9 Ways to Super-Size Your Gym’s Kids Program

Podcast-1 (8)

Chris Cooper: (00:02)

Hey, it’s Chris Cooper here. And today I’m gonna give you nine ideas to grow your kids program. Part of our mission at Catalyst is to extend and enhance the lives of 7,000 people in Sault St. Marie. And we believe that the greatest impact can actually be made in the youngest people. And that means training people to learn how to be fit and to love fitness so that they continue to pursue it their whole life. I’m gonna teach you how to do the same. And if this episode is helpful to you, please hit subscribe on your favorite podcast platform so that I can keep talking about this stuff. So here we go. Nine ideas to grow your kids’ program. Most of you are going to have two levels to your kids program. We call that Junior Varsity and Senior Varsity at Catalyst. You might call it something else.

Chris Cooper: (00:47)

Okay. So we’re gonna start with your younger kids program. You might even have three layers if you do a preschool program. We don’t do that. It just burned my coaches out too quickly, but here’s what we do with the younger kids. The first week, we will let them do a free trial workout, right? But we’re gonna really carefully script that workout. It’s not just gonna be a free drop in, try it at any single time you want to, bring your buddy. We’re gonna set this up in advance. So the first one we’re going to do is invite a kids team. So let’s say that you’ve got a kid in your youth program and you know, maybe they’re eight or nine years old and you’re having a conversation with them. And you say, what other teams do you play for? And they say, oh, I’m in this Pop Warner basketball league or whatever.

Chris Cooper: (01:33)

And you say, that’s awesome. How many kids are on your team? We have nine kids on my team. Wonderful. Who coaches that for you? And they’ll give you their coach’s name. And then what you do is you make contact with this coach who is usually a volunteer. And you say, Hey, I just talked to this kid. They said they’re on your team. Thank you so much for volunteering and helping local kids. Would you like to bring the team in for a fun night at Catalyst? And then, you know, if the coach agrees, which honestly, in my experience, 70 to 80% of the time, they just jump on this. They think it’s awesome. You bring the team in, you have every kid bring their parent, they sign their waivers. They can come in and you do like a ninja challenge or something like that.

Chris Cooper: (02:14)

Maybe you do something that’s related to their sport, but you don’t have to. They like just doing obstacle courses. And then from there, you’ve got every kid’s name and the parent’s email, and you add them to your email list for kids programs. And in fact, if you’re really good at this, what you’ll say is, Hey, we’d run this program twice a week or three times a week. And if you wanna sign your kids up, we limit class size at this. Register here. Okay. The second idea to grow a smaller kids program is to host a birthday party. Very similar idea. What you’re saying to the parents though, is, would you like to host your kids’ birthday at Catalyst? You do have to charge for this because it is a lot of work and there’s gonna be cleanup involved. There might be some cake involved.

Chris Cooper: (02:57)

How much of that you handle is really up to you. But every kid that gets invited to that birthday party should be signing a waiver. They should be filling in their parents’ address so that you can contact the parent after. And I’ll tell you: with younger kids, trying something and finding it really, really fun is not just an easy win for your business. It’s also a huge relief to the parents. Most of the kids who are coming to these programs are not training to be competitive athletes in their sport. They should be doing these programs if they wanna get better at hockey or football, but most of these kids are there because their parents want to find a way for them to just get some exercise. And the best way to get the kid engaged is to make it fun. The best way to get the parent engaged is to show them their kids are having fun.

Chris Cooper: (03:44)

Okay. So next up, so that’s our first two ways: birthday parties and inviting a child’s team. Another one is bring a buddy or bring a brother. So could be bring a sister of course, too, which is like, bring your older or younger sibling to come and try a class too. That’s a different variation on the exact same thing. Okay. So another way is to reward an entire class. So what you can do is you can go to schools and you can say, Hey, I see that you’re doing this fundraiser. Schools are always doing fundraisers at least two to three times a year for something. And so what you say is we’d like to offer a prize and it’s not a donation, it’s a reward. So the top classroom that fundraises the most, or brings in the most cans or collects the most pennies or whatever it is, the top earning classroom gets to skip their morning classes and do a field trip to your gym. In that field trip, they’re just gonna have a super duper fun time and do obstacle courses and stuff. Okay. And of course, before the kids can come in the building, their parents need to sign a waiver, including their contact information, to which you will be sending ongoing information and education about kids programs at your gym. Okay? So I’m gonna call that three because the bring a sibling day is really the same as one of the first two. But if you invite a kids team, that’s a great one. If you host a birthday party, or if you give a field trip as a reward to a class, those are three ways to grow your kids’ program. Now let’s talk about older kids. Pre-teens and teenagers rely more on their friends’ recommendations than their parents’ advice. And in fact, sometimes if the parent is really pushing them toward fitness, the kid will push back.

