Prepare for post-summer recovery

A phone call is all it takes to get students back into the habit after the holidays are over

Over the summer, class numbers plummet as students go on holiday. As if planned holidays was not bad enough, summer holidays present a double-whammy of bad news because many kids go on day trips, visits to relatives, or with long summer evenings, simply play out for longer and get out of a time-structured lifestyle. All of which adds up to lower class numbers, and a painful set-back for any manager hoping to reach or hold that magic 1000.

Of course, GKR’s response to summer doldrums, is a summer program so packed with exciting events that students will have lots of extra opportunities to train. Beach training, special seminars, 100 man kumite, outdoor training, bring a friend week, and special themed events all combine to ensure that the summer is vibrant and GKR is hopefully a part of everyone’s summer plans. Just when other karate clubs gve up and shut down for six weeks, we bring out the big guns!

However, it's not the single week missed due to holidays you need to worry about: there is a far more insidious danger for you to beware of: getting out of the habit. It only takes two missed classes for students to fall out of the habit of training. Following the path of least resistance, their minds will trick them that they didn’t really get that much out of karate, or that they didn’t enjoy it. This is relatively easy to overcome, but it takes a tiny bit of planning.

You need to make a two-pronged attack – in the first instance, when your senseis give out your summer program calendars, they should use it as an opportunity to re-iterate the fact that classes continue all summer long.

The second, and to my mind, most vital part, is student call-backs. Ensure that by the start of the summer, every sensei has a record of the phone numbers of every single student – both land lines and mobiles. They should have these numbers anyway, in case of emergencies, or changes to class times, so this is a good chance to make sure.

Ensure that your senseis maintain a class register, and a week or two before the summer holidays draw to a close, be sure to prompt your senseis to call every single student who is absent  the week or two before school restarts. Even if the students have missed the entire summer, they will often see karate as part of the “working” side of their lives, along with school, college or a job. Restarting karate at the same time as returning to their “normal” lives is sometimes more natural at this time, and they just need a little nudge in the right direction. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that the senseis should, as a matter of course, be phoning any student who misses two consecutive weeks, just to ensure that they don’t get out of the habit. This is a basic exercise in student care, and a surprising number of students can be turned from quitting by a timely and genuine phone call. See my tip on using a class register to promote good training habits.

Many senseis and RMs use the first few weeks back after holidays – especially summer – to run a sweat session; heavy on the basics. I would argue that this is a terrible idea. Students will realise that the first few classes back after the holidays are going to be especially tough, then they may come to dread those classes, and may avoid them. Even if they attend, they come to associate those first classes as “penance” for the holidays, which would be especially unfair if they actually trained throughout the summer. The last thing you need is students missing the first week or two after every national holiday!

I would suggest that the first few classes should indeed cover the basics, but should also have an especially strong element of fun – a few more games for the kids, more than usual self-defence or partner work for the adults.

Remember, you don’t have to permanently lose students over the summer if you just prepare in advance. Why bust a gut out canvassing for new members to replace members you didn't need to lose in the first place?