How to choose a Pilates course provider in South Africa 2011
04 February 2011 - Posted by James Raaff in In the press, News
How to choose a Pilates Education Programme in South Africa in 2011.
Results from a study published in the South African Journal of Sports Medicine (Draper et al, 2006) show that the SA fitness industry comprises mainly independent facilities (68%), within urban areas. Most interesting is that all types of facilities provided services to just less than 2% of the South African population and that in terms of racial proportions most staff are white.
Informal online surveys and research conducted during 2010 by pilatesinfo.co.za (www.pilatesinfo.co.za) and the Register of Exercise Professionals of South Africa (REPSSA) revealed that approximately 4500 fitness professionals currently work in South Africa and around 2100 of these are Pilates Instructors.
In the light of such radical growth over the past 5 years, there is a welcome and positive drive by government and industry role-players to properly legislate/regulate the industry with the primary aim of consumer protection. Consumers in this industry sub-sector means, 1. clients of these professionals, 2. students seeking education/training and 3. professionals employed in this industry.
There is no doubt this is a growth industry in SA and I believe that there is a massive market, yet untapped, and many opportunities for higher education and employment (mostly self-employment) in the Rainbow country as a whole.
Start your career with a good education
The first step on the path to a successful Pilates career is getting a good education. Rapid growth environments often facilitate fast track education plans (or “short cuts”) since there is such great demand. Some studios simply employ clients that move well and like the idea of some extra cash… who wouldn’t? With government regulation in this industry an imminent reality, the industry is set to grow-up and take its rightfully deserved place in the formal sector. What is more important than one’s health? Fitness professionals are well poised to play a noble role in the development of a healthy nation.
Pilates is an exercise technique. It can be used in many settings but it is part of the larger Fitness Industry. Because it can be used so effectively by other professionals (like Registered Physiotherapists and medical rehabilitation specialists, called Registered Biokineticists) it is sometimes studied and marvelled for its benefit in treating myriad patients with problems. Most Pilates around the world is done in fitness facilities and this is the type of education and training that this article refers to.
In terms of getting a good education and giving yourself the best chance at professional success, it is necessary to understand exercise and how it affects humans in general, before you learn special variations on the theme.
Accreditation and Recognition
The International Confederation of Registers for Exercise Professionals (ICREPs) is an international partnership between registration bodies around the world that register exercise professionals. ICREPs members operate in over 30 countries. If you plan to live and work in South Africa, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia or New Zealand (all ICREPS members) then you will need a Basic Qualification in Fitness or Exercise Science before you can do any specialized training in the field. What I am alluding to is the pre-requisite qualifications before one can study Pilates.
The most basic type of qualification that suffices is called a National Fitness Certificate, which comprises around 120 hours of study and practice before you can be assessed and if found to be competent, awarded the qualification. If you don’t have at least, his type of qualification (which is accredited by the relevant authority) you will not be legally allowed to work in the fitness industry. So that is a no-brainer. Get one before you start, or get one if you want to carry on (you have a period of grace of around 2 years, which easily enough time).
Many Pilates Education companies either have the ability to provide you with a referral to an accredited Fitness education provider (some may even be accredited to provide this for you themselves. If you are unsure, contact REPSSA www.repssa.com (they have to remain independent in order to operate their service to the government).
As good companies offer accredited Fitness Qualifications, Pilates companies are required to register their programmes with the relevant authorities (to be correct, this legislation is in the process of being finalized in SA). Ask whether the company you are investigating has temporary accreditation or whether they have submitted an application to their sectoral education and training authority (called THETA, as of Februray 2011). This may change but accreditation applications with THETA’s replacement will then apply. If they have not and do not intend to, you should find another company. As long as they have not made the application your qualification will not be recognized and the government may suspend your business.
The most common question prospective Pilates students ask when making enquiries is “Is this course internationally recognized?” REPSSA and the government make sure that SA Pilates companies comply with standards at least equal to that of the qualifications offered in the regions mentioned above. This means that the accredited qualifications are portable to these regions.
What about the PMA?
The Pilates Method Aliance (www.pilatesmethodalliance.org) claims to be an international body representing quality education and practice of Pilates worldwide. They also offer a “third party professional credential” (or certification) as a means to unify all the different qualifications offered in the USA and the world. They do not however have representation in SA and their standards are not aligned with those of the ICREPS. Some great education companies advertise their “international recognition” but they are simply making advertising statements, which are untrue - however you spin it.
Private companies, universities and organisations offering accredited continuing professional development courses for registered health professionals may offer Pilates education but they are designed for registered health professionals and although you may complete many of these (and gain great understanding!) they do not replace a qualification and you cannot work in the fitness industry without at least an accredited national fitness certificate.
Pilates Mat or Equipment Training?
Many education providers offer Pilates education beginning with “modules” in mat work, then they offer equipment education later. This is OK. REPSSA and it’s international counterparts realise that this is actually a logical way to learn all the content that a complete Pilates education (mat and equipment and other bits of accessories etc) can eventually encompass. Of course, in the thoughts of Lewis Carrol, you need to start at the beginning, go along to the end then stop (sic).
There will be recognition of the difference between those that study mat only and those that learn the equipment as well. The higher-level registrations within REPSSA will however be largely dependant on the level of accredited qualification one has, not solely on the amount of Pilates education one has.
Continuing education (after you have your Qualifications)
Like any profession, a practitioner needs to remain up-to-date with current concepts and new methods. A continuing education programme is being developed and will form part of one’s requirements for maintaining registration with REPSSA. Most quality Pilates education companies will have the capacity to provide this ongoing training but the required credits can be collected with any accredited provider and even by attending accredited conferences. The requirements will be annually accrued and randomly audited.
Once all the technical boxes have been checked you will still need to make a choice – there are many great education providers in South Africa. Choosing who you learn from is very important and you need to be happy with their style of teaching and their perspective on Pilates. All the providers have to cover the necessary minimums for accreditation but they all have a little different way of presenting Pilates. This is just the nature of Pilates – it has evolved from the original work (that is inevitable, necessary and exciting) and different teachers emphasise different aspects when dealing with the details. If you have a dance background perhaps choose a teacher that has dance experience as well. If you want a technical and scientific edge – choose an appropriate provider. The only way you’ll know is to go and spend time with them. Sign up for at least 20-30 private sessions and a few group classes (if that is your thing). Everyone is negotiable – so tell what you’re planning to do.
Do a workshop with a company you have short-listed. You can explain why you want to attend and I doubt you will be refused entry. All of the great teachers I know in SA will be happy to let you observe some of their teaching, just behave and ask questions after the opportunity in a scheduled meeting (their time is their money). Request an interview and let your intuition guide you.
Of course, loads of very high level education and experience count for a lot – ask your short-listed teachers for their biographies and let them do the talking.
Ongoing support and service
A final bonus that a quality education provider may offer includes post-accreditation support – technical, business support, networking opportunities and further advanced education opportunities. Think how large alumni programmes can be! Harvard University have 23 000 alumni volunteers annually and over 200 alumni clubs to join. Ok, it’s a rather hefty example but it is important to keep in mind the most important factor in determining your success in Pilates and in life – DREAM BIG.
Best of luck with all your creation, invention and discovery