IHRSA's interim CEO, Brent Darden, tells HCM it’s time for a ‘sense of urgency to survive and thrive’
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IHRSA's interim CEO, Brent Darden, tells HCM it’s time for a ‘sense of urgency to survive and thrive’

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Speaking to HCM, Brent Darden, the new interim CEO and president of IHRSA, says the organisation is positively committed to a reassessment of its mission and activity.

Darden said: "I believe the time has come for both IHRSA and our industry to reimagine themselves — to reset and to set the stage for a revival that holds tremendous promise."

Darden, a former IHRSA board member, was appointed to take over from Joe Moore, who stepped down last week in the middle of a growing crisis over booth refunds for IHRSA's cancelled 2020 trade show, with industry insiders saying the change was 'overdue'.

Darden said: “ IHRSA remains committed to its founding principles of growing, protecting, and promoting the health and fitness industry. As we look to the future, we must strengthen our resolve to live out these ideals in support of the global community we serve.

He stressed the challenges facing the industry in terms of profile with governments and stakeholders, commenting: "It’s been said that crisis reveals character, and this is true not only of individuals, but also of organisations.

"The pandemic has laid bare the reality of how far we must go to earn a prominent place in the continuum of helping people lead healthier lifestyles.

"Around the world, at a time when the benefits of regular exercise should be emphasised more than ever, it has been dismissed and deemed irrelevant."

Darden said making this journey is a responsiblity for all in the industry to share, saying: "Collectively, we simply must do more if we want to play a significant role in the fight to reverse the trend of obesity, physical inactivity, and unfulfilled wellbeing.

"As the interim CEO of IHRSA, I look forward to reaffirming our value to the association's members and bringing together the passion that our industry has, when it comes to making a difference to the lives of others," he said.

Although no mention was made of the refund crisis, Darden acknowledged the existential threats facing both IHRSA and parts of the industry, by concluding: "While honouring our past, and being respectful of our present, the future requires that we evolve with a sense of urgency, to survive and thrive."

Stephen Tharrett, industry analyst and co-founder of ClubIntel said: "Change is always hard, but in this instance it was needed. IHRSA needs to step back and decide what it really wants to be. Should it be a lobbying entity? Should it be focused on education for the industry? Should it spend more promoting the industry? Should it be US or international in focus? Once it answers these important questions, then it can find the right leader to take it into the future."

Darden will steady the ship while the association seeks a new CEO, and it has set up a dedicated committee to drive this recruitment process.

Joe Moore's departure was announced by the IHRSA board on Tuesday, August 18. He had been president and CEO since 2006.

Brent Darden background

Brent Darden earned his master’s degree in exercise science from Baylor University and began his career as a front desk attendant and fitness floor instructor at the First Baptist Church of Waco Life Recreation Center.

He was subsequently employed in a variety of positions in a regional multi-club group, a large independent athletic facility, and a niche group exercise studio.

He went on to work in corporate wellness, as wellness director for Texas Instruments and Northern Telecom and then served as VP at Cooper Aerobic Enterprises, working alongside Dr Kenneth Cooper, where he ran the fitness centre and in-residence wellness programme and oversaw the opening of the Cooper Spa, and the establishment of the Cooper Consulting division.

In 2003, Darden and his partner took over the failed North Dallas Athletic Club, renovating it and relaunching it as the Telos Fitness Center.

From 2010 to 2015, Darden served on the IHRSA board of directors, as nominations committee chair, vice-chair, chair of the board, and ex-officio.

Since that time, he has consulted for fitness brands and delivered keynote presentations around the world on leadership, employee engagement, customer experience, strategy, and brand frameworks.

Find out more about Brent Darden on his website here.

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Speaking to HCM, Brent Darden, the new interim CEO and president of IHRSA, says the organisation is positively committed to a reassessment of its mission and activity.
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