It’s not especially tough to fill our sports academies when kids are out of school. But during school hours, most of our facilities are sitting practically empty. I’ve already suggested various ways to monetize those slower hours, including:
- Programs for homeschoolers
- Fitness programs for adults who have nontraditional work hours or who want to work out on their lunch breaks
- Corporate training programs
- Fitness programs for parents of young children (parents doing fitness with babies in strollers, for example)
However, there’s one type of revenue source that we haven’t discussed yet, and it may be a great strategy to fill many of your slow daytime hours: Hosting athletic-themed preschool programs.
Why it Works
Steady, recurring revenue is important for any sports academy, but it’s essential for those who operate their own spaces. Whether these businesses have constructed their own buildings, purchased them, or are leasing them exclusively, owners are on the hook for big overhead costs every single month. They’re also trying to ride out seasonal changes in demand for practice space and programming. Both of these factors lead to the kind of cash flow struggles that can shut sports facilities down. (Related: Managing Cash Flow at Your Sports Academy).
Parents looking for child care usually need services for several hours each day (much more than the hour or two of classes you’d typically be trying to fill) and for several months at a time. A preschool or child care program could book up a majority of your turf, floor or studio space during your slow hours.
Have some reservations about pivoting your brand and business model to host what seems like a very different service for half of the day? Don’t worry. Hosting preschool programs doesn’t have to be a huge commitment, and it can be tied in with the rest of your brand and mission.
Leveraging Existing Strengths
As fitness and athletics professionals, you know all about the enormous value of physical movement for kids and adults alike. Physical and sensory experiences are also extremely important for children under age 6.
As any parent knows, there are plenty of times in small children’s development where movement is paramount. At various points, kids are laser-focused on learning how to roll, crawl, walk, balance, and jump. Plenty of families recognize how important this aspect of development is, and they’re looking for care options that take it seriously.
Plus, many parents of older preschoolers would love the chance to expose their kids to things like tumbling, martial arts, dance, and beginner sports. If these experiences are rolled into their daily care, that’s a big perk — especially when the instruction is coming from credentialed staff.
If you brand your preschool as a good fit for high-energy kids who love to move, you may reach a demographic that isn’t getting their needs met elsewhere. Current member families who already trust your facility and staff will be especially happy to bring their smaller children in for a few hours during the day.
It’s not necessary to host preschool for the entirety of traditional school hours, or even every day. Many families start their children out in preschool just a few days a week for as little as 2.5 hours.
And thanks to the gig economy and growing work-from-home job opportunities, more parents need part-time care on a more flexible basis. That opens up an even easier option for you: Invite parents to stay on site and get work done while their children play. Laws regulating child care can be extensive and vary by state, but many have few regulations for child care options where the parents stays on site. That’s why places like churches and fitness facilities often offer more casual and flexible child care options.
If you have a comfortable lobby area with a few tables, you may be able to basically convert your sports academy into a coworking space with childcare for several hours in the morning.
Not a Quick Fix
Despite the potential for this idea to be a big help to your business, it’s certainly not to be taken lightly, and it won’t be a good fit for every sports academy.
Your company may also be particularly suited to adapt to programming for small children if it’s already family-friendly. In particular, tumbling facilities (or fitness spaces that offer a tumbling or dance program for little ones) have typically already invested in mats, tunnels, and tools for large-motor physical play.
But if your gym can’t be childproofed, for example, hosting preschool won’t work. If you have an especially intense brand geared toward older athletes, you’ll have to be careful not to corrupt that brand. And if you want to pursue a type of child care where children are dropped off for longer periods of time, you’ll certainly be subject to a host of regulations and laws that you may not be prepared to take on.
Regardless of your unique situation, consult with your lawyer and make sure that you’re insured for this type of activity.
You’ll may also need to make a few new hires if you don’t have anyone qualified on your staff, which is always a big investment of your time and energy. However, if you have staffers who love kids and are familiar with the needs of younger ones, it can be a great way to give them lots of more reliable hours. Your staffers should already be trained in first aid and CPR, which is another marketing point for parents looking for child care.
What do you think? Would you consider preschool programming in your sports facility? Leave a comment and let me know.
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