My last post I explained how a recent study done by the Sports Fitness Industry of America noted that the number of kids participating in sports has decreased 8% since 2008. I explained that I feel the decrease is due to 6 reasons: Cost, Skewed definitions of success, decrease in providing children with fitness opportunities, privatization, low quality coaches, and bad press. Here I want to offer some solutions to these problems and share what Gymfinity does to be sure that we make our program accessible to ALL kids.
Problem 1: Cost
We need to utilize public parks more. We need neighborhood leagues where kids play, not as progression to stardom or for training to do high school sports, but just for fun. We need moms and dads to volunteer time to coach and guide kids in developing some skill, to be sure, but more importantly to just play. This would not only provide a fitness options (see below) but allow us all to be better neighbors.
At Gymfinity we are very aware that due to the cost associated with doing business (read as insurance, equipment, payroll, facilities, etc.) that we must set a price to participate. However, we have had scholarship programs since Gymfinity opened in 1999. To date we have had over 100 children participate in our program at reduced or no tuition. We have offered over 50 people work-study programs to help offset tuition too. I was given a break as a child when our family couldn’t afford my training and I have always believed in paying it forward.
Reason 2: Unrealistic definitions of success
Parents have always wanted what was best for their child and setting a high standard for success is something that I actually embrace. But in the same vein that
we look for “wins” we should also be applauding the efforts of our kids. I have never believed in 100% trophies or participation awards just for showing up but have always defined success by saying that sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. If we really value our children’s participation, then we must celebrate the growing process, the effort and the sheer enjoyment of just playing. This has always been our philosophy at Gymfinity. We believe winning is a byproduct of training hard and learning from mistakes. One never happens without the other.
Reason 3: We expect more fitness participation from ourselves than from our kids.
Lead by example. If you are going for a run, take your kid with you. Understand that the success likelihood of active children is much higher than inactive kids. A parent’s mission is to make life easier for our children than it was for us. We often feel that fitness or sports can be hard. So, to protect our children from the pain of a grueling workout, or the disappointment of a loss on the field we allow them to sit idle.
At Gymfinity, we do not require that our coaches are active participants in sports but the people who are hired here usually tend to value fitness. We have marathoners, professional athletes, and a lot of people who just work out because it feels right. We have always strived to put good role models in front of your children.
Reason 4 Privatization
Businesses that provide sports experiences for profit should help support the public access to opportunity in sports where they can. Businesses should allow facilities to be used by community programs, or in the least help support school programs.
Gymfinity has helped local schools to the tune of over $50k through donation to schools, reduced rates for group activity, purchase and donation of equipment or skills, and scholarships to school kids. We have always believed in supporting our local schools and always will.
Reason 5: Lower quality coaches
Sports associations and schools need to have access to professional training by people or programs that have the knowledge. By providing low-cost or free education or training to local coaches we can ensure that the quality of the coaching goes up. When school coaches are improved they allow access to more kids and thus a widening base of the pyramid that allows a higher peak on the other end. More access means that maybe one program may find a Messi or a LeBron where before those kids never saw the option to play.
At Gymfinity we have held numerous clinics and conferences for high school coaches and P.E. Teachers. We demand that all our coaches maintain training credit hours every year. That means that they frequent conferences and congresses from top level coaches to be sure that we stay on top of the quality of the staff we provide.
Reason 6: Bad Press
We need to stop having it. Knowing that the 24 news cycles are always looking for something shocking to lure viewership, we must all be more discerning with our selection of news outlets. I personally stopped watching anything that seems to sensationalize news, though that limits my selection drastically.
Gymnastics has taken steps to change our press image. I feel that perhaps, at first, our national governing body was paying more attention to the reversal of image than to actually making the changes. But slowly and surely, we have been given rules, policies, and, procedures that provide for a safer environment in gymnastics programming.
At Gymfinity we have always had very strict standards for our hiring and operations. Our building was designed to allow 100% visibility of everywhere that children go in our care. Our staff was background checked and safety certified before USA Gymnastics even required it. We have always and will always have very high standards for the people we allow to be with your kids. If everyone in our industry holds themselves to this type of standard, we will have great press and leave the dark days of gymnastics behind.
Now granted that I am probably a little biased when it comes to Gymfinity. When I started the program in 1999 I knew then that it had to be something special. It had to be a leader in, not only the industry, but the community as well. I hope that I have attained that goal, but I will never stop working to make it the best program it can be. A program worthy of working with the most important kids in the world. Yours.