by Gretchen Bredemeier, Two-Brain Youth Programs Mentor
Thinking about starting a new youth program, or building on the one you have? Here are Gretchen’s Top 5 tips:
1. Take the time to plan long-term.
Short-term thinking and planning is one of the biggest barriers to successful youth programs. It’s why I do everything I can to help gyms overcome this hurdle during mentorship. You can’t just deal with things as they come and expect to thrive. You have to get ahead of stuff! You respond better, create better, and program better when you work from a long-term plan. Most youth programs are doing exceptionally well if they can think through things a month at a time. Youth coaches and managers work other jobs, have kids… they just tend to have lots going on. It’s the gym owner’s job to set the vision of a Youth Program, and create an annual plan with quarterly goals.
2. Get your youth coaches certified.
Sure CrossFit Kids or BrandX is an insurance requirement for youth ages 12 and under, but there are gobs of great reasons to make sure your coaches are certified. As I coach adults, I’ve never had anyone ask about my certifications. As a Youth Coach, however, I actually decided to hang them all on the wall above my desk and require that all parent conversations happen at that desk. It’s embarrassing (I don’t want to be THAT person), but parents need to see them. Certs make parents comfortable and help to gain their respect in a “sport” that is still seen as “scary” and “unorthodox” in most areas. It gives parents the security of knowing that you gained your knowledge from something greater than YouTube. Certs go a long way to professionalize our profession. Certifications can be brought up and used to validate content (particularly anything controversial- like early specialization). At this transition point, as CrossFit begins to take its place as a valid option in youth sports, youth coaches must be obvious experts to gain the trust of parents- and certs are an easy first step.
3. Stop offering family discounts.
Your youth program is the best thing parents can do for their kids. You know it. I know it. Parents will figure it out quickly. Some parents are coming to your gym anyway so this program is also the most convenient thing they can do for their kids. And if they weren’t spending their money at your gym, they’d be spending more money somewhere else.
What they don’t like is the big number they see all going to the SAME place- it’s a psychological annoyance that we have to be mindful of. People are fine spending $500, as long as it is spent in small increments. When it’s all spent in one large sum, especially at one place or on one thing, that’s when people freak out. Instead of stealing money from your own program, however, there are other ways to help people out. One simple tactic is to charge adults at the beginning of the month and charge all youth programs on the 15th of each month. If that’s not enough, then you can offer parents something that isn’t recurring. You can offer their child one free clinic/event at sign-up- this also help parents and youth understand how awesome your events are and sets the stage to make attendance at your events an early “habit”. Get creative. Understand the value you offer and stop stunting the growth of your program.
- Create a process for firing clients–
Firing youth clients is the one step in your process that allows you to create a truly safe atmosphere for kids. Although this conversation is rough, it has to be done (hopefully rarely) in order to look a potential client in the face and say, “We do not allow _______ here. The kids who persisted in ______ have been asked to leave.” And that’s a really important thing to be able to say. This is one of the processes that I help gyms create during mentorship, and it’s one that every gym needs. While firing an adult client isn’t something that any of us enjoy having to do, firing a youth client is only tougher and more complicated as it impacts the parent as well. If you want an excellent youth program, you have to accept and create processes to deal with the fact that not every young athlete is a solid enough match to your “perfect client”. Obviously, there are better and worse ways to handle this, but I promise it can (and should) be done in a way that leaves both parent and child with nothing but positive things to say about your program.
- Stop thinking of the youth programs as “less than”.
There aren’t a ton of people out there writing about best practices in youth programs, but those that I’ve read all say: “charge lots less for kids”, “they’re young so have shorter classes”, “offer a free first week or a free first MONTH”. If you wouldn’t do this for adults, why on earth are you doing it for kids? Coaching certification costs for youth coaching are almost twice what it costs to coach adults. You have to keep up with background checks. Kids require greater care in programming, more flexibility and are twice as exhausting to coach. They have zero understanding of their bodies, which change weekly, and are new to concepts that, if accepted and positively charged, will affect their fitness and wellness for a lifetime. We have to prove our expertise with every class, develop relationships with parents as well as coaches. We are constantly educating ourselves, vigilant about environmental safety, always attentive to the culture we are creating. We are broaching social issues, developing character and leadership skills while creating a long-term plan for CITS (coaches in training)- and then training them. We are teaching kids the fine line between pain and soreness, pushing, keeping them safe, instilling confidence and all under the strict paradigm of “fitness is fun.” And they’d advise you to charge less and stuff it all into 30/45 minutes? Their recommendation is that you invite new kids and parents into the culture you’ve painstakingly carved with no filter or fundamentals class at no charge for 2-8 classes!? We can’t think like this. Youth classes aren’t childcare- they are training young people how to be healthy humans- our classes can and should impact lives. Charge more, and be more.
