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February Continued Education: Form Practice
Form practice is a tough event to get the hang of for new coaches. It requires a lot of urgency from the ninja coach and there is less room for distraction for both the ninja and the coach. These 2 ways of running the Form practice should help with figuring out the best way to do it for your class. Be sure to still check out the Continuing Education Video if you are a licensee!
There is really 2 ways you can run an efficient form practice. One way is beneficial in a class that mainly consists of younger ninjas (ages 5-7) and the other works for an older group (8+). The first way is covered in the lecture training, everything is done in a group style where the students use a square or dot to mark their spot while they work on the skill assigned. The key here is to switch from 1 skill to the next in 2 minutes or less. This is important because with a younger group the ninjas tend to get distracted quicker. Call and Answers are also your best friend here. You want to keep the young ninjas attentive to what you are saying so that when it is time to switch skills they are paying attention.
However, for older ninjas a group setting like this can be very limiting. Some of the skills the ninja's have to work on need more space and will require a different set-up. For the older ninjas it is best to do form practice in a "Line work" fashion. This my turn for lining the ninjas up at the end of one side of the floor into separate lines. They should be spread out to where they won't hit each other, of course. Then they perform the skill assigned by doing into the direction of the other side of the floor. This way once they start working more advanced tumbling, tricking, and freestyle movements they have the entire stretch of the floor to work with. From my experience, this structure isn't as effective with the younger ninjas because it is too easy for most ninjas that age to become easily distracted from the constant change of location, and the idea of waiting in a line. This is not to say that some young ninja groups will not be able to do this, it is just less common.
Does a Ninja Program increase enrollment in your other programs?
The answer is absolutely, YES!
So, let's look at the obvious, tapping into the boys market is hard because of the stigma that gymnastics is a girls sport. However, once you introduce Ninja Classes, it gets rid of that stigma. Once you start getting boys in the gym doing the Ninja Kidz program, you can then suggest taking gymnastics classes along with the Ninja Classes. That way they get a good balance of both sports.
As a long time Boys gymnastics coach, I originally thought that starting a Ninja program would take away from the boys gymnastics program. I mean, who would want to do boys gymnastics when someone can do a ninja class? Oh, how wrong I was. Once I actually started working with my current gym and saw the incredible volume of boys from the ninja program, I originally thought "All these boys could be in the gymnastics program!" My mind was stuck on solely gymnastics because my goal was to grow a huge boys team. The Ninja program had about 150 ninjas, most of which were boys, while the boys gymnastics program only had about 20 rec boys. I thought there was no way to grow the team if the talent pool to choose from was only 20. Where were we going to get more guys coming from? I was so lost in my way of thinking that I was blind to see that I didn't only have the 20 rec boys to try and recruit, but instead over 150 ninjas to scout and try and recruit to the team. I started looking towards the young Ninja's to grow the team and before I knew it, only 2 years later we took the boys team from 7 to over 40 boys in the program. Most of the boys didn't even know men's gymnastics was a thing and were thrilled to know they could compete in something like it!
My skepticism didn't end there though. I was thinking that the boys rec side must have been getting overrun by ninjas. To put some context behind my thinking, I was one of the lucky coaches that grew up in a gym that had many boys in all the programs. I didn't really realize that gyms struggle with boys enrollment until I started coaching at other gyms. The first gym I coached at (outside of my home gym) only had 6-7 boys and no ninja classes. The next is the gym I currently work at that I spoke about above. I thought that surely those boys would have done gymnastics if there wasn't ninja classes available. I feel silly admitting that was my thinking now. Now that I have worked with over 100 gyms that all struggle with the same issue, I know how wrong I was to doubt these ninja classes. Anytime I talk to someone that wants to sign their boy up for something, mentioning gymnastics always turned them away at first. Even though I thought 20 boys in the gymnastics program wasn't that good, I realized that if there wasn't a ninja program there would probably be less boys than that! Most of those members started out as Ninjas and never would have tried it if it weren't for the Ninja Kidz program. It wasn't hurting one program at all, but instead Ninja Kidz helped get more boys into our competitive and recreational program.
I should also mention how much easier it is to sign up girls that have a brother as well! We all know that running multiple kids around is tough, so being able to accommodate a family with more than 1 children is huge in building your programs. If you have a girl that wants to do gymnastics, and a boy that wants to do ninja (or anything really) but you don't offer something appealing to both, that parent is more likely to look elsewhere. However, if they can go to one place and have both kids do there respective sports it makes life so much easier on them. This makes them happy, and happy clients = better business for you. It is a clear choice. Offering ninja classes is worth the effort in starting a new program. Whether you are new to the sport of Ninja or not, having a Ninja Kidz program is a great way to improve your entire facility.