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Little Businesses: Best Practices for Youth Programs

youth programs

Last year, Newtown Athletic Club’s summer camp program hit a goal of $1 million — highlighting the fact that youth programming can be a major asset for health clubs, if executed properly.

The key to success? “One of the most important practices is to remember that youth programs are all little businesses,” said Amanda Brown, the camp director at Newtown Athletic Club. “Sales, retention and budgets should be tracked the same way they are for the entire club. When someone enrolls in kid’s fitness, they should get a follow-up call about their experience after the class is complete, the same way you would after a new member joins.”

To ensure children have a great experience with youth programming, boasting quality staff is vital. At Newtown Athletic Club in Newtown, Pennsylvania, all youth staff are required to be CPR and First Aid certified, in addition to having the proper clearances.

Another requirement for youth staff is that they love what they do. “In terms of personality, we always look for someone who has a positive, upbeat and friendly attitude,” said Brown. “It is important for us to see that candidates for youth programs can talk to adults, but more importantly, talk and engage with children. We have many people who interview well, but then when it comes time to pretend to be a superhero or play, they just don’t make the cut.”

When Newtown Athletic Club finds a great fit for their youth programs, the retention of that employee is emphasized.

“It is crucial to make sure the staff you have are happy and enjoy what they are doing every day, because the word will spread about your organization having a great work environment,” said Brown.

The club also encourages staff buy-in by offering incentives that allow team members to profit share in areas that are successful. For example, if a party host gets a guest at their party to sign up for an event, he or she gets an extra $15.

“So now you have your youth staff trying to ensure all children have a positive experience and are building relationships, with the incentive of making more for themselves,” explained Brown. “If the club makes more, your team should make more.”

Of course, all of this is a moot point if children aren’t enjoying the youth programs you offer. Brown explained Newtown Athletic Club takes great care to ensure children leave a program having gained something — and that the parents see the value.

“Whether that is a friend or they reached a fitness goal, we encourage our staff to make sure parents see the value of the program for their kids at the end of every session,” continued Brown. “A great way to do this is to regroup at the end of a session or day to ask children what they learned today or what their favorite part was, so when parents ask the notorious question, ‘Did you do anything today in class?’ children already have an answer on their mind versus the average ‘no’ that most kids reply with.”

Ensuring your operations processes are efficient is essential as well. Brown explained your check-in process must be organized and staff engaged 100 percent of the time.

“When it comes to children, perception is really reality, so in order for any program to do well managers need to make sure everything the team is doing is perceived as beneficial to the child,” said Brown. “If check-in seems disorganized, if staff don’t seem engaged 100 percent of the time, parents will notice and program attendance will suffer. Always ensure your operations are done thoroughly so that you leave a great impression.”

If these best practices are followed, your club should be well on its way to creating little businesses that add great value to the bottom line.

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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