Chris Cooper: (05:32)

Teenagers need to fight you on something. Every parent listening to this knows it. Don’t make fitness the thing that they’re gonna fight you about. Okay. So for teens, social media is more important. And by social media, I mean, what their friends are talking about, okay. Whether they’re posting about it on Instagram or Facebook or TikTok or whatever they need, they wanna do the stuff that their friends are talking about. Okay. So what I do is I just pass the gym camera- Okay. My phone, or whoever- around after class. And I say, Hey, you guys can take pictures of each other if you want to. And we’re gonna post it to Instagram later. Okay. And they do all kinds of crazy, funny stuff. It’s really awesome. Most of it is not like show off stuff, but sometimes they get a little bit crazy like that and that’s fine.

Chris Cooper: (06:18)

That’s great. Right. One thing that’s really important here though, is that you have all of your kids sign a photo waiver, and you should be doing that anyway. Or have all the parents sign a photo waiver for the kids. It’s super duper important because you wanna highlight this stuff. If you wanna change the lives of people in your city, and you wanna have an impact, you wanna highlight young people doing this kind of stuff. And that means signing a photo release. It’s important that you have that and you not just take it for granted because unfortunately there are kids in all of our communities whose pictures should not be shown publicly. Maybe there’s a spousal debate over a divorce issue. Or, you know, maybe some parents are just sensitive because maybe the kid has a background where they’ve been approached inappropriately or whatever.

Chris Cooper: (07:06)

Maybe some parents are just being cautious. And I totally understand that, but you should have a photo release policy. And if a kid can’t have their picture shown at your gym, you’re gonna wanna make a decision about whether that kid can fit into your program or not. Or if you just need to train the coaches not to get that kid in the picture. Okay. So next up with the teens, we have several ideas on how to grow your preteen or your teen program. Okay. So the first one is invite a team for testing. So while a play day for the team is really awesome for younger kids, a test day or a challenge day has been way more successful for bringing preteens and teens to our gym. So what we do is we connect with their coach and then we offer the service. Okay.

Chris Cooper: (07:52)

And we’ll test on the 10 physical skills or we’ll make kind of like a combine. So what we could do is we could talk to, we have a lot of hockey players. What team do you play for? Who is your coach? Connect with the coach. Coach, we’re having an amazing time training Sally at our gym. She’s doing a great job. I’m sure you’ve seen the changes on the ice. And would you like to bring the team in for a fun team combine to kick the season off? The second one is to host a free seminar. So kids and often their parents, they don’t know what to eat between games or before games or after games if they play a sport. And so many of them eat based on the nutritional strategy that their parent maybe got in the seventies, or maybe their coach got, right?

Chris Cooper: (08:34)

So they carb load as if they’re gonna run a marathon every single day. So nutrition seminars appeal to parents and coaches, because they don’t infringe on the coach’s locus of control. No coach will generally say I’m a nutrition expert. And so they won’t feel threatened when you say, Hey, you wanna bring your team in and we’ll teach them how to really work out or how to really improve physically. Okay. Coaches are unthreatened by the nutrition. Parents are attracted to the nutrition seminar. You’re gonna call it, like, strategic eating for sport or something like that and bring them in for that. Okay. The third one is to send letters to sports teams. So we book about a dozen sports teams every year, including hockey, baseball, figure skating, cross country skiing, football, baseball. We had a biathlon team last year. And as the coach of one hockey team told me, you guys were the only ones who could give us a price in writing.

