As the owner of a sports performance facility I can’t say that we have implemented any better program or made any better move from a quality of environment standpoint than starting our internship program. It truly has been a game changer for our staff, myself and our clients.
We are lucky to be located in the Triangle among some of the nation’s top Physical Therapy and Exercise Science Programs. The quality of the intern we are able to attract has far surpassed my wildest dreams. Let me explain how bringing on quality interns is a great thing for your business, yourself and your clients…not to mention the students themselves!
Where in the world can you have the opportunity to interview a candidate for a potential job over a period of 100 hours? In real life situations that happen in your actual business? And get to train and educate them to you standards? And for no cost to you except your time?
Having an internship with weekly objectives and assignments as well as longer term projects is a great way to see how the young professional works with others and with your team in your environment. You are able to base hiring decisions on actual performance over the course of months instead of the performance they told you they have in a sixty minute interview.
We base our objectives weekly on the standards that I believe would be the most important fundamental skills I would want in one of my staff members. From basics of joint mechanics to motor learning and cuing strategies all the way to 3D kinematics, athlete screening and coaching specific lifts. I like to consider our internships as a 10 week staff training.
Our longer term projects are designed to answer questions we as a staff have but have not had the time to do ourselves because we have been bogged down with other day to day tasks. If it is interesting to us, and we bring on the right interns, it is always interesting to them as well which means they will do a great job with it.
Beyond the obvious advantages for vetting out your next great staff member, there are others for the business such as help with upkeep of the facility, another set of eyes on the coaching floor, and I believe most importantly, the bringing of new perspectives and ideas to the table.
I try to bring in interns who are up to date with the latest happenings in the field and attempt to harness their love for learning to cast a wider net for all of staff in terms of seeing and learning everything that is coming out…because let’s be honest, there is a TON of information to process. The most important trait I look for, though, is a burning desire to learn and get better. If they have this, I am confident they share my “why” and will push themselves to learn and ultimately make myself and my staff better.
If you have had an intern or student before as a working professional I am sure you can recall rather quickly that time they asked you a question about something you were doing or questioned your rationale for what you just said.
My favorite is when I am WRONG! Yes, when they call me out on something that I was incorrect with…I just got better; for free. There is nothing better than that.
Interns who aren’t afraid to challenge your logic when it is incorrect or even when they just don’t understand what the heck you just said are invaluable. The greatest form of learning is to teach. If you have interns who force you to teach them then you just brought in your own 100 hour, multiple month continuing education course. Not because they are going to teach you anything necessarily, but because they are going to force you to fact check yourself and understand what you are doing at a deeper level so that you can teach them better.
Now who is going to ever question the person who is interviewing them about their logic on something? That character trait that I believe is so valuable in staff members will NEVER come out in an interview. An internship program, however, allows for time and situation where that to rise up and show.
Now to get selfish for a minute, the benefits to me as a business owner are that I have immediate help on day to day tasks that otherwise I might have to do myself which allows me to spend my time focused more on growing the business instead of being stuck in it.
I also have help, like the other night, when people don’t sign up for classes and 5 more people show up than we had planned for. I have an extra set of hands to assure the class runs smoothly.
Perhaps the biggest benefit to me personally as the business owner, though, is that I get to have an extended interview with the potential staff member and evaluate how they interact with not just me, but the rest of my staff and our clients. As a small business who you hire next can make or stunt your growth so it is incredibly important that you make the right call and this sort of program makes the choice that much easier.
For the student, themselves, interning in a sport performance facility gives them the opportunity to put a pretty impressive experience on their resume. It gives them real life experience trying to apply what they have read in books with actual athletes and gives them the opportunity to test their skills. Can they pivot when things don’t go as the book said they would?
The experience forces them to work on their interpersonal skills and ability to be personable while also still focusing on excellent coaching. It is easy to get a classmate to do something for you in a lab but very different when the person changes to an 11 year old girl with an attention span of about 2 minutes…how do you adapt and achieve the same result you would have with your attentive classmate?
From a staff standpoint, all of the benefits that were mentioned earlier for me are there for them as well. Intern programs offer an opportunity for my senior staff members to work on their management and goal setting skills for the interns. It gives them added responsibility and also gives them a daily opportunity to teach. They are pushed just as I am pushed. You can see how a well designed internship program creates a continuous circle of excellence for not only myself, the business owner, but also my staff and the interns themselves.
The end result…each staff member is forced to improve and step their game up as is the intern. The intern walks away with a potential job or at the very least a very good recommendation and stronger resume. And finally, the members or clients walk away with better results each day.
I can’t find anything negative about an internship program other than it takes time to set up and do right. But just like anything worth doing, the time spent initially repays you ten fold. The return on this sort of investment is invaluable in my opinion if you want to have an industry leading staff, business and facilty.