Setting Up a New Sports Program

Encourage guest participation for all ages

Provide a vision and a concrete plan to encourage participation for all ages. A well-run program will keep customers coming back, and generate positive word of mouth for new customers.

National sports organizations govern baseball, basketball, football, hockey, tennis, swimming, figure skating, etc. The associations offer recreational and competitive training that incorporates positive reinforcement, such as a sportsmanship program for athletes and their parents. Having a positive vision for participants will make people happier to participate and will foster a community environment. Encourage staff to focus on the process of participating, not solely on outcomes.

With an increase in the Baby Boomer generation reaching age 65 in the coming years, be sure to set-up programs for seniors. They want to be active, but are hesitant to return to activities in which they may need to modify their participation. This generation values hard work and achievement, so they may feel discouraged in a modified activity, like they are taking a step backward. Either they are worried about how they will appear, or they are fearful of injury. However, an object in motion stays in motion! Although they may not be able to participate at the exact same level as 40 years ago, they can still participate. The health benefits from participation are terrific! Appeal to this age group by offering over 60 workout times with music from the 1960s. Have coaches and trainers who are also Baby Boomers and can talk about the same challenges. Offer seminars and workshops that look back on the sports over the years.

On the other hand, the Millennial generation will also be visiting the facility looking to participate in activities. For the Millenials, offer childcare on site to encourage guests to drop-off their children while they exercise. Have parent-and-me classes, so the whole family can participate. Millenials work well in groups and need regular feedback in order to continue registering. Set-up contests with rewards where guests are encouraged to form exercise teams with weekly weigh-ins. Trainers can set-up blogs where customers can post pictures and comment on their progress, both the ups and the downs. Blogging is a great form of expression, as well as a way to gain support for your activity. Teambuilding is a terrific way to foster support among peers and contribute to the positive spirit of the activities. Invest in technology within the workout equipment by offering elliptical machines and treadmills with screens for reading, watching television, satellite radio. Offer flexible times on classes and workout periods with a make-up policy available.

Focus on Safety

One of the most important aspects to address in a new facility is sports safety. Many guests do not have clear view of the risks involved in the activities. As a community center, and in this litigious society, staff must address the sports risks and to provide safety information to guests. Offer weekly facility tours and introductory workshops to discuss proper use of equipment, as well as safety within participation. All classes and programs should begin with the instructor reviewing basic safety measures. Post signs warning guests of potential hazards, and require waivers be signed with membership. For staff, schedule the risk management officer from the insurance company to visit at least twice per year to review safety information. Have staff perform regular equipment checks that are kept in a log. Remove and repair damaged equipment immediately.

Offer satellite community programs

Many people may want to visit the facility, but may not be able to participate in its sports programs. Make the facility a welcomed gathering place with tables for guests to play cards, or games like checkers and chess. Meeting rooms can be rented free of charge to churches, schools, community groups. Offer low-impact classes for all ages that includes stretching, dance, Zumba, Pilates, Yoga, and Tai Chi. Have a massage therapist and nutritionist who can conduct monthly seminars and provide support to guests. Trends show that passive recreation such as using the computer, scrapbooking, and other forms of crafting such as painting and woodworking are popular with all age groups. Consider offering classes in the community rooms to meet this demand.

Capitalize on world class coaching staff

World-class coaches and trainers are willing to make guest appearances. Schedule special workshops and camps for guests to “learn from the pros.” There is a trend toward offering Fantasy Camps for adults, where guests can work with high-level coaches, meet professional players in the sport, and attend a professional game or match during the camp. Similarly, there is a trend toward offering “Family Camp,” where adults and their children can enjoy the activities together. These special interest activities will draw more attendance toward the facility.

Provide ongoing customer service training

Maintain a focus on strong customer service for the staff by offering regular training workshops. Everyone must be trained on how to handle situations that may arise such as handling customer feedback, answering facility questions, responding to injuries, proper etiquette and dress code. Staff should have special training on working with senior customers and responding to special needs. Be sure to have a mix of generations within the staff. Ideas that appeal to and encourage one generation may not appeal to the other. For example, Millenials would enjoy receiving certificates at the end of each class session, while Baby Boomers may not want the certificates. Focus the class goals and structure toward the participants likes and dislikes. Programs do not need to be the same for all ages.

Build Community Partnerships and Sponsorships

Work with local schools to organize field trips and fundraisers. One of the best ways to generate positive word of mouth in the community is to participate in community programs such as fairs, parades and festivals. When an opportunity presents itself to set-up a table for a raffle or to donate prizes or silent auction certificates, the facility should participate. Have a designated staff member who visits schools to meet with principals and the parent teacher associations to talk about partnerships and fundraising opportunities for their schools. In addition, seek out local business partnerships where they can advertise within the facility on skating rink dasher boards and tennis court walls. Partner with the local medical center to offer community services such as monthly blood pressure tests, flu shots, and vision screenings. Work with local hotels to offer discounts to visitors looking for a fun afternoon out with their family and friends while on vacation. Similarly, partner with area businesses to provide special discounts to their employees. Discounts encourage people to try something they might otherwise not consider.

Organize a mentoring program

To build bridges between generations that will visit the facility, encourage a mentoring program between the generations. Baby Boomers have a lot of experience to share with younger generations and can be consulted in their areas of expertise. Millenials have a great deal of knowledge with technology and Social Media that can be passed on to the senior population. Cross generation partnerships are beneficial in all directions.

Use Social Media and Technology

To assist customers and be environmentally friendly, strive to be as paper-free as possible; use e-mail confirmations, reminders, and online registration; track waivers electronically. Have paper fliers available for guests who are not comfortable with technology, but ask for an e-mail address with each new customer. Encourage staff to make regular phone calls to clients to foster a sense of community and to offer reminders, especially to the senior community. Use Social Media tools such as Facebook and Twitter as a forum to communicate with guests, and as well as for promotional purposes. Regularly update listings on Google and Yelp to keep the facility at the top of search engines.