Home » Episode #508: Joe Cannato Discusses the Growth of Parkour at ROAMFurther

Joe Cannato, a dedicated coach and fitness veteran, started an ambitious journey in Fairfield, Connecticut, where he initiated a youth sports program. Despite his initial hustle, the program didn’t achieve the growth he was hoping for, compelling him to start again from scratch. Joe talks about this, his beginnings from studying nutrition and dietetics, to becoming a professional parkour coach and more! For five and a half years, he worked tirelessly, refining his business concept while also trying to drum up some seed funding. He serendipitously met Scott, who would later become a pivotal part of his entrepreneurial journey. 

Cannato dives into the intricacies of parkour--the heart of his program--as both a lifestyle and a discipline, drawing fascinating parallels to martial arts. He and Pete chat about how his unique approach to parkour training benefits kids of all ages, enhancing their confidence, physical skills, and body awareness. Joe also opens up about the strategic decisions behind ROAM's first location within a family entertainment center and the vital role community and parental involvement play in their program. 

About the public's thinking around parkour, Cannato states, "A lot of people think parkour relates a little bit more to skateboarding and that it's just taking risks and whatever happens happens. But there's far more to it than that . . . in parkour we have a very mindful approach towards how we move, but the high level-high risk situations that you see promoted is what gathers all the attention and attention sells as well."

Key themes discussed

  • Initial meeting with a broker led to a strong business partnership.
  • Parkour emphasizes mindful, obstacle-based movement training.
  • Open communication and understanding key for success.
  • Parkour athletes can specialize in various sports. High transferability.
  • Scheduled, drop ins, pricing, manual system.
  • Events for both kids and parents.

A few key takeaways: 

1. Joe shares his journey from studying nutrition and dietetics to becoming a professional parkour coach in 2011. He founded ROAMFurther after recognizing the limitations in growth potential of the previous program he started in Fairfield. His partnership with Scott Kaplan was serendipitous and instrumental in getting out of the gate.

2. Parkour is likened to martial arts in terms of being a lifestyle, discipline, and even an artistic expression. It goes beyond the risky stunts often seen in media and is based on mindful, obstacle-based training. The skills learned in parkour can translate to improved performance in various sports such as soccer, football, and basketball.

3. ROAM's programs cater to a wide range of age groups, starting from as young as 9 months old. Joe discussed the positive impact parkour has on children, including increased body awareness, improved physical fitness, and heightened confidence. This holistic approach to child development ensures benefits both on and off the field.

4. The decision to establish ROAM inside a racing family entertainment center was partly strategic and partly opportunistic. While it offers great exposure due to heavy foot traffic, Joe highlighted both the benefits and challenges of sharing a space. The relationship allows for co-marketing, but requires constant effort to maintain visibility and a distinct identity.

5. ROAM also focuses on session-based programs for youth rather than traditional memberships, which allows for better customer relations and flexibility. Birthday parties are a significant part of the model, serving as lead generators for future customers. Additionally, the inclusion of a specialty coffee bar enhances the experience for parents, turning the facility into a genuine community hub rather than just a kid-focused venue.

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