Preparing for the Gymnastics Surge

Once every four years since Russian pixie gymnast, Olga Korbut first captured the hearts and minds of America’s future gymnasts and their parents, there has been a surge of new gymnasts pouring into gymnastics facilities in the days, weeks and months after gymnastics is highlighted in the Summer Olympics on TV.

This has been a quadrennial boon to the sport at all levels and has fueled the growth of the sport at the beginner and team levels for years. On average, there has been a 25% – 37% increase in gym student enrollment in each of the Olympic years, after the television coverage lasting for months afterwards.

In years when there is an American gymnastics heroine (e.g., Mary Lou Retton) or a young international gymnast that captures the heart of the whole world (e.g., Nadia Comanechi) the number of new enrollees is at its highest. Either of these is a distinct possibility this Olympics in Beijing.

For gym owners and managers, the important thing about the Olympic surge is how prepared is your gym for the influx of new students. Too many times we see gyms given the gift of new students who are not prepared and who lose them all (or most of them) within months.

In many gyms, who have not had the foresight to prepare, the surge overwhelms front desk staff procedures, overcrowds classes, overtaxes the available coaching staff and leads to long lines and gymnasts waiting in line for long periods of time to use equipment.

For unprepared gyms, the surge disappears within 3 – 4 months and the potential financial and team boost is lost, not to return for four more years. For gyms that are sufficiently prepared, business booms with gymnasts, most of whom will still be there four years later when the next surge occurs.

What do you need to do to prepare your gym for the upcoming surge? As with any gym planning and strategy, you should start by evaluating the experience of new customers coming in your doors. Who greets them and how? How quickly can you register them and take their money?

Do you have trained coaching staff and instructors in sufficient numbers to deal with the highest possible expected surge and then a margin of error in case this is a record Olympic surge?

Do you have a sufficient number of classes scheduled or ready to be fit into the schedule to handle the anticipated surge of students?

Have you maximized the number of gymnastics equipment and training stations that you have to provide sufficient activity levels for all of the new students to minimize waiting between turns?

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