Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the cheer biz podcast. I’m your host Dan cotton, and today we are going to be talking about how to build culture in your gym and a little bit of why it is so important. Now, before we get into the episode, make sure you’ve headed on over to cheer and gymnastics gym owners. If you’re a gym owner on Facebook and you’ve joined that group, if you’re a coach and an owner or a coach head on over to all star cheer coaches and owners where you can engage on Facebook, talk to other great owners, other great coaches, ask for advice and join that community. And as always, head on over to nextgenowners.com where you can learn more about how to join the Academy. Share this podcast with anyone you think may get something out of it and make sure you are subscribed so you don’t miss any other future episodes. Now, let’s get into how we build culture in our gym. Now, culture is a huge part of having a thriving gym. It directly impacts your new enrollments, your length of engagement, your staff retention, and quite frankly, your own happiness as a coach or as an owner. Like if you have a really good culture in the gym, it’s fun to go to work. It’s fun to work with your coworkers. It’s fun to work with your staff. It’s fun to work with your athletes, And it is an enjoyable process. If you have a miserable culture, it’s not fun. It’s stressful. It is not the environment you want to be in. So what is culture and how do you build it? How do you change it? How do you maintain it? Because this is something that’s really easier said than done. And I see it asked about all the time on Facebook groups. You know, how do you work on your culture? How do you build that culture in your gym? How do you improve on athletes’ attendance at practice or athletes not sitting out or those kinds of things? And those are a lot of cultural things that you need to build within your gym. So let’s get into it. How I think you can build a better culture in your program if this is something you’re needing to do, or if you’ve already got a great culture, what are some things to make sure you’re doing to make sure you maintain that culture in your gym? Because a great culture doesn’t really happen by accident. It can, but maintaining a great culture is absolutely intentional. You need to focus on it, and you need to continually nurture that culture within your program. So number one is you need to establish core values. And what I mean by that is determining who and what you want your athletes to be and what it will take to be like that. So core values in your program is such a key piece to building culture. This is basically the roadmap to success. And if you have never established your core values, then what you need to do is sit down and determine what those should be. Now I recommend this being a collaborative process with your other owners or with your other coaches. Now you certainly can do it without that. You can do it on your own as an owner or maybe you’re an all-star director and you’re in charge of the all-star program and you want to set up a set of core values for your all-star program. You may sit down and do that and build up those core values by yourself or with your recreational coaches, but you need to set this out. Now, when we talk about core values, what are we talking about? We are talking about the things that matter the most, the things that are the non-negotiables in what your athletes should be valuing and what your staff should be reinforcing. Now, I like to think of core values as being kind of a word or a few words, you know, a little bit of a saying strung together that then you can, you know, build out into an explanation for the athletes. So you’ve probably seen programs that have these, they’re up on banners in their gym, I recommend doing something like that. But you’ve gotta establish those core values. And they don’t have to be the same as everyone else’s. Your core values need to fit your program, they need to fit your gym, they need to fit your staff. Because if you just take my core values or Shelly’s core values, and you plug those into your gym because you didn’t want to take the time to build your own, then you may have trouble really nurturing that because that may not be the values of your program. Are you a competition-first program? That is okay if you are, but then you should have some core values that reflect that. Or are you a community-first program where everything is about, you know, building in the community and going out and serving? Or are you a faith-based program? Where you actually incorporate your faith and incorporate prayer, incorporate God into the program, and that is important to you, then that should be in your core values. You shouldn’t just plug and play. I also think it is a little bit disingenuous to pull someone else’s exact core values, copy them word for word, put them up in your gym, and say, these are our core values, this is what we believe in, because you just copied them from someone else. I just, I’m all for copying without apology, but on core values that really should be something you’re taking time to develop within your own program. So what does a core value look like? Well, I’ll tell you mine and they may inspire some ideas for you in terms of core values and some things that you might want to do. So for us, our very first core value is “gym, team, self”. And this is a very important one. It’s pretty common. You’ve probably heard that saying in other cheer settings. So it’s not abnormal to have people use gym, team, self as an important value within their program. So I’m not saying you can’t use that one. We definitely got that one from another program. And that was suggested by one of my summer staff. They mentioned it. I was like, I love that. And that does fit within our program. That does fit within our values. So it was a good fit for us. And then we went into further explanation of what gym team self means. Another one of our core values is “never quit”. Now, we break that down and we talk more about what never quitting means, you know, whether you’re on a skill or you’re struggling in your practices or you’re struggling with your motivation in the gym, never quit. You know, finish what you started. It’s a really important value in our gym. We actually have had this for a long time. We created this kind of as a core value back in the day when we had an issue with an athlete who said, I quit and walked out of the gym, and it was kind of in that moment that I said, look, if you walk out on your team and you say, I quit in the