Building a Kids Program With the Brand X Method

Building a Kids Program With the Brand X Method

Announcer (00:00):
A kids program can change lives and provide revenue to your gym. At the 2022 Two-Brain Summit in Chicago, Jeff Martin laid out The Brand X Method for coaches and gym owners. Check it out and start or improve a kids program at your gym today. This is “Run a Profitable Gym.” Please remember to subscribe wherever you’re watching or listening. Now, here’s Jeff Martin of The Brand X Method.

Jeff Martin (00:21):
My name’s Jeff Martin. Along with my wife, Mikki, we owned a gym called Brand X. Yesterday, when we started, I believe it was Mike who asked, “Why’d you get into being a trainer?” And almost everybody answered “to change lives.” Remember that? Yeah, change lives. So when you work with adults, the opportunity to change lives is there. It’s awesome. We love changing lives, but when you work with youth, you have the opportunity to shape lives, and that’s impact, which is what the weekend is about. So I hope today to talk a little bit about Brand X, talk about some of the kids—we trained at least one of them—and inspire you to work with kids. Talk about the pathway we took to train kids, to produce kids who moved really well and were great, outstanding athletes. And then talk about a pathway for business success.

Jeff Martin (01:27):
After talking to hundred gym owners and thousands of people who train kids, what were the pathways? What’s the pathway that they took to be successful? Our gym, Brand X, was about an hour plus outside of San Diego, up in the mountains, little sleepyfarming and ranching community. You blinked, you were through it. Every time we had a seminar, I got a phone call, at least one phone call, and it goes something like this: “Hello, Brand X” “I’m lost. I’m pretty sure I’m lost.” “Uh where are you?” “Well, I’m on a dirt road. I passed the chicken ranch. I see fields and cows.” “Yeah, we’re about a quarter mile up on the left.” That was Brand X.

Jeff Martin (02:20):
In 2004, we became the fifth CrossFit affiliate, which is a really great thing to think about—wanting to take something that’s never been done befor, nobody knows about, bring it to a one-stoplight town and make youth fitness. Because that’s what we became known for: youth fitness. So the goal of our youth program was to have kids leave our program who are confident, confident and motivated to live active lives. We wanted to give them the tools to excel at whatever activity, task or sport life threw at them. We do this by making ’em move well, making ’em strong and increasing their physical literacy, which people see as athleticism.

Jeff Martin (03:12):
We had kids compete at the highest levels in youth athletics. So go all the way into professional sport. And we had great success outside of just athletics. We produced 10 valedictorians out of our gym. We had kids go to Ivy League schools. Just had one of our kids graduate from MIT. Kids who went to all four military academies. Three of our kids went to the Air Force Academy and created the official CrossFit affiliate at the Air Force Academy. We ran our program from 2004 to 2018, when we shut our gym down and chased our grandkids across the country. In that timeframe, we had 75 kids that were with us longer than five years, 30 kids that were with us longer than 10 years. We got to see our clients grow up. I wanna tell you about one of those kids.

Jeff Martin (04:12):
Her name is Sarah. Sarah came into the gym when she was four years old. She didn’t play sports. She didn’t do little-girl gymnastics, like almost every girl does. She just came to the gym. She was homeschooled. So she didn’t have P.E. The gym was her P.E. And from 4 years old to 18, Sarah matriculated through our program. At 18, she graduated from high school, one of our valedictorians, and went away to college. When she got to college, she said to herself, “I want to meet people and get involved.” And she decided she would go out for a sport. Never did sports before. Had the confidence to go out for a sport. She looked around and she said, “What would be fun?” She saw the archery club. She said, “I’ll go out for the archery club.” So she shows up on the day of tryouts.

