How to Get More Kids Into Your Gym and Change Their Lives

How to Get More Kids Into Your Gym and Change Their Lives

Chris Cooper (00:00):
It’s easier to get a new youth client than a new adult client. I’m Chris Cooper. This is “Run a Profitable Gym,” and today I’m gonna tell you how to get more kids into your gym working out so that you can change their lives by establishing a base of fitness for life. If this topic is interesting to you, go to and you can learn more lessons from other people who have really successful kids and youth programs in their gym. I’ve been coaching kids since 1996. I’ll let you do the math on that. And I’ve owned a gym since 2005. Our gym has always been heavily focused on establishing good, healthy patterns and behaviors in kids that they’ll keep for the rest of their lives. And when I talked about growing my kids program with other gym owners in my book “Help First”, a lot of them quickly snapped up these strategies because they’re just so easy to implement that they actually just feel like, “Oh, I should have thought of that.”

Chris Cooper (00:59):
Right? They feel obvious when you start doing it today. I’m gonna share some of those with you. They’re simple, which makes them super-duper effective. And after listening, you might have the epiphany of like, “Oh, duh, I should have thought of that.” If you do, that’s okay. Just go out and start doing them. The the beautiful part about having a mentor: they make something that seems complex–growing your kids program—into really simple, actionable steps. And if you want to talk to our team more about mentorship for all aspects of your gym business, you can just go to and book a call there. Let’s start by growing your kids program. Here’s why it’s easier to grow a kids program than it is to grow your adult program. First, if you’re a parent you know this already: You’re more likely to buy something for your kid than you are to spend money on yourself.

Chris Cooper (01:48):
Second, most parents, and you know this if you’re a parent, most parents are actively looking for something to keep their kids busy and active. Their kids, you know, they’re stuck at home during the school year unless they’re playing a sport. During the summer, they’re bored, you know, and they’re not getting any activity at school anymore. Parents are realizing the kids don’t just go to outside and play like our generation used to, right? Third, options are more limited than ever before. There’s no real afterschool recreational sports unless they want to compete. And every activity that they do isn’t just about fun anymore. It’s about competition. And so a lot of kids are shying away from that. There’s no more community rec center that the kids would go to and just shoot hoops. That doesn’t exist. So parents are looking for new things to try, and that’s you.

Chris Cooper (02:36):
So here’s how to grow your youth program fast. First appeal to your clients’ kids. The first thing that you do is you appeal to your clients’ kids. So what you do is you open up maybe one class or possibly two classes, and you go to your clients and you say, “Hey, we’re testing out this kids program. We’re gonna run it for six weeks, and we only want the kids of the clients who are at this gym. I wanna make this super easy and convenient for you, and I want you to be able to do something together as a family that will strengthen your bond but also get your kids off the couch, off the iPad and exercising so that maybe you can find a common passion that you can do together and spend some quality time together.” Okay? So you start off with very limited classes, and the first thing that you do is you go to your clients’ kids.

Chris Cooper (03:25):
Okay? Now this is the best time to actually start a kids program—right at the start of the school year—because this is when parents are setting up their calendars and their kids’ calendars going forward. They’ve got some predictability back in their lives. And so they know like, “Okay, at 4 p.m. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I can slot the kid in.” But once they’ve made those commitments and set their calendar, it’s very hard to squeak more stuff in. So the first thing is appeal to your clients’ kids. The second thing is to start with a six-week program. Six-Week sessions are the best way to start because it’s a short enough timeframe that parents can more easily commit, but it’s long enough for them to see obvious results and understand the value of a program. Six 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 they can relate the cost to a large group of classes.