middle of a practice, then you quit. Like I take you at your word on that. If you walk out, if you quit on your team, then you’re done. You don’t get a comeback. And that’s where kind of never quit became an important part of our core values. Another one of our core values is “no excuses and no regrets”. And this is just a, not anything revolutionary, but it made sense. We actually years before we created core values, we put over our door, enter with no excuses, and like that’s the door to the not in the main business, but like the door to get out into the warehouse space where the gym is, it says enter with no excuses. And then on the other side of the door, it says leave with no regrets. And that just fit as a core value. No excuses, no regrets. And then we have “trust the process”, which is, you know, knowing that the process is going to take time, knowing that it’s going to take effort. And knowing that it’s not always going to be perfect, but you’ve got to trust that process. You’ve got to know that your coaches are making the best decisions they can for the teams. They are building the program the right way. They are building the structure of your practices the right way. And you’re trusting in that process. So even when things aren’t successful, you’re trusting that you’re trusting in that process. You’re placed on the appropriate level team for you. You know that this process takes time. And then the last one is “do what is right”, And this is that integrity one where you’re doing what’s right even when no one’s looking. This is not cheating on conditioning. This is doing the drill correctly. This is behaving above reproach when you’re at competitions, those kinds of things. So those are our five core values. Can you have more than five? Yeah, absolutely. Can you have 10? Sure. I think it becomes more complicated when you start to have a million core values because your athletes need to remember them, your staff need to remember them, and it starts to get a little bit diluted. So I find five to be kind of the magical number for us. I think it makes the most sense. Now the next one that I think is an important thing to do is defining a set of staff core values. What are the core values of a staff member? Now, they can be the gym core values, but I think they should go beyond that. And this was something that I’ve recently done. We’ve never really set a staff core values before, but in our most recent staff retreat, it was something I wanted to talk about because I wanted to set this out. I wanted it to be really clearly defined. If I can’t expect my athletes to live up to our core values because they’re not defined, then I can’t expect the same thing from my staff. So, We set out and we kind of did a brainstorming exercise where I was like, what do you think are the qualities of a great staff member? And we shout them out, we wrote them all down on a board, and then we created our core values from there. And it was a really fun process. Staff got totally into it. They were all about it. And it was a really, really fun experience, and I’m super excited. I’ve seen a change in my staff since we talked about them, and I’m going to talk more about how to maintain these things, but creating a set of staff core values. So important. So your staff is all on the same page. These are the things that represent what an ODT staff member looks like. So, our core values that we came up with is one, fully invested. Okay, an ODT staff member is fully invested in the success of their team, which means they take the time to study the score sheet. They take the time to understand the rules. When they come into practice, they have a plan. They are fully there, they’re fully committed. They’re not checking their phones, they’re not doing other things. They are fully invested in the success of the program and the success of all of the teams. Next one was working with intention. Actually being intentional about what we’re doing. Again, creating those practice plans, building things in progressionally. ODT staff, they work intentionally. They’re not willy-nilly, they’re professional. They know what they’re doing. They have a plan for what their process is. And they’re just being very intentional about it throughout the season or throughout the class or throughout their practice. Our number three was cover down. Now this is a military term, but it means to help each other out essentially. When you see a need, when you see a void, when you see someone struggling in a practice or someone is calling in sick, or something is happening in people’s lives and we need help, you cover down, right? You always make sure that you are filling that hole, you’re filling that gap, you’re filling that void, and it’s really teamwork-centric, right? That’s what cover down revolves around. So we’re always covering down, we’re always covering each other’s backs, we’re taking care of each other as a staff. Our number four is being mentor-minded. Knowing that we are mentors of these athletes and keeping that at the forefront. of our thought process. How am I being a good mentor in this moment? How am I helping this athlete grow as a person? How am I being a great mentor to them and not just a good skills coach? Because we believe in developing both sides of the athlete. And then the last one is a humble student and always learning. We believe that staff members should be humble about their knowledge. They should never think that they have everything figured out and they should always be learning and growing and developing as a staff member. So we’ve created those and staff are super excited about them. I highly encourage you to sit down with your own staff at your next staff meetings and go through these things and give it a try and see what they come up with. It might shock you and what they think a good staff member should look like. Now, the third most important thing in this is you have to reinforce and encourage your core values. Simply setting them and saying, hey, these are our core values and putting them up on a wall or putting them on a banner, and then never touching them again is not going to reinforce those core values for your athlete and your staff. So you’ve got to find ways to reinforce those core values within your gym. Now, every gym needs to do it a little bit differently. I wouldn’t say you need to copy exactly what we do. I can give you some tips on some of the things that we do. Because I’m an open book guys. I tell you everything I’m doing in my own gym. So, you know, and if you want to use it, go for it. So, I can tell you, Shelly with