Business, Preparation, Sports Retirement, Success, Transition

Life After Sports

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Life is forever changing for most people as they grow and mature. There are so many factors at play in our society that it is almost impossible to predict what the future holds. What someone may desire at a young age will most likely change as they grow and experience different things in their life. We’ve all heard the phrase “nothing lasts forever”, and this is certainly true for the athlete. There comes a point in time when the athlete can no longer participate in their sport. There may be many reasons why an athlete retires from the sport: injury, age, levels of sport, financial, just to name a few. In any case, when an athlete retires, there is a transitional period and new lifestyle changes that will occur. In this discussion, I will share my thoughts on Life After Sports, my own experiences, and how an athlete should prepare for this transition.

There comes a point in time when an athlete isn’t able to continue with their competitive career. For some, it may occur early in their career and for others may occur after many years of competing. It is certainly more difficult to transition if the retirement occurs fairly quickly in one’s career. In this case, an athlete may not have predicted it was going to happen so soon. Thus, there may have been no preparation for the transition and it becomes very challenging in many aspects as to what to do next in life. The emotional challenges may be the most difficult, especially if the athlete was prepared for a much longer and prosperous career. In these cases, the person may feel lost as what to do next.

This retirement transition may be much easier to deal with for those athletes that have had a long competitive career. In these cases, the athlete may have had the opportunity to prepare for the transition many years in advance. All long-term accomplished athletes understand how to set and accomplish goals and preparing for retirement is certainly a goal. Athletes in professional sports have a great opportunity to prepare for this transition. Due to the financial benefits of professional sports, many athletes have the opportunity to invest and prepare for a positive transition. However, it is an entirely different scenario for athletes in non-professional sports. Since these athlete’s do not get paid to compete (at least any substantial amount), the financial transition may be more of a challenge. For these athletes, there must be a plan in place for financial support after their retirement.

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For many, the sport they participated in was all they knew. Their whole life was centered around training and preparing for competition. It is “who” they are and for many it is difficult to walk away from. It is common that many athletes will stay involved with their sport and participate as a coach or consultant. This would be a natural transition as they would have the knowledge in skill development and get to share their experiences with their students (The Coach: Creating the Successful Athlete). Many of the most successful coaches in sports were former athletes themselves. If a passion for the sport remains upon retirement, then coaching would be the avenue to pursue.

So how does a person prepare for an end to their sports career? First, I encourage all athletes to pursue an education in some degree or another if they have an opportunity. If not college, there are a variety of technical schools that can provide an education and professional certification that can lead into a positive career. When a person is seeking job opportunities in our society, there is a lot of competition. Companies that are hiring may have hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants applying for the position. These companies screen the applicants and those with a college degree usually are in consideration. Many companies require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to be considered. However, with this said, if an athlete has a successful and popular reputation in the community, this will certainly open more doors than someone who is relatively unknown.

Following my retirement from gymnastics, I did not have a desire to work full-time as a gymnastics coach. I needed to explore other opportunities and step away from that environment – I think I must have been in Burn-Out mode. Since McDonald’s had hired me in a management position while I was still in training, this was a natural transition for me to pursue full time after my retirement. After several years in this career, I realized it wasn’t what I was expecting and the need to pursue another career opportunity was apparent. I had stayed involved with the sport of gymnastics and actually worked full time as a coach for several years, however, I had other desires and needed to find my professional niche.

I have always been great at networking and had developed a nice web of friends and professionals in my community. Just like anyone looking for job opportunities, I went through many job sites and had many interviews. I was certainly grinding the pavement to find the right place for me. Due to my former success as an athlete and my networking efforts, I was picked up by the marketing team at SeaWorld in Orlando and was offered a position with that department. What a great product to represent!!

After several years at this position, which was a positive and fun position to have, I still needed something different. I had always had a desire to run my own business one day and I was at a point in my life where I believed I had the experience and knowledge to make it work. I had also grown out of my burn-out stage from gymnastics and still had a passion for the sport. I was also an expert at skill development and had stayed involved as a gymnastics clinician throughout the years. So, I decided to open my own gymnastics business and pursue the next chapter of my life (Starting a Small Gym Program). I have finally found my niche and doing what I love to do, which is helping children pursue their own hopes and dreams while building confidence and healthy lifestyles.

