSA released some financial figures and statistics related to industry growth and growth for the association, which serves and lobbies for for-profit clubs. IHRSA’s revenue increased by $200,000 to $13 million, and the fitness industry’s revenue increased by $1.1 billion to $21.4 billion. Also, U.S. health club memberships have increased by 1.2 million to 51.4 million, and the industry has grown to 128 million members worldwide.

Next year’s IHRSA show will be held March 19-22, 2013, in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay, a 44-story hotel casino on the Las Vegas Strip owned by MGM Resorts International.

For more coverage of this year’s IHRSA show, visit our blog. And for additional coverage of the seventh annual Bash for Augie’s Quest and a behind-the-scenes interview with Clubs for the Quest founder Patricia Laus, watch our video of the event.

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