Club Insider

Norm's Notes for September 2020

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Norm CatesNorm Cates

Hello Everybody! This is your Club Insider Founder and Tribal Leader Since 1993 checking in with our 321st monthly edition! I hope this finds you and your family, your employees and your members ALL avoiding this dreaded Coronavirus! Our prayers have been with all of you every day.

Is AMERICA a GREAT COUNTRY, or what? As I write this Note, it's Friday, September 11, 2020, the 19th Anniversary of one of America's most horrendous days in our history when the 9/11 attacks hit America in New York City, Washington, D.C. and rural Pennsylvania. I know we all probably remember exactly where we were on that fateful day when these terrible new reports on TV, radio and the internet began to be broadcast about 9AM. Let us all remember the nearly 3,000 Americans and others we lost that awful and day. And, may we all be vigilant in the future so anybody who's suspicious, as those hijackers definitely were, may hopefully be stopped from ever causing our beautiful America to suffer such a dastardly deed again!

■As I write this Note, I sit here today on Labor Day, September 7, 2020, watching the PGA Tour Golf Championship. I'm trying NOT to work on LABOR DAY! But, at the same time I can't beat my huge desire to write this Note as I watch this amazing golf tournament being played live here in Atlanta. It's being played at the fabulous and truly beautiful East Lake Golf Club, located in East Atlanta. In 1995, MR. THOMAS COUSINS purchased the East Lake Golf Club for $4.5 million, and over the next five years, he in partnership with his lovely wife, ANN, restored it to its former glory. He also helped to establish East Lake as the permanent home of the PGA Tour Championship, which is the season ending tournament for the PGA Tour.

Cousins was my former landlord in two of my four clubs here 30+ years ago (my 46,000 square-foot Downtown Athletic Club, which was located in Atlanta in the Omni Complex, and my 26,000 square-foot Wildwood Athletic Club, which was located here in Marietta, Georgia in Mr. Cousins' beautiful 290 acre Wildwood Office Complex).

The Cousins folks are celebrating their 20th Anniversary of their fabulous East Lake Golf Club, so I want to send my very sincere CONGRATULATIONS to Mr. Cousins, who's now 88 years old, and by the way, the one man I think is arguably the most successful and prominent real estate developers in the history of the entire State of Georgia.

Late Breaking News as we are going to press on Monday, September 14: Multiple news outlets report that Town Sports International has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. No club closures have been announced. Stay Tuned for more details as they are released.

■I'm very saddened to report that, on September 8, because of Coronavirus, both Club Industry and SIBEC announced they were cancelling and postponing (respectively) their Conferences and Trade Shows. Stay tuned, Folks!

■In July of 2007, BRENT DARDEN, along with his partner at that time, EVERETT AABERG, and their Telos Fitness Center Team in Dallas, Texas, were our featured Cover Story subjects. This month, we're very pleased to weigh in with a very special Cover Story about BRENT DARDEN and his new role as IHRSA's Interim CEO and President. Before Brent was honored by this appointment, he truly was already one of the true greats in our industry. Clearly, that FACT played into his hiring, and I'm very happy about it. While I was very saddened to see the departure of my good friend, JOE MOORE, on the other hand, I was very pleased to see that Brent Darden had been wisely chosen by our current IHRSA Board of Directors.

In this month's Cover Story, we're featuring an in-depth interview with Brett, who as busy as he has been, was very kind to give me his first interview since he took the job. Brent was very generous to spend a very special and important 45 minutes on the phone interviewing with me, and he graciously shared his many thoughts and well-informed ideas as he embarks on his epic new journey at IHRSA. The magnitude of Brent's challenges are huge, and they have arrived during a time in American history when our entire industry worldwide is at huge risk... because of the Coronavirus pandemic disaster.

