Our Varsity and Junior Varsity program went from 6 members to 54 members–and a waiting list–in less than two months. That’s remarkable growth. But with Kids’ programs, recruiting new members isn’t the hard part: it’s keeping them.

Athletic kids typically schedule their year around sports seasons: they’re in the gym for three months, and then gone for five, and then back for a week or two. Less athletic kids struggle with intrinsic motivation (they’d rather play NFL ’16 on the Xbox than actually throw a ball or run anywhere.) And if a kid says, “Can I skip the gym today?”, most parents will soon question the wisdom of paying for a program.

How have we overcome these challenges in such a dramatic fashion?

  1. We demonstrate the value of the program FIRST.
  2. We set up a progression system–much like a belt system in martial arts–to show advancement.
  3. We allow kids to “graduate” to higher-level classes ahead of their age, if they meet performance requirements.
  4. We show improvement to coaches and parents through a “report card” system.
  5. We have kids track mood, food and fitness every day.
  6. We no longer train the youngest kids.
  7. We introduced Junior Varsity, Varsity and Varsity Sport.

Here’s how the program works:

1. Getting Kids In

We offer free seminars several times every year: free nutrition seminars for parents, or free concussion seminars for parents and coaches. We collect names and email addresses from all attendees and then add them to our monthly email list.

By far the single most effective “marketing” we’ve done is to publish a nutrition guide for kids. “How To Feed A Hockey Animal” has been downloaded hundreds of times, and the followup email to parents is opened over 80% of the time. Many kids have come to Varsity because of that download.

You can have it (just remove all pics and rebrand with your own gym, please):

How To Feed A Hockey Animal

2. The Progression System

Varsity-Progressions

3. The Report Card

When we take in teams of athletes, we start with an assessment. You can see the testing protocol here. Athletes are given a report card after the first test, and it’s updated with a post-test at the end of the session. This way, kids, parents and coaches can see real improvement. This is also very effective for marketing the program: one kid on a hockey team arrives at tryouts and says, “Hey Coach, here are my numbers for stamina and power,” the Coach will inquire how the kid was scored…

Screen-Shot-2015-09-09-at-7.13.38-PM

4. Daily food, mood and exercise tracking are done in the Varsity Logbook. You can download a copy here (just change the name and logos, obviously:)

VARSITY LOGBOOK

5. The Varsity Sport program is worth specific mention. Teens who want to compete at CrossFit (or their own sports) AND work on character skills like public speaking can opt into Varsity Sport after a year in Varsity.

In the Varsity Sport program, teens do workouts requiring greater skills. You won’t see bar muscle-ups in our regular Teen classes, but you will in Varsity Sport. You’ll also see assignments for public speaking (helping with the Junior Varsity classes, or presenting to adult gym members) and opportunities for paid work. Varsity Sport kids work at the gym as weekend attendants, respite care workers (via the Ignite program) and peer tutors.