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Trends and Lessons Learned from the 2019 General Assembly

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Another General Assembly of YMCAs is in the books. After four days packed with networking opportunities, keynote speakers and seminars to learn from, and vendor booths displaying a variety of products and services to help improve facilities, attendees have an abundance of new ideas to bring back home.

The following are insights from General Assembly attendees on applicable lessons learned, trends to keep an eye on, and any products or services other community rec centers will be interested in:

Paul Zeger, senior director of programs and operations, Princeton Family YMCA

Is there anything you took from the General Assembly that you’ll be incorporating into your Y?

PZ: I went to a workshop on storytelling, and how to properly tell the story about what we do as a YMCA or the impact we collectively make. It’s about telling those impactful stories. That’s something we’re going to take back and really bring to life within our Y.

Are there any trends you noticed at the show that other Y professionals should be aware of?

PZ: A lot of what we’ve been focusing on through the General Assembly is social responsibility. What are we doing beyond “Gym and Swim?” How are we really making a change in our community? I think we’re about to take a right hand turn into this amazing time for the YMCA.

Is there anything in particular on the trade show floor you saw that caught your eye?​

PZ: It’s interesting how the change in technology has really affected health and wellness. I was over at the Life Fitness booth, and the way they’ve integrated technology into each of these pieces of cardio equipment is cool. Now technology is also integrated into your phone, and you can track your exercises.

Brian Rammer, executive director, Fox West YMCA

Is there anything you took from the General Assembly that you’ll be incorporating into your Y?

BR: The speakers and presentations are good — it’s always good to hear things from different perspectives. You get a lot that reiterates things we’re already doing well. That’s helpful in terms of trying to be on the same page and, individually, how we can make things personally better as well as ways we can improve our YMCAs. It reinforces the practices we’ve been putting in place.

Are there any trends you noticed at the show that other Y professionals should be aware of?

BR: Wellness is always on the cutting edge of new things happening, and we see a lot of marketing products and information. We talked to vendors sharing how we can best market what we do, how we can get our schedules out to our members, and how to use social media and websites.

Is there anything in particular on the trade show floor you saw that caught your eye?​

BR: Software programs like Daxko or Active Network are big, whether they’re for human resources or operational use — certainly, those are things that have been more and more prevalent at our YMCA in the last five years.

Randy Gaytan, physical director, Valdosta-Lowndes County Family YMCA

Is there anything you took from the General Assembly that you’ll be incorporating into your Y?

RG: I wrote down this quote, from the first training I went to: “Don’t get caught up in the ‘to-do’ and forget the ‘for who.'” We’re all here for the kids and community — don’t get caught up in the to-do lists and emails, and all that.

Are there any trends you noticed at the show that other Y professionals should be aware of?

RG: I went to three seminars where everything is about happiness. Instead of studies being about the negative effects of different parts of the job, they’re focusing on the positive aspects of the job. This focus on happiness is very important.

Is there anything in particular on the trade show floor you saw that caught your eye?​

RG: A lot of companies working with youth and teens caught my eye — there are a lot of companies working to get them active and engaged while they’re still having fun. That group is hard to get engaged, especially young teens — you have to try and get them off their phones, get them looking at people in the eye, and get them moving.

Paul Larson, senior program director, Greater Peoria Family YMCA

Is there anything you took from the General Assembly that you’ll be incorporating into your Y?

PL: Slowing down is key. The franticness — everyone knows the pace we’re going is not sustainable. We’re selling leisure time — if we’re selling leisure time, we actually have to slow down enough to take it and give ourselves permission to take it. The same goes for your staff. 

Are there any trends you noticed at the show that other Y professionals should be aware of?

PL: Emotional intelligence came up a lot in different sessions. The headers might have been different, but a lot of them circled back to being able to handle a crazy or high-stress situation, and how to be mature about it.

Is there anything in particular on the trade show floor you saw that caught your eye?​

PL: There was a big map the YMCA of the USA had on the floor — it allowed you to check your Y’s location and gather all sorts of data to help make informed decisions. I think that’s a huge deal — strategic planning, program implementation, or even something as simple as improving security, can all be helped along by that data.

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Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the editor of Community Rec Magazine. He can be reached at bobby@peakemedia.com.

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