Jeff Martin (05:13):
She shows up and they divide the people. Here’s people who have done archery before, who are competitive. Here’s people who’ve never picked up a bow before, don’t know how to shoot it. “Sarah, You go in this group and they go in that group. The group Sarah’s in, they learn how to shoot the bow. About halfway through the day, they set up three targets. It’s gonna be their tryouts. One near, one in the middle and one way far away. So coach goes up, grabs an arrows, shoots at the target: bullseye. Kids go up, they take their shots. A lot of ’em did really well. They got bullseyes. The second target, same thing. Coach goes up, draws, aims, fires, bullseye. Kids come up. They didn’t do so well this time. A few of ’em got the bullseye, Sarah included. Dangerously close. Third target, it’s way out there. Coach comes up, grabs, sorry, target’s here, releases arrow, arcs up, comes down—another bullseye. All the kids come up, they’re taking their shots. No one’s getting anywhere near the target. Sarah goes up, grabs her arrow, does what she’s been told. Aims, releases. That arrow works up and at the top, at the apex of that arrow’s flight, I wanna leave it right there. And I wanna go forward. About six months into into the future, I get a phone call. I get a lot of phone calls. “Hey, It’s Jeff.” And I hear the voice of a friend of mine who’s in the U.K. And he says “hey, mate” cuz that’s how they talk in the U.K. And I say “what’s up, dude?” ’cause American. And he said, “I wanna tell you about a little girl that I was training.” I said, “Cool.” He saidShe’s a rower. She had a huge engine, huge engine, but she wasn’t strong enough to compete at the higher levels.”

Jeff Martin (07:42):
And I said, “Awesome. That’s a cool story. What’s that got to do with me?” And he said, “She came to my gym. She trained with me for a couple years, and she got strong, and she made it. She was able to compete at the junior-national levels in the U.K., which is awesome.” So that’s awesome. He said, “She got a scholarship to go to the U.S. and row for a D1 school. That’s awesome, too. She called me the other night. Really, what she had to say, she she talked about a freshman little girl who came on who’d never rowed before. She said, ‘This girl tried out, killed everybody on the ergs, walked in the weight room, crushed everybody in the weight room. She did so well. She learned to row so fast that as an 18-year-old who’d never rowed before, she made the varsity boat of a D1 school.'” I said, “Well, that’s a cool story.” And he said, “Yeah. And she was wearing a shirt that said Brand X.” Sarah tried out for a sport. She tried out for rowing. She made the rowing team. She, impressed a senior who had a scholarship in that sport so much that she called her coach. And her coach said “I think I know her coach” and called me.

Jeff Martin (09:16):
Sarah’s exceptional. Wouldn’t you agree? It’s an exceptional story, but she’s not unique from our gym. We have four or five stories like that of kids walking onto a college campus trying out for a sport they never played before and making the team. So the question is “how do you build a Sarah?” How do you build kids who have this kind of capacity, this kind of ability? So lemme take my first shot here. We use a method we call Base-Build-Boost. In Base, we teach kids how to control their own body in space.

Jeff Martin (10:13):
In Build, we have them apply these lessons to movement and external objects. And in Boost we train. What’s that look like in Base? Well, in Base what we’re trying to do is teach a kid to be kinesthetically aware and proprioceptive—to understand where their body is in relation to their own body and where their body is in relation to other things. Is it fundamental to doing well in sport or anything in life? What does it look like if a child isn’t kinesthetically aware or doesn’t understand proprioception? We had a young girl come into our gym. Name’s Jennifer. Jennifer’s a very smart, smart young lady, did very well in school, but she liked to live in books, and she didn’t like to live outside. So she had very limited experience with movement.

Jeff Martin (11:10):
First class, she didn’t want to be there. First class I had the kids run out the door, out our big doors, and come back in, and they were supposed to show up at the whiteboard, and we were gonna go over the workout. So “3, 2, 1, go.” They all run out the door, they come back in. I’m standing there and I’m counting them, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I violate the one root thing that is the most important thing about being a youth trainer. I’ve lost a child—uh-oh. So I run, or what passes for running for meto the door. And I look out. There is a small tree that’s planted directly outside of our roll-up doors. It’s got about a six-inch-diameter trunk. And I see Jennifer, so I yell, “Hey, Jennifer, come on in!”

Jeff Martin (12:04):
I yell louder ’cause clearly she couldn’t hear me. “Jennifer, Come on in!” So finally I yell, “Jennifer, I can see you!” “No, you can’t!” Jennifer was like my three-year-old granddaughter. My three-year-old granddaughter will play hide and seek. She will literally sit in the middle of our floor, throw a blanket over her, and I play the game. “I Don’t see you.” She thinks if she can’t see me, I can’t see her. She doesn’t have proprioception of where other things are in relation to herself. The second story about Jennifer is not quite as funny as that one. We did a workout with box jumps in it. We demonstrated box jumps, we gave different heights for the box jumps, demonstrated regressions, things like that. “3, 2, 1, go.”

