Getting Parents to commit

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Feb 22, 2008
Omaha, NE
Does anyone have any advice on getting parents to commit to having their girls on team? We are struggling with families complaining about costs and amount of time the girls must commit to. For example our level 4s are supposed to go 3 days a week for 2.5 hours each workout for the summer. Does this seem excessive? Any advice?
I definitely depends on a multitude of things, for example: urban/suburban/rural, the median income of families in the area, the different types of sports that are available and popular, familiarity with the sport, number of gyms near yours, etc.

The gym I coach at is in a small "city" (20,000) with a fairly high low-income population (>50% of the local school district's students receive free or reduced lunch) and we border the more rural part of the state. We tend to pull our enrollment from the more rural areas west. 20 miles east is the next real populated area, and people inbetween tend to gravitate toward that area instead of us "out west" because there's so much more to do (mall and several shopping centers)--and therefore usually sign up at the local, much larger and well-known facility there. That gym is pulling from a much larger population and is able to expect families to commit to longer hours, more days, and subsequently higher pricing than we can. Our level 4s practice 2 hours a day, 2 days a week--and even that can be a struggle for families. 5s and 6s practice a total of 9 hours a week. Compared to what I've seen people on the boards say they pay, we are practically free. Many of our competitive team girls also help out with classes to receive reduced tuition. If we required level 4s to go 3 days a week/2.5 hrs a day, we wouldn't have a team. But the other gym can, and I believe does, require similar hours to yours. However, although its great that we adjust our times/prices to support the needs of the local economy, we do sometimes lose kids who want more hours than we offer--and for those kids the options are wide and varied depending on how far they want to travel. There are some very big names (with Olympians) within a reasonable driving distance. But we do what we can to provide a progressive, positive learning experience for every child we can.

If you are having that many parents complain, you may need to look at lowering hours and prices. Is it possible to knock a day off and increase each practice by a 1/2 hour? Or make one day "optional"--with a price difference for two days a week vs. three-- for those who can afford it and want to come?

Ok, I think I rambled a bit, sorry. But lots of things to think about. Good luck!
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Thats definitely not excessive. The average level 4 in Australia trains 12-16 hours a week over 4 days.

Gymnastics is a big commitment and its not right for every family, offer what you think is fair and understand that some families will do it and some won't. It might be an idea to have a recreational alternative for those families who don't want a big commitment so they can train the higher levels but not compete.

Its important that you don't apologize for the cost or the hours, simply let them know what they are in a matter of fact way. If you start apologizing for it they often feel they can beat you down to reduce the costs/ Be honest with them instead, let them know what is required to be competitive at that level.
I think it's typical for level 4 in Atlanta, GA US to train 9-12 hours a week.

What is typical for where you are? What is competing for their time in the summer? Do you have a booster club that could address this problem ... do some additional fund-raising perhaps?

On the year-round swim teams here, it's typical to pay $X a month for 9 months covers 12 months of indoor swimming. So the summer is already paid for by May, and if the kids come in June-July-August, great. I do not know if any gymnastics teams approach summer this way. I think that some of them raise the summer practice hours but not the tuition, and are more relaxed about the kids missing practice for vacations or other sports than they would be during the academic year.
Start w/ a small group of kids of parents who want to commit. It will take time, but your program will grow. Maybe recommend a rec team for those who wont commit, though your hours are on the low eend for Level 4.
Its important that you don't apologize for the cost or the hours, simply let them know what they are in a matter of fact way. If you start apologizing for it they often feel they can beat you down to reduce the costs/ Be honest with them instead, let them know what is required to be competitive at that level.

I think that this is a great point. If this is a reasonable amount for your area, and this is what you require, be firm and confident in your interactions with the parents. Do you have some previous data to help explain the need for the number of days/hours (ie, success of gymnasts at meets and at higher levels?). I like to have solid data and lots of information when i talk to parents.
I agree with not apologizing for your program.

I approach it this way with our parents:
This is what we sell here, this is what it costs and in turn, this is what we provide. If that is not what you are looking then you are free to shop elsewhere. You don't go into Walmart and complain that it's not Macy's, or vice versa. Shop where they sell what you want for the price you want to pay. I'm confident we offer a good product at a fair price, if you disagree shop somewhere else.

Beyond that in our team info we spell out the costs ahead of time and offer to recommend an alternative class for any child that is not looking for that level of commitment. It will be better in the long run to have a small team of committed parents than dragging people along who really might prefer a rec class instead.
I feel as if the gym never really worked on me. Instead, they got my daughter hooked so that I almost didn't have a choice. Your workouts are less time than our L4's train, so I don't think it's unreasonable. However, as a parent, I can say it IS a lot of money and a lot of time and I wouldn't be doing it unless my child really, really wanted to and told me (all the friggen' time).