Just in case you've not followed it and you're not up to date, I feel it's important to share with you a few details of what's been going on at IHRSA. There has been a real whirlwind of activity, starting on August 12, 2020, when sitting IHRSA Board Chairman, JASON REINHARDT, abruptly resigned his position. Then, on August 19, 2020, it was announced that JOE MOORE would be leaving his role as IHRSA President and CEO, where he had served 14+ years. Then, two days later, on August 21, 2020, it was announced by the IHRSA Board of Directors that BRENT DARDEN had been selected to fill the vacancy created by Joe's departure, as IHRSA's Interim President and CEO. So, this month, we bring you an in-depth and very informative interview with Brent. Be sure to read this month's Cover Story starting on Page #3 entirely... if you've not already. And, folks, be sure to STAY TUNED as we'll continue to stay in touch with IHRSA and other industry developments during the Coronavirus pandemic, and as matters develop, we'll keep you posted. Stay Tuned!

■Welcome to new Club Insider Advertiser and Author, Gary Polic, as he has launched a new consulting service called Polic Consultants Group. Check out his Ad and Article on Page #16.

■This month, I've got two important apologies to express:

First, I want to apologize to PAULA NEUBERT, General Manager of Club Greenwood in Greenwood Village, Colorado. I'm making this sincere and heartfelt apology to Paula because we had to bump her fabulous Cover Story from our August Edition to our September Edition due to the passing of Lyle Ray Irwin, whose life we honored on our August Cover. Then, for a first in the almost 28 years of Club Insider publishing history, we had to make the very difficult, but appropriate decision to bump her story once more to our October Edition because of the magnitude of the challenge that now IHRSA Interim President and CEO, Brent Darden, faces, and the need, we believe, to put Brent's very informative interview front and center this month.

We owe Paula Neubert a HUGE DEBT of gratitude for being so understanding during what has happened with these unpredictable events. My son, and Club Insider Publisher, JUSTIN CATES, had interviewed Paula for her cover story and has been really raving about how wonderful Paula was to work with and what an incredible story she had shared with him... a really great story we will present to you in our October Edition. Be sure to check out a quick preview of the story on Page #3 of this month's edition.

With these thoughts shared with all of you, but MOST IMPORTANTLY, written here to Ms. Paula Neubert, we cannot THANK YOU enough, Paula, for first, sharing YOUR amazing story, and second, for being so wonderful to work with after already having your great story bumped one time.

Finally, all of you should know that Paula is a long-time IHRSA Member and a strong IHRSA supporter. And, she is the recipient of IHRSA's 2020 Woman Leader Award in Honor of Julie Main. So, she didn't hesitate to help Club Insider do what is best for IHRSA, and that is presenting this month's Cover Story to you. Thank You Paula! And, Stay Tuned Folks!

Second, my sincere apologies to our friend, WILL PHILLIPS, for this being a note of belated best wishes as Will entered his well-deserved and hard-earned years of retirement in May. I missed this story, because I did not see the press release at the time, as I was essentially blind in both eyes. So, my sincere apologies, Will. Folks, since 1989, Will Phillips has been heading up REX Roundtables, and for 12 years, he's been joined by EDDIE TOCK, formerly of Sales Makers, in a REX Roundtable leadership role as a Round Table Facilitator. Here's what Will's former partner, Eddie Tock had to say about Will when he retired:

"I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to work so closely with Will for the past 12 years! He has been a tremendous help to me, as well as to many leaders in our fitness industry and to others in 34 other industries. Will's high energy and enthusiasm always challenged the status quo thinking, and all us are better because for it. His willingness to share his skills, knowledge and expertise has developed some of our industries' top leaders and most successful entrepreneurs, by teaching all of us that, together, we can achieve so much more! Will taught me that, when you find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life forever. Thanks, Will for changing all of our lives forever."

