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Relationships: Your School’s Most Important Asset

by Christopher Rappold

 

Think for a moment about your martial arts school and its current positioning. For better or worse, COVID-19 exposed a weakness in most martial arts programs across the country: We struggle to know what to do when we can’t teach lessons in person. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but together, we need to learn as much as possible from this experience.

To spark the learning, I would pose a question: How do you compete against the thousands of free martial arts videos on YouTube? How do you take on the popular mainstream fitness videos and the free live training offered by their brands? How do you compete against Peloton Bike and dozens of other trendy home-workout items? Answer: You don’t!

Now, before anyone concludes that I’m saying you should just throw in the towel, I ask you to think a bit more strategically. Instead of, “How can I compete?” ask yourself, “What can I offer that others can’t?” The answer will be different for everyone.

I encourage you to consider the immense power of relationships as the most important asset at your disposal. Those relationships are the glue that keeps your students coming back. Instructional videos, although valuable, create only a one-way relationship with the audience. As I think about my training and the training my students undergo, I see that the strength of the bond that develops in person between teacher and student is unique. Sometimes it can even rival the strength of familial connections.

Another question to ask is, “What are the things my team and I can provide that will strengthen our bond?” Below is a partial list of what you should consider. Good school owners know the list. Great school owners not only know the list but also have impeccable systems to ensure that every item on it is executed.

  • Know your students and their family members by name.
  • Keep in mind all the students’ goals. Ask them to share their goals with you routinely. When they need encouragement, remind them of everything they initially set out to accomplish. Hold them accountable. Praise them when they achieve their goals.
  • Care about what your students do away from class. They have lives outside of your facility that involve family, friends, work, school and so on. The quality of their lives in the outside world impacts their lives in the inside world.
  • Provide unexpected thoughtful gestures. A call, note, text or other communication every so often goes a long way toward reminding them that you care.
  • Ensure that they are making real and consistent progress, not just taking classes and moving through the belt ranks. These are important components of training, true, but you must also be aware of their overall development.

Finally, let me ask this: What happened when you were faced with the stay-at-home order brought on by COVID-19?

Although it’s not a perfect measure of how your students value their relationship with you (as some had no choice but to be absent), it’s beneficial to look how many of them kept the connection strong versus how many ditched their lessons immediately. Unless their goals of being fit and learning and growing changed, how they continued their relationship with you is tied directly to the strength of the glue to you, your school and the goals they committed to achieving. At worst, it will be painful to look at — but you will learn more of the truth. At best, what happened will be an accurate reflection of the beliefs shared and the relationships you have with your students.

While nothing is ever perfect or guaranteed, I encourage you to take time to reflect on what you can do differently so that if this ever happens again, you’ll lose as little momentum as possible. Like in the stock market, sometimes avoiding the huge loss and staying even is the way to win in the long run.

 

To contact Chris Rappold, send an email to [email protected]

 

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