As a fitness coach for children, even I am amazed at the breadth and variety of activities available to kids these days.
As a child growing up, I had soccer, ballet, and the front yard. It was relatively simple for my mother to make decisions on where to enroll me, as choices were limited and the level of instruction had little variance.
Now, there are schools and gyms for everything and quality of instruction and facilities can vary to a great degree. If a child wants to do martial arts, dance, or just get active, how does a parent choose the best place?
First and foremost before choosing a school or gym is to be clear about what your child’s goals are in this pursuit. These goals can change over time, as can your choice of schools, but knowing going in will make your decisions much easier.
Be it martial arts, gymnastics, wrestling, or dancing, there are competitive routes your child can take. Is your child in pursuit of a career or college scholarship? Or are they just exploring and want to have fun?
A second thing to consider in terms of goals is where this activity falls as a priority amongst the activities in which your child is currently engaged. Is this the main activity your child will be involved in? Or is this activity in support of a main sport of choice?
Now, thinking of the answer to those two questions, consider the following:
Before considering any academy, gym or school, research the instructors. Find out everything you can about their age, education, and experience, both in terms of their sport/discipline and in terms of their teaching experience. Just because someone is a good athlete does not mean they are a good instructor, and vice versa. In addition, teaching children is a very different skill than teaching adults. Find out everything you can about where the instructor has previously taught and to what age groups.
Then, take it to the next level and ask the school if you can observe a class before enrolling your child. See how the instructors interact with the children and if it fits the goals you and your child have in mind. How would your child feel and perform in this setting? Are the children in class learning? Are they having fun?
In relation to this, consider the age and sex of the instructor. If this is an activity that requires close physical contact, as coaching many sports does, take into consideration if you know your child will feel more comfortable with a certain age or sex of instructor.
Things to check out:
- Instructor biographies
- Education/experience of instructor
- Google the instructors’ names
- Age and sex of instructor
- Observe a class in action
- Ask for a background check
The second big consideration when choosing a gym, studio or academy is the training facilities themselves. Not every gym is going to be state of the art, not does it have to be. There is something to be said for old-fashioned training in old-fashioned gyms. You do, however, want your child in a safe and clean environment.
This is the second reason to request to observe a class before enrolling your child. Take a stroll around the facility, check out the bathrooms, and look at the equipment. Does it all look like it has been cleaned recently? Is everything in working order?
Do some research on the discipline your child wants to pursue. Is the equipment inside the facility in line with the best known method of instructing this discipline? Or, if your child is not in pursuit of a sport and just wants to get moving, does this facility provide a lot of outlets and creative approaches to activities?
Things to check out:
- Cleanliness of facility
- Safety – sharp edges, broken equipment
- Old equipment vs. modern equipment
- Variety of equipment
Instructors + Facilities = Goals & Achievement
Talk with your child in regards to their goal. Know their goal before you start your research. Research and visit multiple schools. Investigate the instructors, the equipment, and the training methods. When you find one completely in line with the goals you have in mind ask if your child can try out a class. Then, that is the final test – does your child like it? Did they learn something? If so, you have successfully started them on what is likely to be a great journey!