Club Insider

A New Era of Growth and Leadership at IHRSA

Posted: May 19, 2021 in IHRSA

IHRSA: Success By AssociationIHRSA: Success By Association

Reopening, Rebuilding, & Reimagining after COVID

John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” The worldwide pandemic has presented unmatched challenges for the health and fitness industry. As it ebbs, we are all critically focused on reopening, rebuilding, and reimagining our businesses and IHRSA. But Covid-19 has laid bare our strengths and weaknesses. On the club level, we now recognize the shortcomings in our business, leases, vendor contracts and membership retention. On the national level, the pandemic allowed the IHRSA Board to reflect on our past successes and reassess our future. As a result, we decided to make significant changes in our operations and goals and recruit new leadership to steer us into the future.

While our association is a leader of our industry, hosting trade shows and education, the pandemic revealed that we need to be more to our members. We need to represent and advocate for our 200,000+ health clubs, gyms, studios, and fitness professionals across the globe. That means serving our industry and impacting its success by strengthening operations, mitigating risk, and developing talent, as well as advancing and protecting our industry through national, state, and local advocacy.

Our initial response to the immense challenge we faced last year required two immediate initiatives. First, we were extremely fortunate that Brent Darden, former IHRSA Board Chair, was willing to answer our call and step in as IHRSA’s interim CEO. Brent’s leadership and achievements are too lengthy for this letter but suffice it to say we were glad to have him, and we are forever thankful for the work he has done over the past twelve months.

Growth of IHRSA

Second, Brent did not want the gig long-term, so we knew we needed to find a permanent leader with vision and the ability to rebuild IHRSA. We immediately set up a CEO Search Committee and engaged a leading executive search firm, Spencer Stuart, to aid us in our search. As a Board, we decided we needed a transformational, politically savvy candidate to serve as the face and voice for the association and drive the successful turnaround and growth of IHRSA and its membership. As a result, we decided to cast our net wide both inside and outside of our industry. Our search process has included feedback from key industry participants and influencers along with our Board, which is composed of leading fitness industry operators and leaders from around the world. Spencer Stuart has vetted over 100 outstanding not-for-profit executives with solid backgrounds in advocacy and experience growing and leading membership organizations.

In the coming weeks, we will finalize our selection and announce our new CEO. We are excited to see IHRSA enter a new era of growth with new leadership. A special thank you to my fellow Search Committee members, Carrie Kepple, Alan Leach, Jim Worthington, Chris Smith, and Bryan O’Rourke, their commitment to IHRSA and its mission is extraordinary.

We send our gratitude to our vendor partners, members, and the many others who have invested their time and resources to help us in our task of finding an exceptional leader.

The future is in front of us, and it is bright.

(Greta Wagner serves on the IHRSA board of directors and is an executive team member of Chelsea Piers, a premiere sports and entertainment complex with locations in New York City, Brooklyn, and Stamford. As the Executive Director/EVP of Connecticut, Greta is responsible for the leadership, development, and financial success of the 500,000+ square foot Stamford facility. She has been in the fitness industry for over 30 years. Greta is a board member for the Chelsea Piers Scholarship Fund and the Stamford School of Ballet and supports over 25 additional charitable organizations.)

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