Although it may sound counterintuitive, back-to-school is the perfect time to launch a youth fitness program at your gym. As compared to the relaxing speed of summer, fall generally brings more structure and productivity.
Further, as kids get into their teen years, there’s an added aesthetic motivation. They’re suddenly interested in gaining more muscle or feeling more confident in their body. Combine that with the structured routine of the fall season and you’ve got a one-two punch of motivation.
The Brand X Method founders Jeff and Micki Martin know a thing or two about launching a successful youth fitness program. The two founded CrossFit Kids in 2004 together. They eventually rebranded to The Brand X Method, now the world leader in youth fitness. The two have devoted their lives to helping kids and teens through health and fitness.
“Surprisingly, we see youth programs that start just before - or when - school is starting do really well,” said Jeff. “During the summer, parents are often lax about schedules. When school is starting they are looking for structure.”
So where do you start? The Martins are here to help! Here are their top tips for launching a youth fitness program in your gym.
Three Steps to Launching a Successful Youth Fitness Program.
1. Capture Parents’ Attention with Marketing.
Jeff explained that gym owners often start by creating a strategy to pique the interest of the kids. However, he explained, this is the wrong approach.
“The real question is, how can you capture their parents attention so that they want their kids to join your gym?”
This is one of the things the Martins teach in their Professional Youth Coach Certification (PYCC). The course includes a “parent avatar” doc that characterizes 10 different parent types. It then explains how to best communicate to each the long-term and foundational importance of a youth fitness program.
For starters, Jeff explained that “coaches should address two main parent types. The parent that is worried their kid isn't moving enough and the parent that wants their kid to excel at sport.”
From there, it’s important to build relationship with these parents. And systematizing your interaction with parents is a helpful way to build that relationship. Jeff noted that consistent communication is “critical to longevity” in the program.
2. Focus on Generating Revenue.
One of the big mistakes Jeff sees gym owners make is not treating their youth programs like a business.
“Many of the gyms we talk to treat their youth programs as a value-add rather than a legitimate revenue stream,” he said. “They price it too low, signaling to parents that it is an activity, something you take a child in and out of. Not something that’s critical to their child’s success in life. They offer it once a week, again signaling an activity, or at times that are not optimal for kids’ and teens’ attendance.”
In short, many gym owners are unwilling to make the investment in the program to make it a legitimate business. And then they’re surprised when the program doesn’t thrive.
A successful youth fitness program only develops when you turn it into a real business, aiming to increase gym revenue, Jeff explained. This is exactly what Brand X helps gym owners do. And today, he and Mikki are working with gyms that have 100 to 300 kids in their youth programs.
“The key differentiator is that they approach the youth business as a business,” he emphasized.
3. Factor in a Retention Plan.
Another prohibitive factor Jeff sees is not considering kids’ long-term development stages over the years.
Instead, they focus entirely on their the youth fitness program being entertaining for the younger kids. Jeff pointed out that this ends up doing the kids a disservice, however. Just like adults, what keeps anyone coming back for the long-term are tangible results.
“Yes, the classes need to be fun and engaging,” said Jeff. “But if you want your program to have longevity and retain kids for years, programming must be progressive across years, moving from skill to skill and success to success. It also has to be progressive across developmental stages, providing for not only biological development but also psycho social changes, progressing the child incrementally, and steadily, over years.”
It’s all about attracting the right kids, so Jeff recommends steering clear of kids who are already in a high-level sport. They simply don’t have time for additional training. Instead, focus on he 85-90% of kids who aren’t yet involved in sports by middle school. They’re more likely to stay in your youth fitness program year-round.
As an example, before The Brand X Method, the Martins used to run a thriving youth program comprised mainly of kids who had never played a sport.
“We built a program that provided them opportunities to gain confidence in their physical abilities,” said Jeff. “In the middle and high school years many of these kids joined our barbell club and competed in lifting competitions. Those kids set more than 100 state and national records. They found a sport, a team and a place to belong to.”
More than 30 kids stuck around for more than a decade. And many ended up bringing siblings or parents into a healthy lifestyle along the way.
When to Launch a Youth Fitness Program.
Even though fall is a great time to launch a youth program at your gym, it’s important not to rush the process. You’ll want to adequate time to educate yourself, include the program in your gym marketing strategy and build relationships with parents. And if all of that seems impossible by September, never fear.
Rest assured that the absolute best time to launch a program like this is when you’re ready. If your instinct is that the timeline for a back-to-school launch is too rushed, let the kids settle in and introduce the program when you’re ready. And if October or November allow you the proper time to feel comfortable with the launch, then follow that timeline. It’s important to properly prepare and do it at your speed.
Pro Tip: When you’re ready to launch a new program, use PushPress Grow to spread the word! Want to find out how Grow can help you save time by managing your lead nurture and member experience? Book a demo with our team today!
In Summary: When it Comes to Fitness, Start Them Young.
If you’re looking to add some additional gym revenue and introduce a healthier lifestyle for the kids in your gym, consider launching a youth fitness program. To really make it thrive, there are three things to make sure you’re doing. First, educate yourself and your team of coaches. Second, market your program effectively. And third, build quality relationships with parents.
These things will help you to attract the right kids for the program and make a real difference in their lives for the long term.