8 Ways to Beat the Summer Slowdown

“You cannot make students attend class if they aren’t in town, but you can make your best effort to get them back when school resumes.”

As the weather gets warmer, we’re reminded that summer is right around the corner. This change of the seasons needs to be the focus of our attention. Yes, some schools do perfectly fine and even thrive during June, July, and August, but in general, summer is not the best time for martial arts schools.

To find a solution, you have to start by understanding why summer can be troublesome. One, you’re no longer competing with other sporting activities and school. You’re competing with longer daylight hours, which means you’re competing with the pool, the backyard slip-and-slide, and other spontaneous “summer-only” diversions that can seem more tantalizing than does training.

Two, people frequently take vacations during some or all of the summer. If they aren’t in town, it’s hard to have them in your class.

Once you recognize those two issues, you can work to minimize the damage. Below are eight ideas to help make summer great.

1. Know when every student will be traveling.

Have a phone call, text, and postcard-ready for them — adults and children alike — before they leave and when they return. Even better, send them something while they’re away so they know they’re missed. You cannot make students attend class if they aren’t in town, but you can make your best effort to get them back when school resumes.

2. Hold School’s Out and Welcome Back Parties.

You need to determine if you want to charge for these events, offer them for free, or maybe make the “fee” something like bringing a friend. You’ll give your members a great experience to remember right before they go on an extended break, and you’ll have a great event lined up to entice them back.

3. Hold your tests close to summer break

You don’t want students to miss testing and use that as an excuse to not return. By having a test close to the break, you’ll motivate them to return and continue training — while wearing that new belt they just earned.

4. Host family-and-friends events.

These get-togethers do two things: They keep the people who have remained in the town involved, and they give you the opportunity to get new members in the form of family add-ons.

5. Host events that “work” with summer.

Organize a workout in the park or even in your parking lot. Schedule a trip to the beach or a morning jog followed by a martial arts lesson. People want to be outside during the summer, so help them.

6. Organize camps.

These can last less than a full day and focus purely on martial arts. Or you can stretch them to a full day and include non-martial arts games and activities. Either way, they’re a great retention tool.

7. Think of the parents.

Make sure the air conditioning in your school is pumping out good, cool air. It’s fine if your students train hard and work up a sweat, but their parents might be coming home from a day of work and likely won’t appreciate getting an unwanted sweat session when they come to watch their kids practice.

8. Motivate your staff.

Of course, I have an agenda with this one, but it’s crucial. Summer break is a great time to do something special for staff motivation, and once school is back in session and the busy season is upon you, it becomes hard to find the time for a break. 

By Frank Silverman