As much as we miss the good ‘ole days, it’s unlikely some parts of the U.S. and Canada will see them this competition season. Throwing in the towel isn’t the right answer either though, so here at Next Gen, we’ve decided to embrace the changes the last year have given us – and provide you our top 5 tips for a super successful virtual competition.

  1. Make sure your gym families have all the details. One area we notice virtual competition plans falling short is in the communication. Many gyms are just trying to keep all their ducks in a row, which can be hard when you’re coordinating quarantines and new safety procedures. As a result, the #1 thing that falls by the wayside is our communication. Make sure to keep parents up to date with all the details. Here are a few things we do to ensure they’re in-the-know: a) Post in your team Facebook groups or an app like Band. Make sure to post the film date, the competition date and how/when awards will be announced. Add any other pertinent details about arrival times and hairstyle for the event. b) Always make sure to send this information by email for those who aren’t keeping up with their notifications. This is as easy as copy and pasting into an email through your class management software. c) If you have a text messaging service, remind parents 24 hours out about the arrival time the day you’ll be filming your routine.
  2. Make sure your staff has all the details. For many gyms, one of the biggest hindrances to communication right now is the inability to open your lobby. As a result, parents are calling, emailing and Facebook messaging trying to get all the details. Even if you’ve done all the communication we talked about above – remember – parents may have crazy lives right now too, and they may be struggling to keep it all coordinated. If their jobs have turned into a work-from-home gig or if they’re now suddenly educating their child during the day, they may not be handling all the details as smoothly as they have in previous seasons. By making sure all your staff is on their game and has access to all the details (we recommend a Trello board to keep it all organized), it will make parents’ lives easier as they can call and get answers from whomever is answering the phone. Another issue some of us are facing when it’s coming to staffing is that our staff has other, full-time jobs. They’re also struggling to manage the constant changes in their 9-to-5 along with changes at the gym. Give them some grace by providing everything in writing. Consider using Google Calendar invites as well to keep them extra prepared.
  3. Don’t stress about the filming. Some event producers are requiring special equipment for live-broadcasted events. If you’re hosting an event that just requires you to submit a video within a special time frame, don’t stress. Do your best to get the whole floor, but event producers also understand that not every gym is equipped for a perfect set-up. Keep the camera steady and do your best to have bright lighting. A wide angle camera like a GoPro can also be great as long as it provides great quality. Not sure your WiFi can meet the 10-minute upload requirement some virtual producers have? Reach out to the producer in advance. We’ve yet to meet one who doesn’t understand slow WiFi in a big, metal building.
  4. Go all out like a real competition. It’s not going to feel like a “normal” competition, but one thing your athletes will remember is the season they stayed in the gym. Most sports love competing on their own turf and even consider it a “home field advantage”. Play up that aspect to your teams. Even if you don’t have a full floor, have low ceilings or have a big pole in the middle of your third panel – don’t stress. Hang some balloons. Have parents drop off some home-made signs and enjoy a true, home-field advantage. No one knows your gym like your athletes do. Consider live-streaming to a parents’ page where the athletes can be virtually cheered on. Those coaches and staff who are able to be in the building for filming – make sure they bring noisemakers and the loudest possible cheering voices. If nothing else, your athletes will remember how proud you were of their performance.
  5. Win, lose or drop – make sure they know they succeeded. This isn’t the season to stress about difficulty. It’s not the season to level-up. If your gym can do that – you should be on top of the world! For many gyms, the focus needs to be on setting small, achievable goals and striving to achieve those in spite of the cards we’re dealt. At this point, we can guarantee there isn’t a team in North America who has had perfect attendance all season. Every gym has had their own level of struggle. For some, that’s complete closures. For others, it’s families throwing in the towel mid-season. For others still, it’s constant quarantines and the inability to “clean” without all athletes in attendance. Whatever your level of “struggle” is this season, just remember – your athletes are struggling more. They are dealing with fear of the unknown, instability and statistics tell us one in four young adults is dealing with anxiety or depression as a result of COVID. We don’t need perfect routines to make a difference in kids’ lives this year. We just need to let them know – no matter how they perform – we’re proud of them. They won in our hearts and minds. Their perseverance through the challenges is the single factor that makes them a winner.

So, if you’re hoping things clear up and you won’t be competing virtual events all season – we get that, and we’re rooting for you. If that’s not the case, and you’re just hoping to reopen and safely start practices, we’re rooting for you as well. Whatever your level of “competition” you’ll encounter this season, Next Gen is here to help.

This blog was written by Danielle Johnston, co-owner of Next Generation Gym Owners. Danielle owns Twister Sports in Warrensburg, MO. This season, she has competed virtually with her company hip hop team and at live events with her cheer, tumbling and dance teams. For more information on the Next Generation Gym Owners programs, visit Gym owners may join our free Facebook group by clicking HERE.