At Sebring, FL-based Edge Cheer, athletes and their families end the year with a formal banquet full of awards, trophies and certificates. Owner Jenny Rowe says, “In this particular industry where it’s all about the team—and sacrificing and doing what’s best for the team—it’s a really big deal to get to individually recognize the strengths of these kids. We give them an opportunity to stand up in front of their parents and peers, [so they can have] their own particular moment of glory.”
Edge Cheer’s awards include funny categories, like “Most Likely to Get Injured,” as well as superlative awards like “Class Clown.” Rowe says they’re easy to prepare, as many of the awards are simple certificates: “I go to Office Depot and get pre-done certificates and we print them out ourselves.”
The formal banquet takes almost a year to plan, because of the size of the gym (200 athletes, 140 of those all-star). The cost of catering and trophies is funded mainly by ticket sales from an end-of-season recital. Every kid also gets to take home a DVD slideshow of photos taken throughout the season. If organizing a banquet for the first time, Rowe suggests thinking of it as a wedding reception and considering what type of atmosphere you’d like to create. “Do you want something formal? Or do you want something more like a team picnic?”
Karen Brenner of Egg Harbor Township, NJ-based All Star One knows the right answer to that question for her gym. Though this year’s banquet was held at a country club, she plans to borrow an idea from ACX’s Randy Dickey next year and throw All Star One a tailgate banquet with things like a chili cook-off, live DJ and a dunk tank. “We have a huge parking lot, and I know we could make that a great event for our kids, more like a carnival. [Something as formal as a country club] is just not ‘us,’” says Brenner. “The tailgating party is so much more up our alley.”
One of Brenner’s biggest honors she awards is “Team of The Year,” for which she selects the team she was most worried about at the start of the season that has come the furthest by its conclusion. “They get little tiaras with stars on them, like a little crown. They all love that,” shares Brenner. At the banquet, she also distributes branded candy bars with a picture of the team and each athlete’s name, as well as small individual banners that she describes as a “mini-version of a vinyl banner that you’d get when you win a competition.”
Wrapping up the year doesn’t just mean acknowledging the accomplishments of the year past—it also means planning ahead for the future. One effective way to do that is by conducting a survey to get feedback from athletes and parents on how the season went.
Gerry Richardson, president of Glen Burnie, MD-based East Coast Majestic, uses Survey Monkey to conduct an online survey. She recommends open-ended questions, like: “What do you like best about the gym?” and “If you could change one thing, what would it be?” For Richardson, no question is off-limits, and she advocates other gym owners take the same approach: “If people have thick skin, there’s nothing they shouldn’t ask.”
Richardson asks survey respondents to rank each of the year’s competitions in order of how much they liked them. (“If you get 90 percent of people saying they hated this one competition, you probably should not go to that competition again.”) Richardson also suggests asking athletes, “What level do you belong on?” because it lets her know whether they understand their placement level or not.
Michele Hasson, owner of Pride Cheer & Tumble in Collinsville, IL, conducts prefers in-person and paper surveys to the digital variety. At the end of the season, parents come to a roundtable, during which they are given an option to pick up an additional survey at the front desk. Hasson says, “It’s anonymous except by team, so we can see if there’s a pattern. This team didn’t like this event, or didn’t like this practice day.”
Hasson’s survey is fairly simple. She advises picking five or six things that are important to you as a gym and asking “Yes/No” questions like “Do you feel that the amount of practice time for this team is enough? Do you want weekend practices? Do you feel our attendance policy is fair?”
When conducting a survey for the first time, Hasson recommends including anything you’re thinking of changing for the next season. “For example, if you’re thinking of requiring certain practice clothes for the following season, I think it’s a good idea to get some feedback on that, which is what we did when we started [following that policy],” she shares.
Richardson and Hasson both find an annual survey to be a valuable communication tool between gym owners, parents and athletes. Opening those lines of communication—even when they’re telling you something you may not want to hear—can help make your gym even more successful moving forward.