Communication, Program Development, Skill Development, Staffing, Training

Gymnastics: Training Your Staff

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I have touched on this subject at different times in previous posts and wanted to elaborate in detail due to the importance of having a quality staff to grow the business.  In sports that are highly complex and carry a particular risk factor, the importance of having a well-trained staff is going to determine not only the success of the business, but also the success and safety of the student.  All sports have their own specialized means of technique in training skills, which the athlete must accomplish in order to progress.  Since the sport of gymnastics is one of the most complex and complicated sports, it requires that the coaching staff have the proper knowledge and experience to train the athlete at their participating level to ensure quality and safety in the training environment.

At the recreational levels of gymnastics, the experience and knowledge requirements for the instructors are much more basic than the higher levels of sport. The students are learning basic elements like forward and backward rolls, bridges, and cartwheels.  Although there are specific techniques required to perform these basic skills, it is not so complex that the coaches can, in most cases, be easily trained in a short period of time.  However, with this stated, the trainer still needs to have extensive knowledge when training the technique to new coaches.  Even the simplest of skills like the forward and backward roll has a particular set of technical rules that should be followed.


I have found that when training our coaches, it takes them some time to recognize and actually see what actions the student needs to improve.   To train the eye of what to look for takes repetition and constant reinforcement from the trainer so the new coach can learn to recognize the areas of concern.  One great training method is to ask the new coach what they see when a student performs a skill and what areas need to be fixed.  Many times, they will not recognize the problem which is a great opportunity for the trainer to explain in detail what to look for specifically.  Just as the athlete needs to train their skills, the coach needs to train their eye’s.  Since the skills can be so complex, there are usually several different issues that can be corrected.  What makes this even more difficult is that many of the skills move quickly so some issues are difficult to spot. For example, when a student is performing a run- hurdle – cartwheel, the run should be correct (not baby steps for example), the hurdle can have many issues like the length, height, arm and body position, and of course the cartwheel may have another set of issues to address.  Most experienced coaches can see these concerns whereas a new coach may see very little of these same concerns.

20180606_172240.jpg   The coaches job is to teach skills to the athlete so they can master them and improve their skill level.  When a student is performing wrong or incorrect technique, the coach needs to correct this technique Every Time!!  If this doesn’t occur, the student is reinforcing the wrong methods that will create bad habits.  We all know that bad habits are hard to break.  The coach needs to create good habits through consistent communication.  The student needs to hear these corrections as much as possible so they can begin to understand what to focus on while performing the skill.  And how should we communicate?  always in a positive and constructive manner.

Another task that the coach needs to learn properly is how to physically spot the students on their skills.  I discussed this in my post (The Art of Spotting) in detail as this is an important requirement for all level of coaches.  We need to not only keep the students safe from injury, but spotting correctly also teaches body positioning on the skills which reinforces teaching the proper technique.  Spotting is also a skill that takes new coaches time to learn.  It is important that the coach is not put in a position to spot a student that they cannot physically manipulate or a skill that is more advanced than they are trained to spot.  Both of these factors can cause injury to the athlete and/or the coach.

It is always best to have the new coach train and shadow other coaches initially so they can become comfortable with the environment and class structure.  I have heard many stories of coaches being forced to run classes on their own their first day of work without any training.  This can be stressful for the new coach and the students of the class.  Remember, usually the parent is observing and if a class is not run efficiently, this willy look unfavorably for the gym program.  When one parent is unhappy with a situation, they will certainly tell others and this can potentially spread rapidly within a community.


The success of every business is determined by the quality of the staff running that business.  We are providing a service to the community and we have many competitors that are providing programs for children.  Not just other gymnastics related businesses, but dance, martial arts, baseball, etc.  The higher the quality of training and service the more opportunity the business has to achieve a greater market share.  Remember, a business is only as successful at its staff.  Let’s train them the correct way!!

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:

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Business, Facility, Program Development, Staffing

Starting a Small Gym Program


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Hiring sign

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:

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Communication, Staffing, Training

Staffing: The Backbone of Every Business


You have probably heard the phrase; failure to plan is planning to fail. It is my firm belief a business is only as good as management’s ability to hire, educate, and create a dynamic staff model. Having a well trained, dedicated, and engaged staff is the foundation of any successful youth sports business.  You may think you have a great product or service to offer the community, but if your staff is not organized in an efficient manner,  the business will struggle instead of grow.  In this discussion, I will focus on the significance of hiring, training and managing an educated, dedicated, and engaged staff.

I have discussed topics related to class structure, technique, spotting, and much more, and all have one common denominator: the quality of the staff. There are many factors that need to be considered in planning, launching, and operating a successful youth sports business. Before you begin you need to address the most basic question; what is it exactly that you are going to sell to the youth sports customer? Answer; Instruction!!! The building, parking lot, equipment, mats, furniture, even the telephone are simply tools – you need to sell…instruction. Hence the most important tool in your business tool box will be your instructors. No matter the business size, this should be the highest priority in your business plan and must be managed and continually evaluated.

