It’s challenging to keep students engaged as they progress from one belt to the next. We hear it all the time and know it’s why there’s such a high level of white belt attrition. But with these tried and true strategies, you can prevent student disconnect before it starts.
Communication is one of the best tools for keeping students motivated and engaged. Our friend, industry expert and owner of The 100. Method, Tom Callos, coaches martial arts school owners on the value of communication. He recommends establishing an open line of communication on a student’s very first day. This helps prevent the main causes of student attrition between belt tests, which are frustration, discouragement and boredom.
When a school grows, keeping track of each student’s progress becomes difficult. In bigger schools without an attendance guideline, students can slip through the cracks and end up testing or getting a promotion well after they are ready for one. Using attendance as an indicator that a student might be ready to test doesn’t mean you have to give them the belt if they aren’t ready for it. But using attendance does serve as an audit tool to ensure your students are testing when they are ready.
Maintaining progress notes on each student is also important. It helps you monitor a student’s level of test preparedness and gives you and your instructors the knowledge needed for student feedback.
Strategic Skill Introduction
You already put a lot of thought and methodology into your curriculum planning, so we aren’t suggesting an overhaul. But if you don’t already introduce new skills in a phased manner, it’s something to try. Using a phased method to roll out new skills (in between tests) can be effective for keeping students engaged, especially when it comes to your younger students.
A very common way to keep students engaged between belt tests is by using stripes. Many schools award stripes for individual skill completion, giving kids a stripe once a new skill is mastered. This process pairs well with a curriculum that strategically spaces out the new skill rollout.
Another common way to keep students eager to train is with competitions. You can hold competitions in-house or promote outside events. Ideally, you should plan in-house events so that they fall between your big test cycles.
This suggestion ties several of the previous strategies together and proves to be one of the most powerful ways of keeping students engaged. By starting off with an open line of communication and maintaining notes on each student’s progress, you’re able to periodically check in with each student and give them the feedback and encouragement they need.
Keeping students engaged is a never-ending task, but building a community and watching your students succeed makes it all worthwhile.