Jeff Martin (12:55):
Jennifer jumps onto a box, she clears the box with her feet by this much, and then she folds her knees up and lands on her shins. Every trainer in the place rushes over. “Jennifer. Jennifer, are you okay?” She’s embarrassed, but she goes, “Yeah, I’m fine.” We said, “You should step up.” “No, I can do this.” And she proceeds to jump up in the air, fold her legs up and land on top of the box again. Jennifer didn’t know where her feet were in relation to her own body, in relation to the box.

Jeff Martin (13:35):
She didn’t know how to control her own body. So Jennifer’s an extreme point, but the kids who walk into our gym often are not aware of where their body is in space or how to move their body. And that’s becoming more and more prevalent as our culture changes. 10 years ago, kids came home from school and played outside. That doesn’t happen so much anymore. So how do you work with kids like this? Can you teach them to squat? Well, a squat has a lot of moving parts in it. It’s hard to figure out. So one of the things we found that worked with kids was we wanted to focus on what we call “movement skills.” Movement skills are pieces and parts of movements. They’re irreducible things that you can’t make any smaller.

Jeff Martin (14:34):
You can’t make smaller externally rotating the femur. It is what it is. You can’t make smaller hinging at the hip. We need to teach these pieces and parts to kids, and then we add them together to make movement. So I’d like y’all to stand up. We’re gonna go through our first movement, just kind of go through a movement skill. And this movement skill is what you’re seeing up here. Recall this waiting in the outfield. You’ve all seen it, right? Person sitting out in the middle of the outfield, and they’re just waiting. We also call this “I just ran a 200-meter sprint” for the older crowd. So all I want you to do is feet a little bit wider than your shoulders, hands on your thighs, shoulders down, and you’re gonna hinge back and come down. And I want your thumbs on the inside of your knees. Thumbs should be pointing straight down into your foot. That’s the position we teach.

Jeff Martin (15:39):
Stand up. Kids run out the door, come back to the waiting-in-the outfield position. We cement this position, have kids make it so that they replicate it exactly the same way each time. And then we can add things together, add pieces together to do other things. Go ahead and sit down. Thank you. So in Base we’re teaching movement skills. When you work with kids, break things down as small as possible. Number one, break things down as small as possible. Make them learn that position, those pieces. Make sure that we’re not hurrying them onto the next step. Does that make sense?

Jeff Martin (16:36):
When we’re in the Build phase, we’re gonna apply what we learned to movement and to external objects. We’re gonna use things like tempo training, pausing. We are going to limit range of motion, and we’re gonna limit intensity. Okay? So what do I mean by that—”limiting intensity? If I want a child to learn how to squat well, and that is my goal, I want you to squat well, and I say to that child, “I want you to do as many squats as you can in one minute.” How many good squats do I get? This is a word problem. Zero good squats. I can get intensity, but I get it elsewhere. So we limit volume, limit intensity. I say to the kids, “We’re gonna do five squats. We’re gonna do them tempo style. When you’re done with that, you’re gonna do 10 burpees and a hundred-meter sprint. You come back in, you do five squats, tempo style, and repeat.” I still get the intensity, but I have ’em slow down and accomplish the skill that I’m trying to get them to accomplish. In this phase, what we wanna do is we want to take those movement skills and cement them for the children, and we want them to become global strategies for movement. So I’m gonna have you stand up a second time and we’re gonna work on this. So we’re gonna go back into that waiting-in-the-outfield position. Thumbs are pointed straight down. And what you’re gonna notice if your thumbs are pointed straight down into your knots of your shoes is your shins are fairly perpendicular. Your back is fairly flat. Now I want you to imagine that you have taken a kettlebell and lifted it so the handle is at knee height, and you reach inside, grab that. And all I want you to do is push your hips forward and stand up, then replace that kettlebell. Come back to that position and stand back up. I’ve limited the range of motion so they can have success and learn how to lift something. And we’ll lower that over time. Let’s go back to that waiting-in-the-outfield position here. Lift your hands under and rotate your hands up. Very good. Now I don’t want you to sit down. Very good. And stand back up.

