We Were New Students Once: Tips For Welcoming New Students Into Your Gym
By: Gene Byard
We are a couple of months into the new year. Our resolutions from January have been made. Some have been kept, unfortunately some have been broken. Most people will not keep their resolutions, but the small fraction who have made a decision to better their lives might just be on their way to your gym. They may already be there.
Since starting to train Muay Thai, over ten years ago, I’ve seen many January cycles of this come and go. I’ve seen a wide range of reactions, from existing members to new people, coming through the doors. Everything from complete indifference to territorial posturing, neither of which is conducive to creating lifelong students. Taking what I’ve seen work and not work over the years, I’ve compiled a few tips for welcoming that new face and setting the tone for them once they have made it through the door.
This is the simplest, the easiest thing that anyone can do for a new student. Simply say hello and introduce yourself. This will immediately set the new student at ease and give them an anchor point they can come back to. New things in new places are inherently intimidating, and seeing a face you know across those first few classes can make a world of difference. The value of a familiar face simply cannot be overstated.
You have seen them out there on the mats. The coach says, “Everyone grab a partner!” and the new person is awkwardly looking around, unsure of how to proceed. Partnering up with a new person is that next, slightly more involved, step towards making the new student feel welcome. Your experience is invaluable, whether you know it or not. They will learn from you at a much faster rate versus working with fellow new students. Are they going to slow you down when drilling? Yes, but that’s how they get better. That is how you got better.
Sync up your training schedules
So you’ve found someone to partner up with from time to time, now consider taking that next step and offering to sync up your training schedules. It doesn’t have to be every single class. Maybe just try to coordinate one class a week for a few weeks in a row. By doing this you’re creating consistency and familiarity, which means that new students can concentrate on getting better training in, as opposed to worrying about being the new person.
Go beyond the classes
Does your team meet outside of the gym for extra work? Do they do extra running or conditioning? Invite that new person to join the group. Is a group getting together to watch some fights or just grab some food after training? Let them know they are welcome to join. Since a typical class is only one to two hours, leaving little down time, interacting outside of training can be less intimidating and allow for more natural interactions.
None of these tips are groundbreaking. In fact, they are all pretty simple. You just have to remember to act on them, which admittedly can be hard to do in the hustle and bustle of a busy martial arts program. Just remember that no matter how long you have been doing a martial art, like Muay Thai, you were once the new person. Following a few of these tips will ensure that the cycle keeps feeding itself. That new person will eventually become the seasoned student able to lend that first hand if the first few people they meet welcome them into the fold.