Episode 50: Attracting New Members (Part 1)

Your Sports Resource

In this episode, Matt and I talked about how to retain membership and attract new members and to survey in one way shape, or form your athletes who are staying around and who are leaving.  Attracting new members is crucial for the growth and sustainability of any swim club.

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00:00:03 – Introduction 

This is the Your Sports Resource Podcast, where each week, you’ll learn actionable strategies that you can implement. So the operations of your clubs support your coaching staff, and the direction of your organization. We are committed to excellence in youth sports leadership. Let’s get started.

00:00:22 – Renata  

Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Your Sports Resource Podcast. Today, Matt and I are going to talk about membership growth and how you navigate that situation from keeping the ones that you already have the members you already have and how you find new members. Alright, Matt, I’m just gonna toss it over to you.

00:00:48 – Matt

So yeah, it’s growth and, recruitment, something that, like all clubs should be doing on a regular basis. And if your club is not probably something you want to, you know, kind of start making a priority if, if growth is one of your goals. You know, it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight, it’s going to take quite a bit of planning, and some thought to be to be put in it. And, you know, so it’s trying to figure out, then what are you? You know, what’s the best way to reach potential members? You know, how, you know, understanding what your club has to offer these people? You know, like, that’s a huge part of it, as well.


But yeah, I think today, one of the main things that, you know, that we will, we’ll talk about here is retention. Because, you know, it could be oftentimes that the largest group available to you, or the people who are actually leaving your club, you know, for whatever reason, and where I mean, that is, they were interested at some point to come out for your club. And, then so, you know, they have an interest potentially, in the sport, and you’ve gotten them through the door once.


So, you know, as an organization, it’s kind of that thought process of, it’s going to require you to kind of look at your members and kind of know, what are they getting out of their experience? And why did they join the club in the first place? And there’s probably a few ways we can do it. So Renata, I don’t know, like, what are your thoughts on, you know, kind of collecting that type of information?

00:02:32 – Renata   

Well, I think a lot of times when clubs lays members, they jumped to the conclusion that it’s the coach’s fault or a coach’s fault, the coach or that group, their fault. And I think that one good way to understand, you know, the reality of the situation of why your members are leaving, and it doesn’t matter if it’s just one here and there, or you’ve got a consistent flow of members leaving, I think it’s important for organizations to you mentioned, planning for this.


And I think they need to do some form of exit understanding. So whether that’s a short survey, or maybe your executive director, or your admin person picks up the phone and talks to them. Because I think, there’s so many more factors that go into why people join an organization and why they leave an organization. And it’s not always, and sometimes it’s probably I would say, it’s not even 50% of the time that it has anything to do with the coach, it could be a number of factors. So I think an interview or survey of sorts would be would be good.

00:03:47 – Matt   

Yeah. And I think too, one of the things for clubs is to go back and look at kind of what is your retention rate from year to year. And again, this is something that takes time, right? Like, it’s, Hey, we’re going to sit down and look at a sample, but look at three to five years, if you can, or if you don’t have that, start doing it now, right?

00:04:06 – Renata


00:04:06 – Matt

Start collecting that data to know like, hey, if we’re bringing in, you know, 50 new members into our club, I know, that’s a huge number, I’m just throwing something out there. But, you know, and only 25 are returning the next year. It’s that’s where the surveys are going to kind of come into play because I totally agree.


I mean, as a, you know, a father of two active kids, you know, my kids are in all kinds of activities, and there’s a lot of different reasons that we’re going to stick with or, you know, look to do something different and that is, you know, guest coaches may be a factor. I personally haven’t come across that yet, right.


It’s been more on Hey, what’s the time commitment, what’s the location that I need to, kind of get to. What is the competitive season look like? You know, sometimes that may be just a little bit overwhelming. So looking at the surveys, I think is an awesome idea to know what are the factors?

00:05:12 – Renata


00:05:13 – Matt

And I think in that too, right, find out? Why did they joined in the first place, right like, that could be part of that survey and what I guess didn’t meet, potentially their expectations.

00:05:25 – Renata

Yeah, and there’s also the financial implications as well, right, because something’s not a cheap sport. As it’s structured today, there’s other avenues that we’ll talk about that I think that as it’s structured today, as a competitive year-round sport, you know, financially it is a commitment, especially once they get out of that developmental range. And then the time, right?


And I think it’s really important for clubs to understand the true understanding of why their members are leaving, because you can’t address certain issues if you don’t really know what it is, right. So you know, if it is the coach, then you want to be able to address it, it might not be a coach, it might be another staff member, they may not like the admin person, right.


Or it could literally be that it’s too expensive. And there’s too much time commitment from the competitive factor, which might inform you that you have a different type of track, right. A different type of track that you want to offer. So you can still keep the athletes and earn an income, but you’re not expecting them to be on that really high-commitment, competitive track.


And I think too, a lot of clubs, you know, they have bonus structures or KPIs built around membership retention. And I think it’s a little disingenuous to hold your head coaches to that type of KPI. If you don’t provide the avenues to understand the metrics, right? Because they can’t fix the problem. All they know is they just need to keep recruiting. So.