their core values, they have those neoprene wristbands and they give those out when athletes demonstrate one of the core values in a practice or in a class. So, they’re giving those out and you’ll see if you ever go to her gym or see their athletes, they have those neoprene wristbands on like their hydro flasks, their water bottles, and they keep them as a collection. I didn’t want to do neoprene wristbands. I wanted to do something a little bit different. So we started this last year and we’re actually upgrading it this year. So last year what we did is we created a binder for every team and each binder had the athlete’s name on a piece of paper and on the piece of paper it had our five core values in columns. And then we got little O stickers, like our ODTO stickers. We paid like $100 to get a thousand of them, a roll of them, they’re fairly small. And we treated it like a helmet, sticker with football. So at the end of a practice, if an athlete demonstrated a core value, we would say, Hey, so and so did a great job trusting the process today. And we would give them a sticker and then they would put it in a binder and it would be like a tracker. That was great. Um, the biggest problems were staff forgot to do it myself included. Um, and it was in a binder, so it wasn’t really visible. So it wasn’t a big deal. Uh, So this year, what we’re doing is we’re putting them up in the gym. We’re making banners for each team. We already have a banner for each team for their team accomplishments. And now below those banners is going to be another banner and you could do it on a poster board. You don’t have to get a banner. And it’s going to have the same thing, but in a banner format. So when athletes get their stickers, they get to put them out and it’s more public. So those athletes who are getting recognized a lot can have a little bit of pride in like hey, I’m representing these core values. It’ll also be up and visible for staff, so they’re less likely to forget to give those core values. Now, how are we gonna reinforce staff core values? Well, I’ve got some ideas, and I haven’t implemented any of them yet, because they’re pretty new for us, but I wanna do something kinda similar for my staff, where we have something in our staff room, and they can recognize each other when they demonstrate the core values, so it doesn’t always have to be a staff meeting. And so I’m thinking about some different ways that we can do that and they can recognize one another. We may do stickers in a similar fashion and Then maybe when they fill their you know, they get a certain number of stickers then they get a gift card I’m still kind of debating exactly how I want that to go, But it’s a way for us to recognize them a way for them to recognize each other and say hey you’re doing the work you’re doing the things that we wanted to be done in the gym that we as a staff all agreed make us great ODT staff. So they’re getting that reinforcement. I kind of pulled this from what I do with my summer camp staff. I’ve talked about it before when I’ve talked about staffing, how my dream camp staff are incredibly close knit. Like we have probably the best vibe of any of the staff I have is with my dream camp staff. And it’s so unique because we’re only together for a summer and for a very limited time. But we get to know each other really well. And the reason I think it is that way is because we live together. We’re living in a house together. We have staff meetings every single night. And we start every single staff meeting with shout outs. And we do those kinds of things that they’re shouting each other out. They’re reinforcing the behaviors that they’re seeing from each other. And I like that more than I like being disciplinary. Now, do you have to, you know call people out when they mess up, yes, but that should be done in private between you and the employee. So you praise publicly and then reprimand privately as a leader. And I think this is a really great, it’s one of the things that makes our culture great is because they’re shouting each other out and it makes people wanna rise to that level, right? Like, man, I didn’t even get any shout outs. I kinda like step it up. I gotta get noticed here. And you see people rise to it and then you see when those people get their first shout out, they’re like, yes, I got it. I got it. People are recognizing my hard work. So at the end of the day, your culture, your values and everything in between will quite literally determine how much you love or hate owning or working in your gym. And the thing is, is your culture, it has to be yours, or else it will be forced and it will feel fake. And fake cultures don’t last, they’re not real. So you’ve got to spend the time you have to Do the work to make your own culture, make it yours, reinforce it, build it, build it up to be what you want it to be, because that will be the best version of the culture you can possibly make. So as you leave the podcast, if you’ve not yet established your core values for your staff or for your athletes, then spend the time to do it. Take your time and do it right. If you have determined ways that you can make culture be reinforced in your program. How can you make it a big deal? How can you make sure every athlete, every staff member understands your core values and believes in them? What are things that you can do to routinely reinforce it? Like one of the things that drives me nuts is even still I have some staff members that all say, hey, what are our core values? And they have to think about them. They don’t know off the top of their head. And I want every single athlete and every single coach to have them memorized. They should know. ODT’s core values are this. And this is what we believe in and this is what we practice. We practice what we preach. So spend that time to find ways to reinforce it and encourage your athletes to participate in it. It will pay in dividends as you continue to build your culture. All right everyone, I hope you enjoyed this episode. As always, I’m gonna recommend you check out the Let’s Talk Cheer podcast with Jason Larkins. He’s got great content over there. He’s always putting out great episodes. I’m actually driving to go to a choreography gig. So I have about a two hour drive today. I’m gonna be listening to his podcast on my drive because I just love listening to the conversations. I hope you loved the episode. Thank you for joining us. Share it with someone who may get something out of this or needs to hear about building culture in their gym. And with that, we will catch you on the next episode.