Jeff Martin (19:21):
So I can take a movement skill, and I can apply it to different movement patterns. And those children understand that this movement that they’ve done is now a global strategy for different movements. Does that make sense? Good. Number two, sit down again, thank you. So number two, we’re gonna move the movement skills, make them global strategies. We’re gonna use techniques like tempo, limiting range of motion. Pausing, limiting volume, limiting intensity. Finally, we can move into Boost. In Boost, we can increase load, we can increase intensity, we can increase volume, we can increase complexity. If a child knows how to squat well and we ramp them up, there’s nothing wrong with having them back-squat 500 pounds or deadlift 500 pounds. We can increase the volume because it actually makes sense. We can increase intensity ’cause it actually makes sense. I can now have that kid do squats, as many squats as possible for a minute only. This Boost space is incredibly important.

Jeff Martin (21:32):
If we built these kids up right, we can maximize their training potential and maximize their potential when they go out into the real world. Does that make all make sense? Awesome. So I’m gonna get outta the way because Sarah’s arrow’s coming down now. Coming down, and Sarah hits the bullseye, the farthest target. She didn’t just hit the bullseye, she splits the coach’s arrow. She Robin Hoods the arrow. Something they had never seen before, but Sarah decided she wanted to row. So what does this take? What does it take to get kids to this position? Silence. Okay, silence is fine. I’ll answer the question. It takes time. What do we have to do if we wanna have time to work with kids? We gotta have a successful business. We have to make money for the gym, and the coaches have gotta be making enough money to wanna stick around for that to happen. We’ve talked to, I don’t know how many gyms, hundreds of gyms, thousands of coaches, and we know what those things that gyms need to do to ramp the program up and be successful. Just like when you’re wanna maximize a child’s training potential, there’s certain things you need to do at the beginning to excel at the far end. So we use the same method—Base-Build-Boost to build your business base.

Jeff Martin (23:52):
Base is building a business foundation. Build is applying it within your gym. And Boost is going outside the gym and growing your program. In Base, we want to address the things that cause programs not to excel and then set them up with the things that we know are going to help them excel. So often when we look at people, people’s gyms, and they’re running your youth program, we say, “Why are you hiding your youth program? When people look at your gym, do they see that you’re running a youth program?”

Jeff Martin (24:42):
So what are the things that we need to take away or that we need to make sure that we’re doing so that we can succeed when we’re running a youth program? The first one is education. Knowing how to work with kids. So I get this phone call once a month, and the phone call goes something like this. Ring! “Hey, Jeff, I’m gonna start a youth program.” “Awesome.” I love to hear from people who are gonna start a youth program. “So I need to have some programming.” “Cool. Our programming relies on our education.” And they say, “Well, I just need the programming. I’m gonna start Monday.”

Jeff Martin (25:28):
“Okay, gonna start Monday. What’s your education?” “I don’t need the education yet. I’m gonna run the program. I’m gonna get it up and running, gonna make money, and then I’ll come back and take education later.” So step off that phone call for a second. Think about running a program. This phone call comes up I don’t know how many times—two, three times a month maybe. And I say to them in the nicest way possible, “If you were running any other business and you told somebody ‘I’m gonna go into the business and then I’m going to get the education I need to excel at this business,’ what do you think they’d say?”

Jeff Martin (26:18):
Right? Can it happen? Sure, you can start a mechanic’s business and you can start by looking at YouTube, and you might succeed, but it’s way harder to do it that way. The second thing we we hear is people say they don’t set their business structure up correctly. I ask them “what are your business goals?” Can’t really tell me. “I Want a successful business.” Dude. That’s like saying “I wanna lose weight.” Doesn’t mean anything. We have to have goals that we can hit. Secondly, we’ll say, “What are the goals of your program?” I ask this online to people in Facebook groups all the time. What’s the goal of your youth program? Well, when they call me, “What’s the goal of your youth program?” I’ll either get silence or they’ll say something like “fun. I want my kids to have fun.” We all want our kids to have fun. It’s important.

Jeff Martin (27:20):
The thing is parents aren’t gonna pay $120 a month to have the kids come have fun. We need to have goals set within the program that parents will pay for, that parents want to achieve for their kids. So in your business, when you’re setting up your business, identify what do parents need, what do parents want? That’s where you start with the goals of your program. When people set up their youth program, is it readily available or readily apparent when they walk in the door that a youth program is running in the gym?

