I just got back from National Congress, and I got an email question. I thought I would share the discussion here. I won’t include the gym or coach’s name in case they would rather keep that confidential for some reason, but here is the question and my response follows it.
I was at your Special Needs seminar during Congress. It was great, my question however has to do with something you said off that topic. You said that you don’t do open gyms. Right now, my gym does open gyms and they scare me to death. It’s a huge money maker for us and we’ve been doing them for the 3 years we’ve been open. The kids love them, but again, they scare me to death. Do you have any ideas or suggestions to switch Open Gym’s over to a more structured time, without losing our customer base? Thanks, any ideas would be great.
Thank you so much for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the lecture.
Yeah, open gyms scare me to death given the chaos. If you already have an open gym format without structure going, it will be abit difficult getting the kids to accept a more structured game plan. I think what I would do is start gradually adding structure to it.
For example, set up a couple of rotations they can follow for the first part of the open gym with supervision at those rotations. At birthday parties, for example, we set up a tumble track rotation with an obstacle course and a rope rotation with an obstacle course. While the kids are arriving, we allow the kids who are already there to move through those rotations with supervision, but they move fairly freely. Then, once all the children arrive, and after they have all had a chance to play at those events, move all children to the floor for specified games.
Another idea: Maybe you could set up obstacle courses at the various events and place one or two coaches at each event for supervision, depending on the number of kids and complexity of the obstacle course. Then, tear it down as you move the kids to another event.
In other words, start by limiting the number of events the kids are on at any given time and as you move from one to the next, tear down the first one so they are not encouraged to return to that event. Then, set aside time for structured games at the end so that you can control movement and keep supervision over the kids.
Another possibility if you have enough coaches to supervise all events is to set up obstacle courses at each event in the gym so that the activities are defined rather than just an open melee. Place coaches at each event so that there is adequate supervision and let all events run simultaneously. Then when you take a water break, break down the events and move all the kids to the floor for games.
The key will be in how you present it. I was doing a clinic at a gym at one point and I was setting up during their Friday night open gym. Kids where running amok all over the place. They had great supervision, but not alot of defined activity. As I was setting up a HUGE obstacle course on one of their floors, the kids were actually coming over to see what I was putting out for the clinic the next day. They kept asking if they could come over and play on my obstacle course. I ended up letting the kids run through the obstacle course a couple of times just for fun. They didn’t want to leave the set up when I had to leave for the night and they were still at open gym.
So, I know that even though they were used to having free reign over the gym in their open gym times, they could be attracted to a more structured obstacle course as long as it is looks fun and interesting. It was a self-paced obstacle course, but it was structured in that I defined their activities on it by the equipment and set up that I put in place. It was predominantly gross motor activities that didn’t require spotting. There were a few roll stations and such where one or two coaches could easily be placed to supervise the entire floor.
I guess the way I would move about it is giving them the sense that they are moving freely in an area, but defining the skills with a set up that I can live with, and limiting the events on which they are playing to fit the level of supervision available. Then, do structured floor games like shipwreck, butterfly catchers, octopus, islands, etc.
Does my explanation make sense or am I rambling too much? I’m kinda just talking outloud as I think about how I would handle it.
Also, would you mind if I posted your question and my response up on my blog at gymsmartscommunity.com? I would like to get more conversations going over there.
Thank you again for attending my session at congress, and thank you for your thoughtful words. Please feel free to email me or contact me through the blog anytime.