Chris Cooper (04:18):
So it makes good pricing easier to swallow, which sets your value from the start. Six weeks is also usually long enough that kids will miss one or two classes, and that’s not the goal, but it gets parents into the habit of seeing missed classes as their responsibility and not yours to refund or make up later. You don’t ever wanna get into the habit of parents expecting a specific number of classes with their payments. So after you’ve appealed to your clients’ kids and then set up short-term six-week challenges or six-week programs for the kids, and after you’ve talked to your clients about them, the next way to grow your program is to get their best friends and their siblings. So if your six-week program doesn’t sell out, for example, you approach the parents of the kids who are in the group and you say, “Hey, Dave, our kids program is filling up and the kids in the group are really amazing. I wanna make sure that we fill it with the best kids. Does your son or daughter have a best buddy who would be a perfect fit?” Now this is really simple, but I can’t tell you how many times a parent has responded with, “Oh yeah, let me reach out to Nancy’s mom.” And then we’ve gained a new client—Nancy’s kid or Nancy. Getting referrals for other kids is easier than getting referrals for adults. In fact, my gym actually just did this to me a couple of days ago. They had a youth hockey program for my teenage son. It wasn’t full. And they reached out and they said, “Hey, Coopis there another player on the team that Orry really likes to hang out with who might wanna also come to this group?” And, you know, within 30 seconds of thinking about it, I thought like, “Oh yeah, the kid that’s his left winger would probably love to come and the gym.”

Chris Cooper (05:54):
And the GM at my gym said, “Great. What’s the parent’s last name?” They sent them a text message and said, “You know, does your kid wanna do this program?” The parent immediately called me: “Hey, what is this message I just got from Catalyst Fitness?” I said, “That’s my gym. Orry’s doing this hockey program. Does your son wanna get in on it, too?” And they were like, “Oh, yeah, absolutely. Sign us up. Can we work out rides later?” Easily done, right? Like it’s that easy. And the gym is getting a new client. They’re doing me a favor by putting in my kid’s buddy. So he’s gonna love it even more. And they’re doing that parent a favor. The parent was actually like, “Thank you so much. Like, my kid is gonna be so fired up about this.” And of course they’re not getting a discount or anything. They’re just excited that their kid is excited to do workouts with my kid.

Chris Cooper (06:41):
That’s it. And this is why it’s really, really easy to get referrals for kids. So much easier than for adults. All right? So that’s tactic Number 3 to grow your kids program. Number 4 is to go to sports teams. So if you’ve got a kid in your program they’re probably playing other sports than just working out at your gym. Some are just working out at your gym. But I’ve trained hundreds of athletes at my gym, Catalyst, and one of our biggest strategies for getting new clients is the one-to-many strategy of training an athlete’s entire team. Now, if you’re in Two-Brain, of course all these strategies are all laid out for you step by step in the Growth toolkit. You can just click on them and, and follow ’em step by step. But I’m gonna give you an example. If you’ve got a kid in your program who plays basketball, the first thing that you wanna do is make contact with their coach, especially if they’re an older kid or they’re playing on some kind of traveling rep team, right?

Chris Cooper (07:37):
Make contact with their coach and tell the coach your plan for the athlete and ask if they approve. Now, you don’t need their approval, and they probably don’t even understand what you’re talking about, but it’s a great way to start a conversation and build a bridge. After that athlete has been with your gym for a month or your first six-week program, you can offer to run a really fun combine for the whole team at the gym. So you can bring in the team to the gym and run them through a few physical challenges. And then you collect the parents’ email addresses from the waivers that they sign, and you add them to your email list. And then, finally, you can talk to the coach about a preseason conditioning camp or a specialty group for them. Sometimes that works out. I would say three times out of every 10 we’ve had the coach immediately sign the team up, which is worth thousands of dollars, but more than likely, you know, eight times outta 10 we’ll get at least one kid from that team to join the regular group programming or even start a small semi-private group.

Chris Cooper (08:32):
This has worked dozens of times at Catalyst and generated tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue. But of course, you know, I screwed that up the first few times, and I tell the story of doing that in the book “Help First.” The fifth way to grow your kids program is to go to your email list or your organic audiences. So these are people who are paying attention, but they’re not paying you money yet. So to build these audiences, we offer free seminars once or twice a year. Might be a free nutrition seminar for parents, or it might be a concussion seminar for parents and coaches. And then we collect all the names and email addresses from those seminars, and we 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.

Chris Cooper (09:16):
It’s called “How to Feed a Hockey Animal.” And it’s been downloaded over a thousand times from our website. The follow-up email to parents is opened over 80% of the time. Many kids have come to our varsity program just because of that download. You can have it in our Growth program. It’s right in the toolkit. Download it, change it to whatever sport you want, you know, use it. So here’s some final advice on growing your kids program. You need to understand your relationship with the parents, right? Bus stops are the kid-focused versions of hair salons and water coolers, and you want the program to be what the kids are talking about. So the best way to make that happen is authentic relationships with the parents. And you wanna start that relationship during that first six-week session. Make time before and after class to answer questions, to talk to parents, to ask them questions, to get to know them and their kids for real.