Chris Cooper: (09:28)

You just seem more professional. More than ever these days, coaches have to be careful about who they expose their teams to. There’s risk of injury, but they’re also taught, you have to treat the kids in a professional manner. You know, as a volunteer coach myself, I know you have to go through a lot of respect in sport training and stuff like that. And so coaches wanna deal with professionals. And so if you just send a letter to all these sports teams saying, here is what we do at Catalyst, here’s how we can help your kids improve. Here’s how we make it fun. You’re probably going to get some sign up. Next tip is to focus on fringe sports. So while in our town, there are at least half a dozen quote-unquote “hockey trainers” who try to focus on improving hockey skills.

Chris Cooper: (10:17)

None of them really seem interested in helping figure skaters jump better or downhill ski racers stay tighter in their turns. And neither of those sports are cheap, right? And both of those sports are full of injuries. So we have the power to help those kids too. And the next tip is stay in front of ’em. We use email campaigns to share the stories of our clients year round. When teen athletes take a break, they’re usually not gone forever, unless they just forget about you. So consistent emails from our gym draws their eyes back to our program. And of course, it’s usually the parent getting the email, but consistent posting on social media about your kids programs, especially Instagram, TikTok right now, that gets their eyes on your program. And so they don’t forget about you and go looking for something different. So from there, you can create a sense of urgency too.

Chris Cooper: (11:08)

So you can send their parents an email saying, we’re planning on our summer kids program. Our goal is to help your kids find exercise they’ll love for a lifetime. We love to fill our program with the best kids. So if your kid has a bestie, make sure that you invite them before the program fills, ’cause we wanna get just the best kids in there. And so if you’ve got that email program going, they’ll be expecting emails from you. And that personalized invite helps you fill the group fast. Okay. Finally, in “Help First” is our final strategy that I wanna share with you. And you know, this really came about because in early 2015, I was doing this free nutrition seminar at a local business. And during the Q&A period, this woman said, I saw you behind the bench at a hockey game on the weekend, your kids’ team played my kids’ team at 7:00 AM.

Chris Cooper: (11:59)

Why did your kids have so much energy that early? And I responded that I had written this nutrition one-pager for the parents of the kids on our team. And it just had some really simple advice. Like don’t eat donuts before practice, don’t have caffeinated drinks at eight years old, just drink water and not Gatorade in our bottles. And so her next question was the obvious one, right? How do I get that sheet? And so I put this sheet together called “How to feed a hockey animal” and I just put it on our website. So when parents filled out the form on that page, they got this one sheet nutrition guidelines, and then they started getting our other emails too. And so I shared some documents with them at the time that I had written for the CrossFit Journal called “No squats for the coal miner’s daughter” and “Fitness through sports”.

Chris Cooper: (12:45)

And then I would send them another email about our program. And then from there we were getting a ton of signups and that just compounded to the point where we didn’t do any marketing for like the next five years, because we were just getting so much growth from the nine strategies that I’ve just shared. So let me just quickly recap. If you’ve got two programs, younger kids and older kids, you have to have different growth strategies for each. For the younger kids, invite their team to do like a ninja challenge at your gym. Okay. And you’re gonna just like, do this through the parents, second: birthday parties, third: set up a class reward with a local school or a group that’s doing fundraising. For the older kids, invite their team for testing or a combine day, host a free seminar on nutrition, send letters out to all the sports teams in advance, focus on the fringe sports, stay in front of them and practice “Help First”. Find the questions that people in your community are asking to help their kids and answer those questions. That’s it for me. That’s nine ways to grow your kids’ program in your gym, no matter what you’re doing. And I really think these are important programs to grow the impact of long term health and fitness in your community.

Mike Warkentin: (13:57)

That was Chris Cooper on Two-Brain Radio. Thanks for listening. Before you go, hit subscribe so you don’t miss a show. Now Coop’s back to close it out.

Chris Cooper: (14:05)

We created the Gym Owners United Facebook group in 2020 to help entrepreneurs just like you. Now it has more than 5,800 members and it’s growing daily as gym owners join us for tips, tactics, and community support. If you aren’t in that group, what are you waiting for? Get in there today so we can network and grow your business. That’s Gym Owners United on Facebook or GymOwnersUnited.com. Join today.

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