MEREDITH POPPLER is IHRSA's Vice President of Communication and Leadership Engagement, and she has done great work during her 28 years with IHRSA. Meredith's 28th IHRSA Anniversary was August 2, 2020, so Congratulations, Meredith! This is perfect timing because today, I also want to give Kudos to Meredith because she recently announced and launched a new weekly report from IHRSA they're calling: From the IHRSA News Desk. I asked Meredith if IHRSA's new weekly news thrust would only be available for IHRSA Members, and she said, "No." So, even if a club is not a current IHRSA Member Club, they can receive these new weekly editions from IHRSA by contacting Meredith at But, let me throw this in... IF you're reading this, and you're making your living in the club industry as an owner, manager or supplier, and you are NOT a member of IHRSA, then I URGE you ALL to JOIN TODAY!

■Our friends at Club Insider Advertiser, JLR ASSOCIATES, JEFF RANDALL and DENNIE NOECKER announced the expansion of their services to now include recruitment for both Personal Trainers and Group Exercise Trainers. Heading up the new department and service is LISA JOFFE. Jeff commented, "Over the years, we have had many requests to fill these types of positions, and we are pleased to now provide this service to the fitness industry." Check out this month's JLR Ad and Press Release on Page #8.

■On August 19, 2020 in Sacramento, California, The California Fitness Alliance (CFA) announced the launch of an Association Advisory Board to support the efforts of the CFA. The three new Association Advisory Board Members are: DORIS THEWS, AMY THOMPSON and JOSH LEVE. According to Doris Thews, "The purpose of the new Association Advisory Board is to bring a holistic perspective to the cause, supporting the 180,000 employees and millions of members of California's gyms, health clubs and studios as CFA urges GOVERNOR NEWSOM to once again safely reopen gyms in California." Folks, STAY TUNED for more developments!

■This very good news from JACQUELINE BUCHANAN, Senior Manager of Public Relations, Communications and Social Media at In-Shape, is that In-Shape has partnered with Special Olympics of Northern California and Nevada to provide free virtual fitness classes and sponsorships for In-Shape's virtual races. This very positive news is great, because in March, In-Shape closed over 60 locations in California and laid off 95% of their workforce resulting in zero revenue. But, they remained focused on motivating their communities to stay healthy, fit and happy. They were thrilled to partner with the Special Olympics and have their coaches host free workouts for the Special Olympics' Athletes via Zoom as part of their Special Olympics' "Flex-it-Friday." They also sponsored Special Olympic Athletes to participate in In-Shape's third virtual 5k/10k race this summer.

■Our friend, GEORGE JACKSON, the co-owner of San Diego's TG The Gym, has announced they are celebrating their 35th Anniversary, so we want to extend our sincere Congratulations to them on that great achievement. George also announced they have opened two new TG The Gym clubs in Chula Vista and Apple Valley, California.

■The State of Maryland has formed a Coalition of Health and Wellness Centers to ensure the safe reopening of gyms and fitness Centers. The coalition will be dedicated to promoting and protecting the economic and political interests of health clubs and wellness centers in Maryland. IHRSA supports the efforts of the Maryland Coalition Of Health and Wellness Centers to promote and protect the health and fitness industry in Maryland. As the trade association for the entire industry, IHRSA is advocating for clubs in Washington D.C. and in all 50 states, in concert with regional associations like the Maryland Coalition where possible. For more information about this coalition, please contact KEITH RAWLINGS at or MARK MILLER at

I hope and pray that ALL of you, your family, your staff and your members are all doing well and have not been afflicted with the Coronavirus.

JUSTIN and I want to say Thanks for reading Club Insider!

God bless our troops, airmen and sailors worldwide and keep them safe. Thank you, Congratulations and Welcome Home to all of our troops who have served around the world. God bless America's Policemen and women and Firemen and women; keep them safe. God bless our EMTs, first responders, nurses, doctors, lab technicians and anyone who is helping make Coronavirus a thing of the past. You and your families are our warriors. Finally, God bless you, your family, your club(s) and your members. God Bless America! Laus Deo!

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