Chris Cooper (10:10):
Set up a communication system that works for them, like email or Facebook or text or Instagram, whatever they prefer. And then make sure to tell them when you’ve addressed their questions or their issues, made special allowances, seen improvement in the behavior, because it’s really important for the parents to be hearing about how their kid is doing. They want their kid to get an A+, right? You don’t have to give ’em a report card, but what if you send them a text and you say, “Hey, I just want you to know in the last four weeks your kid’s behavior has improved so much and now they’re like super enthusiastic when they’re come to class,” right? Or maybe you want to talk to ’em about the session. Like, “Hey, I noticed that Sammy was uncomfortable in the front roll, so I chose to do this and that to work on vestibular development so that as their inner ear gets the challenge that they need, they’ll become more comfortable in the positions. This will be most helpful in creating lifelong motor patterns and improve them in their sport.”

Chris Cooper (11:06):
Okay? The parent needs to trust you, and that means they need to know that you know a lot and how much work that you’re putting into this. And they won’t know any of that if you don’t tell them. Encourage the parent to take photos and to share photos. You know, make a Bright Spot Friday tradition where parents can use pictures from the week to brag up their kids. So, you know, make fun car magnets or stickers that say “my kid’s sport is CrossFit” or whatever it is. So parents can be proud of what their kids are doing. Parents really react to signals from other parents. If other parents’ kids are doing Krav Maga, they’re gonna ask about that, and they’re gonna think like, “Should my kid be doing Krav Maga?” If other kids have a tutor, they’re gonna ask like, “Should my kids have a tutor?”

Chris Cooper (11:49):
And they’ll know about you and your program more from the conversations that they have while they’re sitting in the stands at the kid’s swim meet or basketball game and having those conversations with other parents than they will from your marketing. So make sure that you take up lots of time with your parents, that you have parents create the media that brags about their kids, and that you’re giving them a lot of ways to start conversations. There are directive and indirect referral pathways to grow your kids program, but the best way is always to form strong connections between kids, between kids and their teammates, between kids and their friends, and parents. One of the best things the parents ever say to me, by the way, is, “Oh yeah, sure. He listens to you. You know, when I tell them this thing, they don’t listen. But when Chris says it, oh my, it’s the gospel.” And I say, “Yeah, that’s funny. My kids do the same thing. That’s called proximity bias. And that’s just why you have a coach. By the way, if there’s something you want your kid to do, tell me and I’ll tell them. And then they’ll make a joke about like getting to bed on time or cleaning up their room.” But the reality is like that’s actually true. If a coach says to the kid, “Listen, Jimmy, you’re doing amazingly well. You’re playing two sports and you’re coming to the gym. I really need you to get into bed by 8 o’clock. Lights out by 8:30,” the kid will do it no matter how long the parent has been yelling at them to do it. No matter how loudly the parent yells at them, no matter what they threaten, if it comes from the coach, they’ll do it.

Chris Cooper (13:25):
And early on when I was coaching kids at my gym, this parent came up to me and shook my hand and he is like, “You’re calling this program ‘Catalyst kids.’ You should be calling it ‘early bedtime—80 bucks a month.’ And every parent in town would sign up.” And that’s really what it’s all about. It’s not like your power as a coach. It’s about the rapport that you build with the parents. Parents refer to other parents. Kids refer to other kids because they make most of the buying decisions in the household. If a kid in your house put up their hand and said, “I wanna try this sport,” you’d move hell and earth to get the kid into that sport so that they could try it, right? And if, you know, Jimmy hears that Davey is doing your kids program at your gym, they’re gonna wanna try it, too.

Chris Cooper (14:09):
And, of course, the parents are the easy sell. So the way that you grow your kids program is through connection. I hope this helps. If you want more ideas, you can go to It’s our free group for gyms where we talk about this stuff in a private and supporting setting for people who just want you to win. There’s even a free guide on how to grow your kids program right in that group. And all what you gotta do is hit the search bar, search for kids, and you’ll find it, and I’ll just give it to you. Okay? Hope this helps. I’m Chris Cooper. Keep growing your gym.

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