I was the third personal trainer in my city.
It took me about three months to fill my schedule. I was employed by the second personal trainer in my city, who took about a year to fill his. And he was friends with the first guy, Shane.
Shane was the first personal trainer in Sault Ste. Marie. He worked at a Globo-gym. He had to teach the members what a “personal trainer” was; then he had to convince them they needed one. He had to sell, hard, all day and night. It took him around three years to build his business. When I showed up five years later, everyone knew what a Personal Trainer did, and there was a surplus of at least 40 people who wanted one. I know, because those 40 signed up with me instead of Shane. But he did all the hard work for me back in 1997.
In 2008, it was my turn to carry the water: I became the first CrossFit affiliate in the city. The CrossFit brand attracted one guy, a friendly early adopter named Joe. I had to teach 80,000 other people what CrossFit was; what it wasn’t; and how it could solve their problem. I’d say I’m about halfway through those 80,000 now.
When another local gym affiliated in 2009, I panicked: they were going to build on my foundation! All of my hard work had created a funnel into their gym! I saw the posts from earlier affiliates through a different lens: yeah, I wanted a protected territory that I owned! I panicked. I compared my rates to theirs. I called them out for copying me. I tried to rip their coaching, condemn their programming and tear down their business. Of course, that created a lot of animosity.
They did just fine. They’re still around, getting people good results and making people happy. And obviously we did really well, too.
But what if we had worked together from the start?
In Baltimore; in Denver; in Houston; in Boston; and in more cities, entrepreneurs in the Two-Brain family are beginning to gather together.
They’re collectively educating the local population using the Help First philosophy. They’re inviting others into their boxes. They’re not competing on price; not running each other down; not texting each other’s members.
When everyone is doing well; when no one is desperate; we all do better.
When everyone’s healthy, no one has to resort to dirty tricks, lies, or price wars.
We call this collaborative competition, but it really means eliminating the bad actors. Wrestling with a pig just gets you dirty; lifting the pig out of their dirty sty creates a better life for everyone.
Over the weekend, the TwoBrain family grew by 8 entrepreneurs. They came from:
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
and Greenwood, Indiana
You can choose to make enemies, or you can choose to make a difference.
The Incubator costs $5500. Our friends at RigQuipment will now finance that payment at zero percent interest for a full year. $5500 won’t change my life, but it will certainly change theirs, and probably change yours.
Good fences might make good neighbors, but Families don’t need them.
By Anastasia Bennett, TwoBrain Mentor
Having a balance between work and home can be challenging. But like any challenge it can be rewarding if done successfully.
By learning how to prioritize balance you will become happier, healthier (both mentally and physically), and be more productive at work.
“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.” ~Max Ehrmann
As business owners who are always busy taking care of their staff, customers, sales, bills, family and so on, we forget what should be our number one priority: OURSELVES!
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Look after yourself:
- stay active
- Keep exercising – whatever form that takes. Change it up if you need to keep it interesting; do yoga, go for a run, do some strength training or CrossFit classes.
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- eat healthy food
- Eating healthy will give you more energy and make you feel better
- get as much rest as you can
- You can recover from distractions faster
- It can prevent burnout
- It can help with memory and improve your decision-making abilities
Accept help or Delegate
Instead of trying to do everything, reassess your strengths and weaknesses. Carry on with doing what you are good at and what you love to do and delegate or outsource other things that you ‘waste’ your time on. Think about what can you let go and delegate to your staff in order to give them an opportunity to grow. It will give them the chance to learn and help them to feel valued while having the added benefit of freeing yourself up to concentrate on your priorities.
Stop trying to do everything perfectly
Are you a perfectionist? If you are reading this, you probably are. Stop trying to get everything done perfectly; no one is going to give you an award for it. If it is taking too long to make it perfect maybe it’s one of those things you should delegate to someone who is better at it.
Start by making small changes
Don’t set yourself up for the failure from the start. Committing to huge changes immediately won’t do anything other than add more stress. You already know that success doesn’t happen overnight, but if you start looking after yourself and learn how to balance your work/life better you will be setting yourself up to be a massive success.
You might be asking yourself: “So what should I do now?”
- Make a list of jobs you love doing and don’t enjoy doing (a “love/loathe list”)
- Make a list of all your staff
- What can you delegate and who will benefit (grow) by doing it?
- Catch up with your staff one-on-one and ask them what their perfect day looks like. Do they want to learn more?