Every business manager/owner goes through a continual hiring process as a function of operation. This is where the employer has the opportunity to screen the applicants and determine if the candidate is a good fit for the position. There should always be an application filled out that includes references. It is important to follow-up with these references to see if the candidate would be eligible for re-hire. Former employers are not required to give details on a terminated employee so you may not receive a lot of information on a reference call.  The interview process should be designed to learn as much as possible about the candidate. A rule of thumb in this process is to ask open-ended questions and let the candidate elaborate. Listening is the key – let the candidate do most of the talking.  With a considered outline and thorough interview plan you have a better chance of picking the best candidate to fill a position.

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Unfortunately it is almost impossible through the interview process to determine all of the candidate’s personality traits, good or bad. Initial impressions can easily mask behavioral problems that may only come to light after the employee is in place. For this reason, many businesses have a probationary period for a new hire. This period can be any length of time the owner/manager sees as necessary to establish a level of trust in the employee ability. This is pretty standard operating procedure in larger businesses that offer benefits to employees. During the trial period, the employer should get a good feel on the productivity of the new hire. All positions within a business should have a detailed job description in writing so the employee has a clear understanding of their obligations. This will ensure there is not confusion on what is required of the position.


Training should always be a part of a new hire’s initial introduction to the position. Even if they have extensive knowledge in their position, every business is different in some form or another and the new hire needs to understand and become familiar with the new environment. In my programs, I always have the new hire shadow existing classes so they become familiar with our particular dynamics and structure. This also allows time for adjustment in a new environment.  New hire’s should be introduced to a class environment gradually which also allows time for the students to become familiar with the new instructor.

Training parents

Management should also conduct periodic performance reviews in order to keep the staff focused on company policy and procedures. One-on-one reviews can be stressful and may only be necessary if there is an existing problem.

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I often see posts from other gym owners regarding employee’s being late to work, demeanor, and loyalty, to name a few. These issues are often difficult for many business owners and managers to deal with due to the sensitivity and stress involved in confrontation. It is human nature to avoid conflict, unfortunately avoidance will not make the problem simply go away. Worse, in the coconut telegraph of the day (social media) it will almost assuredly fester and create a negative image for the business. When it is necessary to address a behavior issue with an employee it is important to remain calm and not allow excuses or accusations to supplant documented fact. While uncomfortable, it is imperative that the owner or manager deal with these situations quickly and professionally when they occur, or risk damaging the businesses image to the community at large.

One of the more concerning scenarios that can occur is the potential for an instructor to develop a close personal relationship with an individual student, or parent. Inappropriate fraternization can create embarrassing and potentially damaging fallout to the gyms public image as a business. In an effort to avoid this scenario, the gym should have a very clear written policy regarding appropriate contact with parents and students outside of the gym (as discussed in my previous post regarding:(Coaching the Parents). Additionally, while it’s important to develop a strong working relationship with your instructors in order to build a foundation of trust, the owner/manager must always remember they are employees first and keep that relationship on a professional level.

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There are special techniques that can be used when the need arises to correct an employee’s behavior. Never confront an employee in a group setting, or within earshot of students, parents, or other staff members. Doing so may only amplify the problem. Schedule a private meeting behind closed doors, and always keep the conversation to the point, and professional. The owner/manager conducting the meeting should also be prepared to offer recommendations to help the employee correct their behavior, as well as suggestions on how to avoid a recurrence. To avoid any misunderstanding it’s a good idea to have another manager present as a witness, and document the meeting in writing. At the conclusion of the meeting it is good idea to have them read and sign the document as acknowledgement that they have been warned about their behavior. This is to help protect the business, owner/s, and/or manager in the event the employee considers legal action. In most cases if everyone involved can stay rational through the meeting it should end with a positive resolution, and may you save a valued employee.

Once the problem with an employee has been addressed, they need to be monitored to ensure the behavior has been altered. If the problems continue, the employee must be terminated!! Firing an employee is never a pleasant task; however there are times it must be done for the overall health of the business. The rationale or cause for termination of an employee should always be documented in detail, and include any documentation from prior meetings. It is not necessary to have the employee sign the termination document (they will most likely refuse to sign anyway). Termination should only be a last resort after all other options have been exhausted, and it becomes necessary to stop further escalation.    

It is important to recognize that a great staff will create great results. If this segment of the business is not managed well, serious problems can and will occur. Having just one problem employee can disrupt the motivational dynamic in the gym. Worse yet, it can adversely affect staff morale and could ultimately damage the business beyond repair. When employee policies are violated, they need to be addressed immediately.


With all I have written above there is also the other side. If an employee has done a commendable job, let them know it and celebrate it openly! Periodic staff meetings to reinforce company policy are always a good practice. These meetings reinforce a team spirit in the staff, and will allow them to openly discuss their individual concerns. The meetings will also provide management some insight into potential unforeseen problems, and help you as the owner/manager to proactively address the staff’s concerns.

I hope this post helps in knowing this is a common issue in all businesses.  As always, 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:

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