Looking back, I can see things that the gym did when my child was in a development program to make her feel special and a part of things (little prizes in her mailbox, awardsd for getting a skill, goal setting for when she moved up to team). Those definitely were part of what made her addicted to gymanstics and made her beg me to join team.
I think the take-home message from Pickle's Mom post is that gyms consider publishing developmental class / pre-team / team information on the web site right alongside the class information. Around here most gyms do not publish anything about team. Yes, many parents will go out of their way to learn what the future might hold if their child gets a gym bug. I do suspect though that parents who do not have a gym background would not know there is anything *to* research. I mean, you go on a soccer team and you practice 3 hours a week, maybe. They just have no idea.

I do agree that if you are having parents who do not want to get with your program, you offer a noncompetitive teamlike option and keep your true team to your standards. Tell the parents you are forming a class in the fall for girls who want to do gym several hours a week and maybe move to team in the future, but are not committing to team. I think this will make the team program seem more desirable, not less.
The original poster didn't say - but I expect part of the issue is they want to build the team but can't get enough parents to bite. I can imagine getting a team started at a small gym in a non-competitive area can be an enormous task. You need a strong, established, competitive team to "advertise" and to draw in more team members. But without that already - how do you get it started? How do you show the parents and potential team members what team is all about - what an adventure and cool experience it can be without nothing to compare it to? How do you hire and draw in better coaches and gymnasts without an established team. I expect to these parents it just looks like a way for this gym to just take more of their money.

Many of you suggest just setting your price, hours, and be done with it. But if the reality is as I state above - that is not going to work. In reality this approach may just kill the team. Imagine if right now the entire "team" consists of 2-3 level 4 girls and nothing else and this owner is trying to grow the team. However maybe the owner cannot afford to lower the prices. What can the owner do?

I don't know that I have any answers either - but sounds like maybe that is the issue? Maybe don't do USAG yet JO yet? Maybe start a Prep Opt Rookie team? Or maybe compete AAU?

Maybe you come up with some sort of "Summer camp team" where the girls come extended hours in the summer - maybe up to 20 hours at a cut rate price that your gym can do. They learn some cool routines - not really the Compulsory routines (because they can be somewhat boring) but maybe some fun, easy to learn optional routines, learn some cool skills, have some fun camp type activities like sleep overs, swimming pools, mall outings, etc. This will build team bonding, create some BFFs, and hopefully get the girls excited about team. At the end of the summer you have an intramural meet for the parents where they girls can show off what they have learned in a more realistically judged meet atmosphere. Maybe this will get the girls and the parents hooked. Then come August you can invite the best of them to your completive team - again.
aerialriver - It was not my intention to sound negative about our gym in my post. I actually really like the management at my daughter’s gym (most of the time). When I say she is “addictedâ€￾ to gymnastics, it’s only because that’s how she and her teammates talk about it; as if it is something that she cannot live without. I don’t fault the gym for making her feel that way. I’m glad that she found something to be passionate about. But I certainly wouldn’t be paying $400 per month for a 7 yo to do an activity if she didn’t feel that way.

It was a hardship for several of the families when we moved from Developmental to Team. We have parents who were laid off because of the economy, large families with lots of pressure for resources, and working parents who have a lot of difficulty working around the gym schedules. We chose to do it because our daughters really loved it and because, frankly, it was sort of instilled in us from early on that this was going to be the next step and it was a privilege to be chosen for team.

I don’t think that there is anything a gym owner could have said to me directly to convince me to do it. It really needed to be a longer process and come from my child’s love of the activity.

And emomrymom, I completely agree with you. I am not a gymnastics person. I had no idea what this entailed. Really, I brought my four year old to a pre-school class because she liked to jump on trampolines and she was trying to figure out how to do a cartwheel. She was placed in the developmental program a few months later. I had no idea at the time it would lead to competition or what competition would entail. But the gym was good at explaining the expected progression, which I think made the transitions easier.
Our level 4s train 6 hours a week, 3 days a week at two hours a pop. our optionals only train 7 hours a week- 3 days a pop. time will go up in the summer, but not days a week. we are a YMCA and families have other commitments that need attending.
As mentioned in an earlier post, some parents just don't have the money. Your hours aren't unreasonable, but you can't force parents to come up with money they don't have. We had to change gyms for this reason. The 2 gyms in the area that we can afford practice only 2 days a week for level 4's, but there is in optional 3rd day. For our gym, the optional 3rd day is $20 for a 2 hour practice. Not sure if this would work for your gym, but maybe it's worth investigating if it would make a difference.
Thank you all for your insight. We have decided to stick with our plan and offer the days and hours to our competitive team. There are few families who are opting to not continue with the competitive program due to the increased hours. For those families we do have a "recreational" competitive track. It is just frustrating to invest so much in the gymnast and then have parents back out. I agree though that it has to be 100% from both gymnast and parents. Just disappointing....
Something silly my coach did: last year, parents were complaining about the hours over the summer (which were the same hours we do all year), cause their kids wanted to do summer camps that conflicted, have fun, family time, gym definitely allows kids to take a week off for camp or a family vacation, although they prefer that you make up time if you can. In response to the parental complaints, the coach cut back our hours from 12 to 11.5, with an "extra/optional" half hour at the end of one practice, in which we did mostly vault and tramp (considered "fun stuff"). Some kids left in that half hour, but most didn't, and soon it was back to 12 hrs as usual.
Elilia, I'm glad to read that your sticking with your program. As a club owner - you know full well what the costs of operations are, and what level of training your team need to be successful. Parents don't. The more successful athetes you have - the more the parents will understand. This only takes time to develop this high reputation. Which, IMHO, should be your ultimate goal. To be THE gym athletes want to go too in your area.