- Through a process of delegation reduce your workload by 3 hours per week
- Commit those 3 hours to looking after yourself (however that looks – gym time, seeing a movie, going for a swim)
- Book time in your calendar with “ME” time and don’t compromise on that
- Commit to a new change for a month and reassess after that.
270 people, all headed in one direction. That was the 2018 TwoBrain Summit for me.
For the first time, thanks to Mike and Joyce, I didn’t have to organize very much at all. Despite my frequent badgering (“A thousand bucks for PENS?!”) they carried off an amazing weekend that was 10x better than anything I’ve done before. That meant I got to watch, talk with and hug hundreds of people.
Dozens of great stories are percolating in my head right now. But these ones have stayed on top:
Oskar once wrote me an email titled “Thank You For 2012”. It was intensely personal, so I won’t share it verbatim, but he told me the story of moving to Zambia to adopt his daughter, Emma. He downloaded most of the Journal for his trip, and in the big stack was something I wrote about a client with MS. Oskar and his wife planned to stay in Zambia for 4 months; instead, they had to stay for 11. During that time, he decided that CrossFit would be his path to helping the world. I was intensely moved by his long email and think of it every time I see him.
But on Friday night, I met Emma. This beautiful kid came bouncing into the Wildwood Tavern with her mom, carrying stuff from the Disney store, and I immediately knew who she was:
I was so excited to meet her that I forgot she doesn’t speak English (her parents are amazingly fluent). She said “My name is Emma” but then politely nodded while I jabbered on. The next morning, Oskar showed me a picture of his hotel bathroom: Emma, wearing her Flash cape, had tried to do a few pull-ups on the towel rack and ripped it out of the wall. How could I like this girl any more?!?
And she wasn’t the only kid at the Summit. Carl and Phoebe Balentyne won the 2018 Owner Lifestyle Award AND had their baby with them all weekend! In fact, there were 3 babies circulating around this year, and we never heard a peep from any of them. Josh Price borrowed Coach Jess’ baby for a half hour to soak up some calming vibes before his presentation too.
I would have been the first to say, “Leave your kids at home if you want to get the most from the Summit”, but I would have been wrong. It was an excellent reminder of who we’re REALLY serving here, and I’m thrilled to know these kids will grow up in homes full of health, disposable income and an entrepreneurial mindset.
We also ate 250 pounds of meat. In an hour. This might seem like a big topic shift, but it’s not.
Garner arrived at 4 on Friday, lit the barbecues, and stayed up all night with his buddy Lowell to cook for the TwoBrain Family. The food was incredible. But even better, Garner stood up on Sunday and delivered his “Love and Logic” presentation. The presentation before his was also about finding balance between family and work. I sat in the crowd and marveled that “This is where we are now.” Even last year, most of our topics revolved around finding and keeping clients. There was plenty of that in 2018, but my feeling was that we had collectively leveled up: that our “WHY” was more clear than ever, and that we’d found our anchor: family. #tipofthetip
During Jay’s speech, I got to sit with a box owner who said her biggest problem was putting people in the right roles. She wanted her staff to LOVE their jobs, and was worried that some didn’t. One of her “staff” is her life partner, and who wouldn’t want their wife to be happy?
Across the room, her partner was saying the same thing to someone else, and when we connected the dots later, it felt like a miracle. Family > Fear of tough conversations.
Finally, this was Hayley’s first seminar as full-on CEO of Ignite. Hay has been working at Ignite for a couple of years, but when my former partner left, she stepped up and has already doubled its local reach. I put her on the Summit schedule without asking her, knowing it would be out of her zone of familiarity, and she stepped UP. It was great.
While she was away, a local 14-year-old tried to kill himself. In the hospital recovery area, he said, “I need to go to the gym.” Another Ignite coach jumped in and led him through a workout while Hay was with us in Chicago. Hayley flew home Monday, went straight to the gym and helped out a few clients, and then sent me this picture when she got home:
That’s Laney, who will have an amazing female role model for a mom. I texted her back: “Time to buy me out of Ignite.” She’s ready.
…and then, as I’m writing this and avoiding all the Facebook posts about what an HQ staffer might have said, Jared and Peter from NapTown step up and show us all what care looks like in action. They welcomed 50 new CrossFit athletes to their gym this weekend because they’re open, tolerant and truly care about people. They’re an example to us all, and I’m glad they chose to share their story with the TwoBrain family, where they knew it would be welcomed and nurtured.
Talking to the mentoring team on Monday, I asked if anyone had noticed that more and more entrepreneurs with families are joining our own. Everyone agreed that most attendees–and most of our mentorship clients–had partners or families. And if they didn’t, we’ve got one here waiting for them. This is what “tip of the spear” really means: leadership through actions and support.
More to come, family.