The fall session is exciting, a fresh start and...very challenging. With tons of brand new preschool gymnasts, and perhaps more than a few new coaches, it can be one of the most challenging times of the year. There are some aspects of preschool to dial in on to set your program up to rock those first six weeks and beyond.
Overall Program Targets
The first step to a successful fall session is making sure you have consistent preschool- specific systems. This means thinking about the flow of attracting your ideal preschool client, on boarding and retaining that preschool client. The systems you have in place for preschool enrollment and retention become so important in the fall session because of the increase in gymnasts during this time of year. Your system for preschool should include what the overall experience is like, for both gymnasts and parents.
Communicating your preschool systems to your coaches (especially your new coaches) is key. Training them on what the system around preschool will make the expectations clear about their roles and responsibilities within that system. Be as transparent as possible about how your coaches fit into the preschool system. Bonus points for making your preschool system scalable for your 2020 Olympic boost. ;)
Be as transparent as possible with parents. This is the time your enrollment system will be the shining star, but it’s also the time to set some guidelines and clarity for parents. Do some thinking and write out a plan about what you want the experience to be like for parents. Where does their coach pick up their gymnast for class? What should the lobby look and feel like when preschool parents are waiting for class to end? Is the wifi password readily available? Have your communicated your policies around make ups (or lack thereof), holidays or parent tot class involvement?
The first six weeks of preschool parents are just as important as the work their gymnasts are doing in the gym. You’ve got to knock their socks off with an amazing parent experience. The potential to retain a preschool client for years is huge, and upset parents will not stick around to see if things get better as the year progresses.
If you’ve got new coaches, this is a critical time to be available to them. With the madness of the new session, they are bound to make mistakes, mess up the rotation schedule and get challenged by having so many new kiddos in one class. Now is the time for you to be as available as possible for an intense hands on extension of their training. If you are not available, it might be time to have a ‘float’ director or senior coach available to jump in as needed for the first six weeks to ensure everyone gets their ‘sea legs’.
Much like your preschool gymnasts, making sure coaches feel solid in their skills now will save you tons of time in the future. Keep in mind, they are likely experiencing some new changes as well such as starting college courses, friends moving away for school or their own young children starting school. Be patient and lead them with courage.
It can be tempting to dive into new exciting gymnastics skills right away, but the first six weeks of the fall session should be focused on teaching gymnasts independence when moving throughout the circuit. Gymnastics skills fade into the background, because setting gymnasts up to complete your circuit independently is the number one goal. The gymnastics skills taught in the first six weeks should be very basic.
If you do not do this work now, you will have to re-visit this over and over again throughout the year. It will become the focus of class, rather than the amazing gymnastics skills your coaches will teach. If gymnasts do not learn to become independent in completing the circuit, they will not progress quickly and likely drop the class.
The first six weeks are all about going slow to go fast. The more independent gymnasts become, the easier it will be to teach skills for the rest of the year. Your coaches are laying the groundwork for the entire year during this time. Make sure you are communicating with parents that you are focusing on gymnast’s ‘rotation independence’ first, then you’ll be able to jump into tons of new juicy gymnastics skills.
Your preschool rituals are the slow parts of class. They are connection-based, meaning coaches can not complete these parts of class without thoughtfully connecting with each child. The first six weeks of fall are the best place to establish your rituals.
For example, the goodbye song is a ritual. Coaches sit in a circle with their gymnasts, clap and sing goodbye to each gymnast, then everyone together sings the class name. It’s a sweet, connection based part of class that becomes a ritual. Brainstorm what your rituals are in your classes, name them and make sure coaches are nurturing them during those first six weeks.
Your class flow (or routine) is ultra important for the first six weeks. The routine of class is the order in which you complete the rotations and parts of class. It differs from your rituals because coaches do not have to be mindful about the routine as much as a ritual. During the first few weeks of class, it will feel downright painful to follow things so strictly, but it is the best way for young children to learn the safe gym flow you’ve developed for their class.
To be clear, the class flow stays the same, but the content changes. Do not repeat the same skills each week, or boredom will set in (along with it’s twin, ‘behavior challenges’!) and kids will drop the class. Setting the routine of class, while keeping it fresh is the key here.
During this time of year, children are bombarded with new experiences. They’ve been at school or preschool all week, learning new rules, teachers and making new friends. They will be tired. Remind coaches to have patience and leave some room for mistakes, fatigue and general irritability. This will be especially true for kindergarteners, as their entire world just changed by going to school all day.
It will take the full six weeks for your gymnasts to get the hang of being in the gym, routines and rituals of class. Be firm, yet gentle. Set your expectations sky high (they WILL reach them!) and stick to them.
Get Ready To Rock
The first six weeks of fall are so important to setting the tone for the rest of the year. You’ve worked all summer to extend your learning, get things ready and now it’s your time to open the doors and welcome in new preschool families! Happy fall!