00:06:57 – Matt

Yeah, it’s like spinning your wheels, then.

00:07:00 – Renata 


00:07:00 – Matt    

We don’t fix the problem, but we’re just gonna kind of bring kids in. And, I think a part of it maybe, I don’t know, you know, maybe COVID had something to do with it or not, but it seems like, since then, at least, that, you know, there’s parents who now recognize the fact I think their kids need to get out be active, you know, a lot of them had to pull back from activities potentially.


So I think as a club or, you know, kind of looking into what are the other avenues that you could possibly go down to draw membership in. And we know that this still comes at a pool expense, and there’s a coach, but, you know, obviously needed to coach any groups. But as far as, and what I’m trying to get at here is that, you know, maybe there’s more or less of a competitive group, or I don’t want to say non-competitive, because I think there’s always that, factor of If you get a kid in the door and get them training that they can turn into a competitive swimmer.


But maybe it is more of a social aspect and more of a fitness aspect to it. So there’s, you know, that’s just one example of another avenue that your club could potentially go down, right.

00:08:11 – Renata   

And I think that recreational track is something that a lot of clubs are really turning to, and I think, you know, especially for you clubs, who are listening, that are in an area where you’re not the only team, you know, I think it’s, and you’re competing for members, I think it’s important to consider that that, you know, like Matt said, you have to have the pool space, and you have to have the coaching time there are there’s factors.

But I believe that if you are trying to serve the community, you know, live up to your mission and your vision, and you want to keep membership, yes, it might be more affordable. But it is still an opportunity to have swimming, be a part of family lives in your community.


And like you said, you could always you can always convert someone from the recreational to the competitive, you never know if, like, they’re really gonna go, wow, I really love it, you know, but you don’t want just people to, if you can help it, I think it would behoove clubs to look at that recreational track because I think, other than that, you’re just losing members, right?


So should there be different types of opportunities, and it may be seasonal instead of year-round or something, you know, it’s got to fit the organization for what that recreational track looks like. So that’s an alternative view an opportunity to keep membership is by doing that recreation.

00:09:24 – Matt   

Yeah, and I mean, if you are looking to grow, I mean, there’s you know, that’s just not the only way right there’s, you know, there’s masters swimming there swim lessons, you know, there’s clubs, swim programs out there that have diving clubs associated, you know, draw water polo, exactly triathlon training.


I mean, I don’t Let’s keep kind of keep going as creative as you can get, and, you know, to the space and coaches you have available, you know, utilize those for sure. And as we, you know, kind of focus on like, okay, retention, I think is key. And that’s why I wanted to kind of like, hey, let’s hit that first because it’s like, you’ve already got those kids in the door.


So I think that when your club is looking at, hey, if we’re looking at increasing our membership, you know, I think retention should be the first focus for sure. Yeah, and then obviously, those surveys and creating, like, what are the what’s the experience that those people are having? You know, that’s super important. But if you’re gonna go out and recruit, and you need to pick up new kids, then obviously, there needs to be a strategy behind that. And then some of the things we’re talking about here, consider, you know, kind of what are those?


You know, kind of what are those options for those kids? Who you want to draw in? And I, you know, next time, I think this is going to be a two-part kind of podcast, I think that we’re going to kind of do and kind of break it down more into some more detail stuff. But, you know, as you’re kind of looking at that recruitment strategy, there’s some kind of key things to focus in on. And the first thing is, you know, marketing and, like, how are you reaching people, right?


Sometimes the first thing that people see is if there’s a flyer or something being sent out to them, like, how is this, you know, being marketed, you know, towards that those members that you you’re trying to reach?

00:11:36 – Renata    


00:11:36 – Matt   

So that’s the first thing, I think…

00:11:38 – Renata 

And then the marketing, I just wanted to add to that, I think that it’s pretty funny there’s a lot of like, especially the smaller clubs, I’m like, why are you not on Instagram, or you have an account, and there’s three posts, what are you doing, like, you don’t have to run the Instagram, you can find someone else to do it. But you know, people want to see that their cousin or their nephew, or somebody is swimming, and they want to see it, and it just gets more people to talk about your organization.


Now, obviously, it shouldn’t only be about, you know, competitions, it can be about practice, it can be about their community service, it can be a lot of things. But it’s a great, you know, social media is a great way to get in front of people’s faces, right. And then, you know, there’s the typical marketing, where you have a table at championship meets for summer league or something like that. I mean, those are also great opportunities to be in front of, you know, other people from a marketing perspective.

00:12:37 – Matt 

Yeah, and I mean, with the social media to update your websites, right, like, don’t have, don’t have coaches down there who aren’t coaching anymore, or have a pool location, that’s, you know, not available to your club anymore. So when people go there, you know, that’s kind of it.


And with that, the second thing here, I think, is registration, right? Like, you examine your registration process, it should be clear and concise, and easy for people to kind of do. I mean, if it’s this long, confusing thing, you might lose somebody, you know, kind of before they do go, because it’s like, I don’t know what, you know, this information is not clear, I don’t know what to do, or it’s just overwhelming for them. And I’m thinking of this too, as sometimes families, you know, if you’ve got your first kid, and you’re getting ready to sign them up for sports and activities, it’s different than someone who’s maybe done this, you know, a dozen times for different things.


