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Consumer Gym Alert - An Opinion
Solid Non Competitive / Movement Program Or A Glorified Playroom?
The following is a strongly felt opinion and should only be taken as such:
I once witnessed a disturbing sight at an unmentioned gym for kids.
It was a beautiful picture seeing the little girls all dressed up. What a precious sight...young girls eager to discover the world of gymnastics. But the preciousness of the moment quickly gave way to stark reality, these little girls were not likely to learn solid, basic gymnastics.
Why do I say that? Simply because the man teaching the class had no substantive experience in gymnastics! I mean, I don't believe he was ever a gymnast or had been involved in anything gymnastics until recently. The little innocent faces eagerly waiting for a turn on the bars had no idea they were essentially learning to swing on the bars in this so called gym.
My disturbance soon gave way to a smoldering anger. Don't misunderstand me, it wasn't the instructor's fault. From the little I knew about him, he seemed a good and decent person. The problem was the operations of the aforementioned unnamed gym.
The facility was nice and had the basic trappings of a gymnastics school. But aside from some extremely basic exercises, the little ones were mainly waiting in line to swing from the bars in, what I strongly feel, was nothing more than some kind of faux- gymnastics class.
During this so called class, I also witnessed children sitting down far too long while receiving instruction from the "coach." I have heard from some that this unnamed gym had very little structure in their program allowing the little kids to run off, if they so desired, or play on the facilities' equipment. In my opinion this facility was little more than a glorified playroom.
Certainly the facility looked cute, the staff of smiling faces in their sporty attire were well trained in customer service, but the instruction offered amounted to little more than a few basic skills. Making matters worse, this certain facility actually had the nerve to market it's program as something along the lines of the be all and end all of the industry.
I left the area and thought this isn't right. I wish parents knew what was really going on at that place and countless others like it. In my opinion it should be marketed as a play room, but to market itself as teaching gymnastics, I strongly feel ,was teetering closely on the edge of false advertisement.
Build It And They Will Come?
Whether the business is a brand name or a localized entity, consultants, psychologist, marketers and other experts know there are certain methods that are effective in drawing in the consumer. Aesthetics is one known method. Build an attractive looking, smartly decorated facility, and throw in some fun equipment and you'll probably get somebody's attention. A gymnastics place won't look authentic without equipment regardless of whether an instructor has had any serious instruction on using the equipment. Dress code is another common method. Put almost anyone in certain attire related to a specific field and it might be assumed he/she knows what he's doing.
Location is probably one of the better know methods. Operate your business in a high trafficked and attractive location and this can be highly effective in catching the consumers' eyes. Marketing can also be critical to a businesses success. If a business crowns itself as having the best program for children and presents itself as a sophisticated program, unless the consumer does it's homework, that program could well pack the kids in. Some programs are actually branded.
The use of Brand can have a powerful psychological effect on the consumer and lull her into thinking the service offered is superior... welcome to the billion dollar world of advertisement. If advertisement were not so successful, businesses wouldn't be spending so much money doing it.
It's All About The Children...
Lets take a hypothetical gym... we'll call it: It's All About The Children Gymnastixs
But what if their program is not independently verified? What if it is simply a well honed machine that has learned a formula heavy on business strategies but light on the service delivered?
It's All About The Children...or is it?
Our hypothetical gym mentioned above may be a business owned by a certain party or parties who have found a business system that could bring in a handsome yield, but I don't think that part will be mentioned. It's owner(s) may have had little to no experience before finding a business opportunity which is/was too good to pass up. Whether it is an individually owned gymnastics program or a brand name, I believe some people are in it for the business first. They might see a profitable market and decide they want in. But do these business entrepreneurs have a significant background in the gymnastics field, and do the employees they hire have any significant gymnastics training? Yes, they may argue they follow a blueprint that has been successful for a number of years, but what is really the success offered? Is it a successful money making idea? Is it a substantive program with quality instruction? I strongly feel the consumer should do their homework and find out if programs like our hypothetical example are all about the children or perhaps a little bit about the money.
Can Experience Be Quickly Transferred?
Just as the business entrepreneur/ owner may suddenly call themselves "fitness pros," can the employee's working at our hypothetical gym become gymnastics pros after six - seven weeks of training? Can a person become a piano teacher in six-seven weeks? Can a karate teacher take a crash course on DVD's and become a solid instructor in a few months? Can a couch potato become a body builder in six - seven weeks. I believe the answer is quite evident- no way.
Flattery Might Get You Everywhere!
What if this hypothetical business has smiling, animated employees who are trained to greet everyone warmly? What if they praise your child for the most minor of accomplishments? We all love our children, and nothing makes us more proud than our children's achievements. Is the praise given really honest, or are do they really believe the least little thing is worthy of praise? Perhaps the praise is honestly given, but do the instructors know enough to teach skills that would really bring praises? Beware of animation and emotional flattery that may be used in lieu of a substantive program.
Themes can be used as an effective tool for teaching children. But sometimes themes get so worn out and bizarre they seem down right cheesy. Once again, the usage of cute imagery for various themes throughout the month might make you wonder if that hypothetical program should go on a diet and eliminate the cheese.
I believe programs should have meat which is solid instruction with children engaged in challenging activities . The fluffy light cheese of talk, imagery , misplaced flattery and feel good-ism coupled with hypothetical programs conferring upon themselves greatness should give the consumer cause to examine the merits of the programs and be willing to try others.
