If You Want You Students To Keep Paying Their Dues During Gym Closure, Give Them A Reason To

BJJ is also known as the gentle art.

Now that we’re all settling into our temporary “new normal” in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, many people have recovered from the initial shock of gym closures and job layoffs (and, for some, the coronavirus itself). Reality is sinking in, and with that often comes complacency. We start to slack on the hobbies we swore we’d start with our extra time at home, and our promises to stay fit may be a bit more relaxed.

The “new normal” is also starting to get to the BJJ community. While some coaches and teams are still going strong with their Zoom classes, others are getting discouraged by low attendance numbers. The same goes for students who swore they’d continue paying their gym dues and are now feeling the financial strain of paying between $100-250 a month to attend a gym they can’t attend.

At this point, many students may be questioning if it’s worth it for them to continue paying the price of in-person jiu-jitsu classes when money is starting to get tight and all the classes are online. Additionally, many academies aren’t offering online content, which can increase this feeling of frustration of throwing away money when it may be needed most.

If you’re a gym owner or coach, now is the time to be asking yourself if the students who are supporting your academy are getting their money’s worth in some form or the other. This doesn’t have to come in the form of daily instructionals or live video classes — ask yourself if you’re proving to your students that your gym deserves to be there when the pandemic is over. Are you responding to their messages? Are you sharing any kind of content on your academy social media pages, even if it’s just memes? Have you reached out if any of them indicated that they were struggling?

If this has made you wake up and realize you hadn’t been giving your students the best possible experience while the gym was still open, now’s the time to change that if you still want to have a gym by the time this is over. Your students are going to be asking themselves if you would help them if they fell upon hard times. Would you be the person who lets them clean the mats in exchange for lessons, or would you be the person who charges them a cancellation fee when the reason they’re canceling their membership is that they can’t afford it? Communicate with your students. Offer them flexible payment plans or a free private as thanks for their continued support. Do something to let them know that you see them as more as ATMs that keep your jiu-jitsu dreams afloat.

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As 2020’s unofficial slogan says, “Things are crazy right now.” Don’t feel like a failure if you’re too busy or tired to offer the same resources that other gyms have. Your academy isn’t doomed to close just because you’re not filming technique videos or hosting live stretching classes. But if you want your students to keep the gym alive while it’s closed, you have to make them feel like they’re getting value for their money, whether that comes in the form of a constant flow of educational resources or the mere promise that they’ll soon be able to return to a gym that makes them feel appreciated.

This is a stressful time for just about everyone, and your students shouldn’t be faulted or penalized if they choose to allocate their income to more urgent priorities than their jiu-jitsu gym. If they do choose to help keep the rent and bills paid, though, make sure that their contribution feels like an investment rather than a waste of money.

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