Athlete retention has always been a top concern for affiliate gym owners. The problem is that retention is a slippery issue. It takes time to manage, and with all the competing demands you’re juggling, it’s easy to let retention programs slip through the cracks. We’ve got a solution to this problem, and it comes down to using your greatest asset to help manage retention- your coaches.
Sure, you still need to keep doing all those other great things to fight athlete churn. Create a strong community, host regular events, use workout tracking, help your athletes onramp smoothly, run reports to manage your churn, and the list goes on. But when you make athlete retention a team priority, you expand your efforts and reap huge results.
Coaches as Athlete Mentors
To reduce churn, we recommend empowering your coaches to be athlete mentors. Start by assigning each athlete to a coach. Then let your coaches take over individual goal setting, skills training and other long-term retention strategies for their athletes. Coaches and athletes can schedule sessions on an as-needed basis or according to a set schedule.
The great thing about empowering your coaches to take on this work is that they can help design the program to fit their interests and your unique community’s needs. For instance, your coaches could offer each athlete 30 minutes of personal mentor time monthly during the summer months, when churn is usually at its worst. Or maybe you allow your coaches to check in with their athletes as needed.
When it comes to what takes place during the personal mentor sessions, coaches can lead their novice athletes in goal setting. In subsequent meetings, they can review and discuss workout tracking and attendance data as it corresponds to their goals. For your CrossFit veterans, coaches can help with overcoming plateaus, improving workout capacity or learning new skills like gymnastic movements. The important point here is to keep athletes thinking about their goals and progress, so they continue to be motivated to workout.
As a general rule, your coaches can also act as a safety net when an athlete starts to miss workouts or requests to cancel their membership. As the old saying goes, “people will quit a workout program, but they won’t quit a relationship.” Your coaches have great influence that can drastically reduce your member churn.
Compensating Your Mentor Coaches
Like you, your team wants to make a difference in the lives of your athletes and gym community. Including them in your retention efforts gives them the opportunity to expand their impact beyond WODs.
Of course, you’ll want to incentivize and reward your coaches for taking on the additional responsibilities. In addition to allowing your coaches to work a few more hours each week to accommodate mentor time with their athletes, you’ll see best results with an incentive program that rewards each coach for their efforts. An example of this would be a bonus structure that aligns with real retention results.
Another fun way to incentivize your coaches is by running a competition to see which coach has the best retention rate for a set period of time. Like your leaderboard in the gym, you could maintain a (private, staff only) leaderboard for retention metrics, keeping it fun and competitive in a productive way.
Considering Costs and Benefits
At this point, you might be wondering if the cost associated with using your coaches as athlete mentors is worth it. The answer is yes, it is. If you undertake a shift like this at your affiliate, you will see a huge improvement in your community’s culture. Your athletes will feel even more connected and appreciated than they do now, and your coaches will feel more fulfilled. Plus, with improved retention, you’ll increase your affiliate’s revenue.
We’ve written a lot about retention because it’s important. Without managing retention, marketing and athlete acquisition is a poor investment. It’s like adding water to a bucket that has holes in it. You can work incessantly filling the bucket, but the water will keep draining out.