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Strength and conditioning programs play a crucial role in individuals' physical readiness, athletic performance, and overall well-being. However, an underfunded program can hinder the acquisition of essential exercise equipment, thus potentially limiting the overall performance an athlete can achieve. The good news is that there are creative ways to purchase exercise equipment, even for underfunded programs. In each of the five solutions below, I will give some examples of how other coaches or myself practically applied this information to benefit previous and current programs as a strength and conditioning coach.
One creative way to purchase exercise equipment for an underfunded strength and conditioning program is to seek donations from local businesses and individuals. This approach can be quite effective if you communicate your needs clearly and reach out to organizations and individuals who have a vested interest in supporting physical fitness initiatives. You can create a donation drive campaign and reach out to your network to spread the word. Local businesses and individuals may be willing to donate new or gently used equipment in exchange for you relocating the equipment to your site. See an example below for context:
Budget constraints are real; previously, I was tasked with finding creative solutions for strong man-based equipment. I went to our local garage/car shop to ask if the mechanics had any recommendations for tires. To my surprise, they pointed me toward a junkyard with tires, sledge hammers & chains that could be re-used after being cleaned off for a fourth of the cost.
Another creative way to purchase exercise equipment for an underfunded program is to buy used equipment from gym closures or downsizing. When a gym closes or downsizes, it may need to sell off its element, creating an opportunity for you to acquire it at a lower cost. You can check online classifieds such as Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace to find used equipment that is still in good condition. You may also consider reaching out to gym owners and negotiating a deal to purchase equipment from them. See the example below:
When I was coaching at the high school level, we had a small budget and needed new dumbbells. I went on Facebook Marketplace, and craigslist and reached out to my network to see who had any for sale. Luckily, we found three options to choose from and bought some needed pairs from each vendor. This helped us stay within our budget while creating more variations of movement patterns and increased our ability to apply the overload principle.
Partnering with a local gym can be another creative way to purchase exercise equipment for an underfunded program. You can negotiate a deal with the gym owner to allow your program to use their equipment during specific times in exchange for a cut of the fee or service you would acquire. This can be a win-win situation as the gym can earn extra revenue during off-peak hours while your program can use its facilities at a lower cost. See the example below:
Many members of my network that started their own LLC have partnered with local sports performance and powerlifting facilities to increase their access to equipment needed for training. There are some cons to this option that should be noted. First, you will lose some money consistently in the process if the deal works out. It is good in the short term to keep overhead costs low, however, it is not ideal for generating a long-term business model. The second issue with this is that you might be limited on training times away from peak hours. Depending on who your niche/clientele is; this may not work for their availability in the long term. Note that this is still a decent overall option when starting off in a business that needs equipment and a facility.
Grants and funding opportunities can also be a creative way to purchase exercise equipment for an underfunded program. You can research and apply for grants from organizations and foundations that support physical fitness initiatives. This can include government grants, private foundations, and corporate social responsibility programs. You can also reach out to local charities and non-profit organizations that may be willing to provide funding for the purchase of exercise equipment.
Several coaches at the high school level apply for STEM grants that give their program money in exchange for research data on studies that use the new equipment. Note that this option has little downside, with a high potential for success. This is especially true for coaches who enjoy assisting in research while getting long-term equipment to do so.
Finally, hosting a fundraising event can be another creative way to purchase exercise equipment for an underfunded program. You can organize a charity event such as a 5k run, powerlifting competition, Dad & Daughter lifting fundraiser, programming for teachers, or even host summer S&C camps. This can also be an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about your program and attract more donors and supporters in the long run. Many coaches and I have hosted these similar types of programs in hopes to gain more buy-in and increase funding levels for a local S&C gym or program.
In conclusion, an underfunded strength and conditioning program does not have to mean a lack of exercise equipment. By being creative and resourceful, you can acquire the equipment you need to run a successful program. Seeking donations, buying used equipment, partnering with local gyms, looking for grants and funding opportunities, and hosting fundraising events are five creative ways to purchase exercise equipment for an underfunded program.
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