So you want to make that easy for people to access and to navigate through. You know, I think the third step then is you’re welcome to the team, you know, how are you welcoming people to the team? You know, parent meetings should be a mandatory thing, right for all families. But for those, those new parents, it’s kind of like, here’s your chance to lay out the expectations. And, you know, show what, here’s what this team is about. And here’s what the expectations are for you. So how you’re doing that will make a big difference.

00:14:00 – Renata

Those of us who have been involved, we think it’s pretty straightforward. You know, I never thought about how, wow, it can be, it can be really overwhelming for a new parent coming in to say it’s very different. Like, I mean, my kids played other sports, they didn’t do swimming. Well, I think, coming on board to a year-round sport is a little bit. It’s very different.


And the commitment level is very different. And understanding what happens at practice, and happens at a meet and all those kinds of things are varied. And it can be overwhelming because it’s information overload at first. There’s a lot of clubs that are now starting to assign, you know, a parent, they have a parent representative, you know, for each group, but I think what they should be doing is going having that parent actually pick up the phone, the experienced parent, pick up the phone to the new parents and go and hey, what are your questions because sometimes they need to talk to a parent. They don’t want to have to go to the coach or to the admin person all the time to go, Okay, can you explain heat sheets to me again, I don’t understand them, right. That kind of things.


So and why do we have to be there 30 minutes early for, you know, whatever it is. So I think having those connections that come from parents, when you’re trying to onboard them, is really key. And it’s a great way to leverage engagement right off the bat.

00:15:17 – Matt    

Yeah, yeah, for sure. And then, you know, the next thing, I think, as we touched on already was just correcting your mistakes, right? Understand, hey, this is what my memberships doing, or saying, and you’re hearing some kind of recurring themes, you know, on surveys or things you’re doing, you know, those aren’t going to sell themselves. So make sure that you know, as you have new people coming in, they’re not encountering the same issues that, you know, potentially there were in the past.

00:15:43 – Renata 


00:15:44 – Matt

And then another thing is, I think the last step is just, you have those kids on your team, invite them back, you know, don’t assume they’re coming back, send something out to those families that you currently have, you know, whether it’s an email, you know, obviously, you can’t call every kid or every family, but I mean, invite them to come back, let them know that they are valued, that you love them being, you know, part of your organization, and be a little bit formal and saying, hey, we’d love you know, make sure that you’re coming back, you know, we’d love to have you, you know that sometimes those things go a long way, and just letting people know that they’re appreciated or something.

00:16:21 – Renata   

Absolutely, absolutely. Two sides of that is like at the end of the year when you’re having your celebrations like it really shouldn’t just be all about, like the kids who placed at the top right? I mean, you want to see progression, you want to see performance for that swimmer. And also calling out the volunteers and the families, all of that kind of stuff, like people really want to be engaged in an organization that they feel like they belong to, and they’re being recognized.


So if you’re constantly recognizing the parents for their participation in the work that they do, I mean, it just pulls in that engagement. And I think the other thing, too, is, you know, you mentioned, like, don’t wait until they leave. Another survey that should be done is an end-of-the-year survey. And you know, there’s a lot more to that, but in that, there should be a section that is are you coming back next year? And if you are why I want to understand why you love us, right? And then if you’re not, why, you know, is it financial? Is it time? Is it too much commitment? You know, what, what is it so you truly understand and you give your coaches and your team leadership opportunity to correct that, whether it’s fixing a mistake, or maybe shifting practice times or, you know, whatever it may be to allow for opportunities to maintain and, keep your, your members.

00:17:46 – Matt 

Yeah, yeah. So when we were talking about this topic, and doing a little researching on this, I came across the US Department of Health and Human Services had a survey out this is just a couple years old, but it was, kids aged six to 17, as of two years ago, in the United States are not participating in any organized sport.


So I think next time, we’ll break that down and say how do you how do we get those, you know, that percentage of kids who aren’t participating? So looking at, you know, how do you look at the market? And potentially, the what are your recruiting strategies, but the potential of what are the barriers for these people? You know, so we’ll kind of touch on some of that stuff to kind of give a little bit more guidance and break down what the recruiting process for new members would look like?

00:18:38 – Renata 

Yeah. Okay. So for today, we talked about how to retain membership, and to survey in one way shape, or form your athletes who are staying around and who are leaving, and then also to think about, you know, alternate programming, right? So whether that’s providing a recreational path or providing opportunities, other forms of aquatic programs, whether that’s swim lessons, water polo, or whatever it may be. Sounds right?

00:19:13 – Matt  

That sounds right to me.

00:19:15 – Renata

Okay. Alright, everybody. Thank you very much for joining us today. We will continue this conversation in the next podcast. As always, you can find more information about Your Sports Resource on our website. That’s www.yoursportsresource.com Or you can write us at info@your sportsresource.com Thanks for joining us today!