As you can see, like so many others, I had to go through the struggles of finding my niche following my sports career. Former athletes have a great advantage in this transition because they understand what hard work and strong efforts create. We have seen many athletes retire from their sport then return after a short period of time. Many return because they still have that burning desire to participate and compete, however, there are others who return because they don’t have a path outside of their sports environment. This can be dangerous and sometimes humiliating for the athlete. The once Great athlete just isn’t the same as they grow older and may find a failing career upon their return, which may tarnish one’s reputation.

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In recent years, there have been programs developed by Sports Governing Bodies and the United States Olympic Committee to assist athletes with transitioning into the workforce after retirement. These programs have been helpful for a many athletes that participated in Olympic sports, especially for those athletes who are forced to retire from some unexpected event. Even with these programs being available, the athlete should make the efforts needed to prepare for retirement from competitive sports, if it is a scheduled event. Coaches and family members are also a great asset to have in this preparation and can be a useful resource in helping find the new path to success.

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There is Life After Sports and it can be a prosperous and fun life to live. Just like everything we attempt to do in our lives, it takes effort and preparation. Through a positive attitude and strong motivation, you can become anything you desire. There may be many chapters in one’s lifetime and it is the “person” who can make each chapter a great one!!

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Scott Johnson Olympic Champion

I have made it a priority to educate and help all those interested in sports- specifically in the sports of gymnastics, tumbling, cheer, dance, martial arts, and others. I have participated in the sport of gymnastics most of my life. Through many years of hard work, triumphs and failures, I have the experience and understanding of many issues that will be covered in my posts.

Have questions, concerns, advice? I will do the best I can to assist you!!

I would love to hear your comments. Also, if there are any subjects you would like me to cover, let me know and I will do my best to post my thoughts. Please Like and Share to all you believe will benefit from the information.

For clinics, seminars, or special events, please contact me at:

scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com www.scottjohnsonstga.com

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Business, Facility, Program Development, Staffing

Starting a Small Gym Program

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There are many types of youth sports and physical activity programs available in most communities.  They run from very small to quite large depending on the diversity of activity or level of instruction that may be offered.  The smaller programs are much more abundant and seen in many strip plazas, whereas larger programs are generally found in buildings designed and built specifically for the business.   In the gymnastics industry, these smaller programs have an entirely different set of operational consideration than the large competitive programs,  from initial set-up, equipment needs, choosing a location, marketing, staffing, class programming, to name a few all require a different set of consideration for a successful launch.   In this discussion, I will share some insight on what is needed to start and build a strong, successful recreational gymnastics program in your community.

If the goal is to start a small community gymnastics program, you should write a mission statement that clearly defines your purpose for being in business. It should be a short statement that is clear, easily understood, and gives you a definitive course to stay as you plan your new business.

Your mission should be your guide as you determine the age and ability levels the program will offer, and the space you will need to effectively run the classes. Once you determine the age and ability levels and the space needed, you can begin to layout your matting, equipment, and staffing requirements.

You will need to determine if the program is to be strictly gymnastics, tumbling, a combination of both, or possibly include even more activities. This is very important because this will determine what your target market will be in advertising and marketing.  Once the type of program is determined, the next step should be to develop a detailed class curriculum for each class offered.

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In developing the class curriculum (Programs for the Rec Student), it needs to be determined what the purpose of the program is designed for.  For example, will the training be directed to prepare students for advancement into a competitive gymnastics program? or designed to train gymnastics in a general recreational manner?  I have found that there is a large demand for children to explore what gymnastics is all about.  At the younger ages, this should be the initial focus.  I have also found that there is a large demand for tumbling and acrobatic instruction for cheerleading, dance, and martial arts. In many cases in order to advance in their sport or activity of their choice (cheerleading as an example) they may require a little more advanced tumbling or acrobatic instruction than is available through their own club or team organization. As these other activities will often parallel gymnastics in regard to the need to develop tumbling and acrobatic skills, it is an easy fit to incorporate this level of instruction into the class structure.

One of the most difficult tasks in setting up your business is finding a location that meets all, or at least. most of your needs.  There are typically two types of spaces to choose from:  retail space or industrial space.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages and should be looked at closely to find the best scenario for the program objectives.  When starting and expanding my program, this is an area that required a lot of time and  attention to find the right space that best fit my program structure.

