Nearly all, if not all, Parkour gyms make the majority of their income from one thing: Classes. What these classes might entail and how they are run may vary from gym to gym, but at the end of the day, classes are what pay the bills. It takes more energy, work, and money to find, bring in, and sign up a new student than it does to keep an existing student. So the Question is: How to do we keep students, and the parents who are paying for the students Membership, enrolled for the long term? We keep our students and parents wanting to stay in classes at your facility long term by making your gym, and your Parkour program, sooooo much more than just a class they take every week. If you offer "just a class" than any student can leave for any other sport and take a class elsewhere. They can get a workout and social interaction at any other gym and in any other sport. What can you do to transform your gym from a place with students taking classes into a COMMUNITY?
There are a innumerable amount of answers to this questions, but today we are going to focus on just a few.
1. Curriculum with Levels - Surprisingly many Parkour gyms have a minimal curriculum or none at all. Many that have curriculum make them an afterthought and put no significance on their curriculum to their students. Many call the Levels of their curriculum: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3. HOW BORING!!! How many Black Belts would we have in Martial Arts if the highest rank you could achieve was called Level 6? SIGNIFICANTLY LESS! Make your curriculum the backbone of your class structure. Have your curriculum accessible to your students so they can see what skills they need to master to move to the next Level. Make the names of your Levels something that will inspire in your students the desire to work towards and achieve that next Level! Those that have goals, something to work towards, will stay in your classes longer, and take more classes in a desire to achieve those goals.
2. Make each Level matter! When a student achieves a new Level, MAKE A BIG DEAL ABOUT IT!!! Make them feel important and as though their hardwork has been worthwhile, noticed by their Coaches, and validated. At Firestorm, we do this by giving them a new shirt denoting their Rank in our curriculum, a new color band to proudly wear everywhere, and a Certificate.
3. Allow them to unlock achievements, or new things they can do, by being in the gym longer, or achieving a higher Level. If a student moves up a Level, have new classes they are now allowed to join. Make students EARN their way into those classes. Anything that you have to work to achieve ALWAYS has more worth and is harder to let go of. Have special sections of your gym that you are not allowed to go into (no going above a certain height, no going on a particular piece of equipment, etc.) until they have reached a certain level.
4. Give students responsibility in the community. Create young assistant Coaches in each class and have them assist you with running warm ups or strength. Having that little bit of trust from a Coach when you are a student goes a long way into building a relationship and making a student want to stay longer, participate more, and set a good example to other students.
5. Make Open Gyms fun! Have your Coaches build obstacle courses and play games. Have your students help set up these courses and games, and ACTIVELY listen to the opinions of the students. The more students feel that they are listened to, the more respect they will give to their Coaches and the more they will want to be around the Coach that makes them feel good about themselves.
6. Hold special events just for Members. Hold a Parkour Competition, Aerial Silks Recital, NERF game day, special party or any other event that is ONLY for your members. Make these people feel special and proud to be members of your gym. People sign up for all kinds of clubs, workshops, meet up groups, etc. just to be able to get exclusive offers, deals, and events. Take advantage of this desire and make your students feel like members if an exclusive community,
Remember, at the end of the day, no matter how you want to shape your gym into a community, make sure it is one you are proud of and that you would want to be a member of. Because you WILL be a member of this community, as well as its LEADER.
Research. Design. Implement. Improve.
Justin Taylor, Parkour Professor