We have clubs in our area that cost almost half as much as our gym, and train L3's - L6's 16 hour a week during the season. (which is beyond nutty in my opinion). During summer, they cut this to 12 hours a week. It's a very popular club, and has a somewhat large team. Here's the kicker: The athletes are very rarely on the podium, even when they go out 40% with awards! I always feel sorry for many of them because I know how hard they must be trying. So, Is this "saved money" or wasted time? Only the individual parent can decide that I guess. I think you know how I feel.

As a parent, I expect good programs and well equipt gyms to cost more, AND that the owners and coaches are also entitled to make a decent living in the process.

FWIW, our L4's do two 2.5 hour sessions, with an optional 3rd 3 hour session on Satuday per week. Im proud that we dominate the podium and that we've taken the team trophy for every competition we've been too in both fall and spring seasons - for the last 3 years. In fact, we've heard about other teams not coming to a competition because our gym was going to be there. So how is this possible with such low training hours? Answer: A good (and well compensated) coaching staff!

We have no penalties to missing a session, or even a week of sessions, other then loosing tuition money. We don't have "make ups", and this is fine with me. I am very much family first, school second, gym third. Thankfully, our club owners are in full agreement with this way of thinking.

Lastly, A little research in your area for other competitve sports may prove enlightening. We have three major swim clubs in our area. Each cost $350 a month, and have 3 a week mandatory 3 hour training sessions. Hockey programs, diving, and cheer/spirit squats are also -- not near as 'reasonable' as gym.
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Wow Tim, swimming is expensive in Missouri! We're in the #2 rated swim club in the country and the highest level kids don't pay anything like $350 at our location. Those are the kids whose practice slots are 3 hours x 6 days. I don't know how many days they're required to come. The hours accelerate so rapidly for gymnasts at a young age, but swimming can be just a few hours a week until puberty.
This is what our old gym did to get those of us who were reluctant (including me) to commit to team:
- The very young, first year girls got out of practice 1/2 hour early
- First year team members paid 1/2 of coaching/team fees, but only went to 4 meets selected because they were close to home
- Gym fees were the same for everybody at level 4 (only team fees were reduced)

This worked for us because it reduced our time, money and travel commitment that first year, easing us into the entire team schedule.

If I had known how much this was going to end up costing us, I probably would have pulled her out when it came time to move up to team. I'm not sorry she is on the team and enjoying gymnastics everyday, but I think nearly any rational adult would look at the yearly cost and choke! We go to a gym that does extensive traveling at the higher levels and our yearly expenses (including travel) are nearly 5 figures. Of course we look at Flipper and know that it is worth it, but from a newby perspective, the time, money and travel commitment can be overwhelming.
At my gym, the level 4s train 9 hours/week, and it costs about $75 per month (minus leotard and meet expenses). The level 4 team is enormous and frequently score well in the all-around; 34-36, which is pretty good for a small gym in biglittle Albany (despite being the state capital, it's pretty small, so I call it "biglittle").

Unfortunately, the level 4 coach only coaches level 4... Leaving the higher levels to coaches that are simply not as good. Apparently, there has been discussion among level 4 parents of wanting to keep their children in level 4 as long as possible, due the better coaching. As a result, the level 5 team only has 6 or 7 girls, level 6 around 2 or 3 and level 7 3 or 4. Level 8 and 9 together only have around 5. There used to be quite a few level 6s, but about 5 quit or switched gyms rather then do level 6 another year.

Hopefully the level 4s will move up through the levels with the basics down pat, and order will be restored...

Our gym has a good pre-team program, however, which costs less then team and seems to do a good job of luring in parents.

So this is just an example of what goes on at my gym... It may or may not be helpful... Good luck!
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