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5 Easy Steps to Growing a Loyal Student Base

June 24, 2020

We have a challenge for you – think of at least 3 teachers or instructors who have positively impacted your life, just off the top of your head.

That wasn’t challenging, was it? There’s no denying that teachers and educators of all kinds can dramatically affect students, no matter what age. Don’t believe us? Let’s look at the numbers. According to weareteachers.com, 88% of people said that a teacher had a significant and positive impact on their life, and 75% of students said that they viewed teachers as mentors and role models. 

Everyone knows that education goes far beyond the classroom. In fact, many students may very well be learning more skills and life lessons in your gym or dojo than they do while sitting at a desk. Martial arts and physical fitness instructors are JUST as important and impactful as a math or English professor! That’s why having strong and healthy relationships with the students at your gym is oh-so important. Growing a loyal student base is the secret to a happy and upbeat environment, and to creating a space where students can feel encouraged and supported while simultaneously being challenged. 

So if you feel like your instructor-student relationships are strained, don’t fret. We’ve got you covered – read ahead for 5 tips for growing a loyal student base at your gym.

 

  1. Be as Personable as Possible

Okay, this one is obvious but cannot be emphasized enough – get to know your students! 

The very first step in doing this is super simple, but an absolute must. Learn all of your students’ names. We know, we know, that’s a lot easier said than done. You may very well have a ton of students. But this commitment is one that is well worth your time. By simply making an effort to learn each student’s name, you automatically establish a personal relationship and show that you care about them and their success.

Your students may be martial artists, but they are so much more than that. Once you master their names, learn about your students as a whole, not just who they are when they’re training in your gym. That means asking them about their other activities and interests, whether that be a musical instrument they play or their favorite subject in school. 

By paying attention to your students’ lives, you are creating a safe environment that allows for growth as athletes and simply as individuals. Students will feel more willing and eager to take risks, make mistakes, and ask for help in their training. Once you reach this level of relationship with your students, ask them about their goals (both in and out of the gym) and listen to what they are struggling with. By doing this, you will be surprised how much you can change your students’ lives.

 

  1. Reward Hard Work

Martial arts is no easy task. It’s hard work – you can’t just become a black belt overnight. Don’t get us wrong, martial arts is plenty rewarding in itself. By training in martial arts, students gain self-growth and self-confidence, find a strong sense of friendship and teamwork, learn respect for themselves and for others, and confront challenges that push them to become a better athlete every day.

But sometimes a little bit of extra recognition or something additional to strive for can be exactly the push your students need. So how do you do this?

  • Give them reinforcement. If they’re doing something well, let them know!
  • Set team goals for your students. This will not only give them something to work toward, but strengthen your students’ camaraderie and solidarity.
  • Show up! Try to attend as many of their martial arts competitions and events as you can, and encourage your students to do the same for each other.

 

  1. Offer Incentives for Class Attendance

Life gets busy. As students get older, they take on more commitments and have an abundance of things to focus on. It’s your job as an instructor to find subtle ways to encourage class attendance.

There are lots of ways to do this, but here are some of our tips and tricks:

  • Offer attendance medals – Kicksite’s attendance tracking has a customizable feature that allows you to set up multiple awards based on the number of classes a student attends. Through this system students can earn virtual bronze, silver, and gold medals!
  • Feature students – Find a way to highlight hardworking and committed students, perhaps by selecting a student of the class or student of the month. Not only does this reward attendance and dedication to the sport, but it makes students feel recognized and gives them a new goal to work towards.
  • Reward attendance with special pro shop discounts – Who doesn’t love a good deal? This can be a super fun way to reward students on stellar attendance. You can go about doing this however you’d like. For example, once a student attends a certain number of classes, give them a 20% discount off of your merchandise!

 

  1. Do NOT Surcharge

Surcharging is not your friend. Trust us.

So what exactly does it mean to surcharge? Dictionary.com defines surcharging as “to subject to an additional or extra charge, tax, cost, etc. (for payment).” Surcharging often comes in the form of a service fee, a shipping and handling fee, or a transaction fee.

Moral of the story? Pushing merchant fees and transaction fees to your students is a big turnoff. Studies show that when a customer is surcharged, loyalty towards the business drops. Not to mention, adding hidden merchant fees can seriously harm the trust you have developed between you, your students, and their families.  The damage to your reputation isn’t worth the few dollars of savings you might gain and end up hurting your chance of growing a loyal student base. 

 

  1. Create a Community

Human beings crave connection. If you want your students to really excel, creating an environment they feel comfortable and encouraged in is an absolute must. Your gym is more than a business, it’s a community. 

First – treat your students like family. Get to know them, answer their questions, and uplift them. Whether you are a gym owner or an instructor, you probably have no idea just how much your students look up to you and value your opinion. Be a role model in your students’ lives and exhibit a positive and encouraging attitude. They will mimic your behaviors!

Second – foster friendships. If your students can build meaningful relationships with each other, they will feel more comfortable in class and are way more likely to come out of their shell and excel. You can do this by holding monthly events. Try catering in food, doing off-site activities, or holding movie nights. Your options are pretty much endless, so get creative. For optimal involvement, get your students’ feedback on these activities or allow them to help organize and plan events.

Third – encourage learning between students. While competition can be super beneficial and healthy for students, it is important to ensure that your students see each other as more than competitors. This can come into play during sparring. Make sure your students understand that this activity is a prime learning opportunity and encourage them to take mental notes from one another. After students finish sparring, have them reflect and state what they learned from their partner. Instilling respect among your students for each other can be a game changer.

Your gym should be a safe and fun place for your students. When they’ve had a bad day, your school should be where they go to change their mood and put their problems aside. Growing a loyal student base at your gym and building a sense of community among your staff and students doesn’t happen overnight. Remember – it’s a process! Keep these 5 points in mind as you instruct and plan each and every day, and slowly but surely you will see the results.