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Most all large gymnastics and cheer programs will need to be located in an industrial/commercial structure.  This is required, in most cases for ceiling height that is necessary to develop high level skills for competition.  For a competitive gymnastics program you will need a large open floor space for the floor exercise and all the necessary equipment and mats, as well as a minimum ceiling height of 20 feet.  Competition cheer also requires both open floor space and 20 ft ceiling height to support both large group routines and flight skills. One upside of industrial space is the square foot cost is generally lower than retail space. With that said, at the top of your space requirements should be; Location, Location, Location! The major drawbacks in considering industrial space are visibility and location dynamics. If your building is not highly visible, you will need a more aggressive marketing plan to build clientele. The location needs to be well-lit and safe so that parents are comfortable bringing their children for instruction. Facility setup and operational costs are another major factor when considering a large industrial facility.  One example, most large industrial spaces are not air-conditioned and it may need to be added and operated.

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When looking at retail space, the options for program operations may be more limited than in an industrial space.  However, there are advantages over an industrial space.     Most retail spaces are located in strip centers and have much better consumer visibility.  Due to this type of location, the facility expense is much higher per square foot than an industrial space but the roadside presence alone is a great means of marketing and will help bring awareness to any business.  Many strip centers require large signage and some even require illuminated signage which adds to the start-up expense. The typical strip center space is usually designed for office or retail sales, with typically lower ceiling heights of only 10 to 12 feet.  In many locations ceiling height can be improved by simply removing the drop ceiling. However if there is an existing sprinkler system or drop lighting it may require permitting and a licensed contractor to get the job done adding to the expense.

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In addition to choosing the type of facility to operate the business, the location of the property may be your most important decision and ultimate asset.  You should know by now what your target market is, now to find the best fit demographically to maximize the programs potential enrollment. This is challenging, especially if there are a number of other youth sport programs saturating the community.  I do not believe it is ethical to put a new gymnastics program in close proximity to a competitor.  I have seen this done before and it often creates an ongoing and consistent conflict.  It is much more satisfying to choose a location where your program can grow by building your own market share, not trying to steal it from an established business.  The foundation of your program will most likely be young children.  Research  the location of elementary schools and daycare businesses in your community.  The closer you can be to schools and daycare centers, the better.  There are marketing companies that specialize in providing such stats as number of households with young children in a community and the average household income within a community.  This is important also because you want to make sure the business is located in an area that can afford the services you are providing.

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The two largest operating expenses a business incurs are the rent expense and the staff expense.  The rent expense is fixed on an annual basis so this is easy to budget within the business plan.  The staff expense is much more difficult to manage and is often the culprit of a failing business.  In most start-up business, especially the small ones, the budget needs to be closely managed. If you want to survive, stay within your planned budget, and keep unnecessary expenses to a minimum.  As a small startup business you will probably not be able to afford administrative help. Which mean you will most likely be the business owner, program director, head instructor, marketing manager, janitor and cleaning staff.  Only after the enrollment reaches a certain level and the revenue begins to flow in a positive manner, can additional staff be added to fulfill some of these positions.  It is also important to manage the staff’s rate of pay.  Although you need to be competitive with this rate as compared to other gyms in the community, do not set this standard higher than what the budget can absorb.  Remember, although pay rate is important to employees, the environment they are working in is more important.  As a business owner, how you treat your employees and the environment you create will determine the growth and success of the business (Staffing: The Backbone of Every Business).

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When I started my recreational gymnastics program, it took several months of planning before the business could be launched.  I started in subletting space in a local YMCA to run a tumbling program.  This quickly grew and within 6 months I had programs running in 3 separate YMCA’s.  After a year of operations, I realized that the only way I was going to build my business was to have a place of my own.  This commitment was huge and I needed to make sure I had all the pieces of the puzzle in place before jumping in financially.  Through the help and advise of many people, I have evolved my program into two successful locations and in the process of adding more.  Just as it took for me to become a successful athlete, there were many obstacles and ups and downs along the way.  However, through patience, determination, and desire, these challenges were overcome and success prevailed.  There is nothing better than having a dream, chasing that dream, and accomplishing that dream!!

I would love to hear your comments on this subject and would be glad to answer any questions you may have.  Also, if there are any subjects you would like me to cover, let me know and I will do my best to post my thoughts.  Please Like and Share to all you believe will benefit from the information.

For clinics, seminars, or special events, please contact me at: scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

www.scottjohnsonstga.com

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