In short, just because a hypothetical gym may have a nice looking facility doesn't entitle it to success. Are the children challenged and engaged most of the time they attend classes? If gymnastics is taught, are they really learning basic gymnastics, or a few very basic skills. The word curriculum has a serious connotation, but the consumer should not only consider a hypothetical program's use of a curriculum, but what is actually going on in class, the attention to each child, and his or her discernible progress.
A Look Behind the Curtain
Further scrutiny of our hypothetical gym, It's All About The Children Gymnasticx, may reveal some troubling findings. For example, say this hypothetical gym is a franchise. The franchise owner may have to pay a whopping franchise fee in excess of $100,000 dollars to use the franchisers business model. Add to that, let's say, a possible yearly royalty fee of around 5% of gross income plus the salaries and wages of it's employees, plus monthly rent, and all miscellaneous costs. Given these enormous costs, this hypothetical gym I believe, could need to get around 300-500 students for the business to begin to see a profit.
Does this mean that our hypothetical gym is inherently bad or unscrupulous? Of course not, but it may show the hypothetical business needs for the owner to be successful, and the child's needs for substantive instruction may not be compatible.
With this hypothetical scenario, would your child really be offered the best instruction and thrive in this program? Yes fun is important, but gymnastics/movement has much more to offer in addition to having fun.
Show Me The Money?
Let's get down to the brass tacks, could our hypothetical business be a little more interested in making money than one might think? Do your homework. Use our hypothetical example as a model to ask hard questions. Is you child receiving quality instruction? Do employees have solid gymnastics backgrounds? Are classes generic and unstructured? Are employees trying to close the sale before the beginning of the next session? Does the owner of the facility also own other stores(units)? There might be a reason for multiple ownerships and just maybe because it is quite lucrative. Bottom line: do not take a business's word at face value. Make sure a well honed business system doesn't sweep you away with it's sugar coating. Try other programs out. When you try different programs, you will know what program truly is the best for your child and you might be putting a lot of money back in your purse!
It's Fun Time At The Play Gym
Isn't it all about children having fun? As a parent, I love when my children have fun; however, if I take my kids to a place that makes many claims I find that program teetering on the brink of false advertisement, then I have a few issues. If I take my daughter to piano lessons and I find the instructor is not proficient as a piano teacher, then even though my daughter may have a fun time at the "piano instructors," I'm not paying for her to have fun or to make a strong bond with this instructor. I'm looking for discernible results! I would be further angered if I were paying more money to this so called instructor than to another instructor who was very qualified. I believe if you want to go to a play gym for mostly fun, then the play gym should let you know up front that is what it is primarily about.
Benefits Of Independent/Owner Operated Businesses
When looking for non-competitive or competitive gymnastics/movement, look for professionals who have years of experience - both in skills and teaching. Generally, gymnastics/movement programs conducted by accomplished, independent owners/teachers, I believe, are far more superior than businesses with owners who do not have a gymnastics background and hire a staff with little or no gymnastics experience. Also some of these hypothetical programs have absent ownership on premises during daily business operational hours. Independent Owners/Operators are usually on the premises during daily operations and are easily accessible to student/parents needs and concerns.
I believe independent/owner operated programs are motivated by the love and experience they have in their field. I feel most of them aren't in it to be rich - the business aspect that the above mentioned hypothetical case is strongly about.
Children deserve the best. I believe there are businesses that have realized there is good money to be made from a booming children's market. Of course, don't expect them to tell you that. In my humble opinion, these programs are big on the business side, but inadequate on the instruction side. I feel very strongly about a gym or gyms that look good from the outside, but the instruction and experience is woefully lacking. I also feel the consumer should know what they may not be getting for their money.
Children should be receiving solid instruction while having fun. I have been around gymnastics for a long time. I have seen very good programs. It breaks my heart to see both children and parents fall for programs that I strongly feel are virtually of no value to their children. I feel it my duty to advise the public what they should be looking for.
Wrapping it Up?
Imagine being told you are to receive a very special gift. The giver hypes the gift, so you wait with excited anticipation. Finally, with great fan fare, you receive your gift: a big box wrapped with exquisite wrapping paper and tied with beautiful bow ribbons. It looks absolutely terrific; you almost hate to unwrap it. Your imagination goes wild... what can be in that box? When you eagerly tear off the wrapping paper and open the box, you are stunned...the box is empty with the exception of a small, colorful card saying that the sender really loves you. The sentiments sound good, but the image of the gift box gave you big expectations. But what if the hype, fanfare and beauty of the wrapped gift box is the prevailing thought you take away from this experience?
This example partly describes what our hypothetical gym is really like. It is cleverly decorated. This hypothetical gym gives the impression that what is "in the box" is really special. But the box is empty like the hypothetical gym mentioned above. The emotionalism that receiving a gift brings is akin to our hypothetical gym's marketing aimed at mothers. They may be led to believe what they're getting is truly special, when in my opinion, it may not be even close to being what it's "wrapped up" to be. Further, the card inside the empty gift box is like our hypothetical model's usage of lavish praises on both parent and child making up for the lack of substance the hypothetical gym may really be all about.
Is The Gift Box Empty Or Full?
Using our analogy of an empty gift box, keep these things in mind:
These are solid questions to research when looking for a recreational gymnastics/movement program for your child.