Outsourcing campus recreation management can cause concerns for some staff. Here are five reasons to maintain an open mind and to embrace the change if it occurs on your campus.

1. Not all outsourcing models are alike. There are few outsourcing companies in the campus recreation market and rarely are they focused on student-centered management. Instead, many have retrofitted their business models from a corporate, community or medical market perspective. These outsource models typically are not focused on student engagement, but can appeal to some university administrators who do not view campus recreation as central to their mission. More importantly, eliminate profit sharing or financial incentives from the agreement, as these can cloud judgement and run counter mission-driven decision making.

2. Professional advancement opportunities. Internal advancement can be a challenge, as managerial job opportunities are most often limited to staff departures or retirement. Conversely, most outsource companies have additional management accounts, which allows employees the flexibility to transfer. Choose a management company that affords its employees with the first opportunity to apply for internal openings before positions are solicited publicly. Often times, high-performing employees are fast tracked to leadership positions.

3. Less bureaucracy and more autonomy within a supportive framework. Universities are run as a bureaucracy, often slowing progress, stifling innovation and frustrating high performing professionals. Through a written agreement, an outsourcing relationship can create increased autonomy within agreed-upon terms for its employees. Creative thinking put to action can yield increased participation and engagement, especially when trying to appeal to today’s millennial student. An effective management agreement should identify specific terms intended to maximize the value of the operation. However, it is a commitment by both parties to honor the agreed-upon framework that makes the relationship sustainable.

4. Compensation packages come in different shapes and sizes. Most outsource companies offer competitive plans, as they are not relegated to institutional policy or classification levels. Management companies that have a high performance culture are committed to providing employees with professional development, create opportunities to collaborate and mentor, and recognize achievement through financial bonuses.

5. Advocate the relevance of campus recreation and health promotion as a priority on campus. Working for an outsourced operation doesn’t mean you stop caring about student development or stop advocating for healthy lifestyle choices. Most outsource companies have a core belief to improve fitness and wellness through their model of operation, though some are more clinically focused and the populations for which they serve vary greatly. The key is to discern the differences between these business models, as it is imperative to select an outsource company that meets the needs for both campus recreation and the university’s goals.


Jeff Sessine is the senior vice president of CENTERS, LLC. He has been in the field of campus recreation and a member of NIRSA since 1990. CENTERS is currently managing eight campus recreation centers in the United States. For more information about CENTERS, please contact 202.289.0344 or email info@centersusa.com.