Jeff Martin (28:17):
Or is it hiding in the back? At Brand X, we had pictures all around the entryway of kids working out, kids having fun in the classes. We had a case off to the side where they had medals, awards, T-shirts that they’d won. We had youth-specific schedules, we had handouts that discussed what our program was about. In the SOPs we talk about with our training centers and with our plug-and-play people, we set up SOPs for when the parent walks through the door. How do you talk to that parent? What do you hand them? What do they see? How do you talk to them after the class? How do you lead them down the path of signing up? If you want it to be successful, it needs to be something that parents see. When we talk about setting up the program, we have to understand who is our client.

Jeff Martin (29:27):
The parent is the client. We work with children. We do what’s best for kids, but the parent is the client. We have to set the program up to meet the parents’ goals and needs. We also need to understand that oftentimes we get very excited about opening up youth programs and we market internally. We set the program up to meet the goals of the members of our gym. But if we want a really thriving youth program, we have to be able to go outside the program. So if we’re gonna be looking at things like “what time do I run my classes?”

Jeff Martin (30:02):
Maybe it’s good to do things like poll Facebook groups to find out when the best class time is versus your members. We wanna be really detailed so that we can set this business up so it runs automatically. Every trainer in my gym, whether they worked with kids or not, knew when somebody walked through the door what they were gonna say. “Here’s The goals of our program, here’s what you need to see, here’s what we need to do”—our SOPs for a new parent coming in the door. Does that make sense to everybody? Next, when you’re starting your program launch, do a soft launch. Now we wanna launch internally. These people love you. Your gym members already love you. If you open up and say “I’m gonna run a kids program,” and they say “what’s the kids program about?” and you’re not done with all of your SOPs yet, you can tell ’em, “we’re gonna have kids stand on their heads for 30 minutes.” They’re gonna go, “That sounds amazing.”

Jeff Martin (31:08):
In a soft launch with your members, those people are very forgiving. You can test all of your recipes, find out what’s missing, what’s not working well, what holes we have to fill. All of those things. And you’re gonna have a forgiving crowd. If you’ve gone out and gotten people to come in, you have one or two opportunities to make an impression on them, sign them up, and if your program’s not running well, those people leave. You don’t have a chance to get them in again. So we want to launch internally. We want to test and challenge our SOPs. And finally we want to begin to educate parents in our certification. We have a whole section with handouts to start discussions with parents on. You should develop those things. We want to educate our parents on why our program is foundational to their child’s success and not an activity. Write that down if you can because we want to define our program as something that is not an activity.

Jeff Martin (32:28):
Activities are things like the bounce house, going ice skating. Those are things that you can take your kid in and out of. Something that’s foundational is like math, science, reading. These are things that are gonna help your kid further down the line. We want to build parents’ awareness of why our program is foundational to them, to their child. Every program that we’ve talked to, the ones that are making half million or $300,000 in their youth programs, every one of ’em says parents are their biggest marketing tools. Understanding that those parents are gonna be out sitting at the soccer game and telling the people next to them “the reason my kid’s not getting pulled out is ’cause she goes to XYZ gym.”

Jeff Martin (33:25):
Finally, we can go out and we can grow our program. We use the parents to market for us, and we build that youth strength and conditioning program. That youth strength and conditioning program is our base. It’s the base of what we’re doing. From there, we can begin to stack programs. I can split off and have a youth barbell class. Our youth barbell class was amazing with 35 to 40 kids in it. Almost every one of those kids, probably 90 to 95% of the kids who were in our youth barbell class, were kids who had been disenfranchised from sport or were not in sport or had never been in sport. We set over a hundred state, national records with our with our teens and our powerlifting. Very strong. They walked outta that program with confidence. They saw themselves differently.

Jeff Martin (34:30):
If you have the base of that youth strength and conditioning program, you can now do things like basketball season. Starting two months before basketball season you’re gonna do a camp for basketball players, a strength and conditioning camp for basketball players. As an example, I just got asked to work with a pee-wee football team: 75 kids three times a week. What do you think that costs? It’s gonna be nice for us. The key, though, is to set it up so it runs efficiently. You have a good marketing plan, marketing group with your parents, and then you grow that base that strength and conditioning program for the kids and teams.

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