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.
by Gretchen Bredemeier, TwoBrain Kids Program Mentor
I am SO excited you have decided that you want a Youth Program! Here are a few tactics that will set you off on the right foot!
- You are going to need a coach/program manager that fits a few parameters.
You are looking for a hard-working and energetic coach who is excited to create (within parameters) and who sees the long-term value of what they are doing. You need someone who communicates well with you, someone that believes in your values/mission, and someone who is willing to make mistakes, educate themselves, and try again. This person should have or develop a long-term vision for what THEY want and discuss it with you before you consider them as a Program Manager.
- You need to wait until parents are asking for it.
Scarcity is always your best friend. You want few enough events that they fill up. You want to start with few enough classes that the kids AND parents want more! If it’s your idea- you just want the money. If it’s their idea then you are serving your clients, doing it for THEIR best interest. If it’s their idea then you can truly Help First! Typically, the same concept applies for adding additional classes. While it’s good to get ahead of things (plan for classes you want to start in the next year), you want to start them when clients are asking for them.
- The best way to begin is with a 6-week session where parents pay up front.
6-week sessions are the best way to start! There are a few reasons for this. 6-weeks is a short enough time frame that parents can more easily commit, but long enough for them to see obvious results and understand the value of your program. 6-weeks is also longer than a month, which allows you to price well, because parents don’t tend to break the cost down per class, but relate the cost to “a large group of classes.” It makes GOOD pricing easier to swallow, which sets your value from the start. 6-weeks is also usually long enough that kids will miss one or two classes. This isn’t the goal, of course, but gets parents into the habit of seeing missed classes as their responsibility and not yours. You don’t ever want to get into the habit of parents expecting a specific number of classes with their payments.
- You need to consider the rates you’d like to charge in a year or two when you set your session rates at the beginning.
You should set your 6-week session rates based on what you’d like your program to be making once you’ve moved to a monthly membership. This first 6-weeks sets the tone, and begins to develop the culture, that you will be will for the long-haul, so you need to get ahead of as much as you can. Pricing is an easy one. Decide what you want your monthly rate to be once you are monthly and work backwards through the transitions of a 6- then 8- then 10-week session. There are lots of tricks here, but the general concept will move you solidly in the right direction.
- Understand your partnership with parents
Bus stops are the kid-focused version of hair salons or water coolers. And you want your program to be the topic of choice!!! The best way to make that happen is authentic relationships with parents, and just like price you want to start from your first 6-weeks. Make time before and after class to ask your questions and field theirs. Get to know them and their kids for REAL. Set-up a communication system that works for your clients: Email, Facebook, Texts, Instagram… whatever works for them. And then make sure you TELL them when you’ve addressed the issues, made special allowances, seen improvement in the behavior etc. Make sure they understand the things you worked on today, how that will benefit their kids, and why you chose to work on that specific thing. “I noticed that Sammy was uncomfortable in the front roll, so I chose this and that to work on vestibular development today so that as her inner ear gets the challenge it needs, she will become more comfortable in the positions that will be most helpful in creating great lifelong motor patterns.” They have to KNOW how much you know and how much work you are putting into this and they won’t know if you don’t tell them. Encourage them to take photos and to share photos. Make a “Bright Spots Friday” tradition where parents use pictures from the week to brag on their kids. Make fun car magnets that say “My kids sport is Crossfit” so parents can be proud of what their kids are doing. Parents that know you WILL talk about your program at the bus stop, and they will also give you more grace as you inevitably make mistakes. Take the time for parents and you will never be sorry that you did.
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.