We sat down today with Master Tony Kook to discuss learnings from the last 6 weeks since weeks to discuss what he learned since re-opening his schools He will provide you with the dos and don’ts you need to know when it’s your turn. The video of the entirety of the live seminar is available directly above.
Master Kook is a successful school owner with 4 schools and over 1200 students. He is an industry expert with over 30 years experience and a sought after Speaker for the Martial Arts industry specializing in “Small School Success”. He has a fantastic way with words and his customer service scripts have been a huge help to school owners within our community as they engage in difficult conversations with their parents and students during the Pandemic.
Don't have a whole hour to watch the video? Don't worry we got you covered with all of the most important bullet points.
What I Have Learned Since Reopening
Lay of the Land:
So very quickly I have 3 full time Taekwondo academies in affluent areas in Vancouver. There is a lot of information I want to share. A lot of things I think I did right. And some others if I had a second I wouldn’t do again. I’ll give you tips as you prepare to reopen.
What I Did Right Reopening Our Schools
We shut down in mid March and went to online classes and we did good with Instagram, Facebook and Zoom classes. We ran our online classes like a professional school. We kept things going in private lessons in addition to our group training. I gave them a substantial reduction in tuition because I knew it was financially challenging for people. I wanted to keep them involved so that they would stay training. We were continually communicating. 2 or 3 communication channels went out every week. We reached out with phone calls and let our parents and students know that we were going out of our to keep them involved. Communication was on a roll already for the June 1st rollout.
The biggest change was our class numbers. Our class went from 40 students to 14 in our main location. And 12 in our smaller location. So we offered more classes. My classes start at 12am and run until 9pm. We went from 7 classes to 9 classes. We reduced class time from 45 minutes from 60 minutes. To give instructors time to spray the mats and wipe down surfaces. We did that very well. I would do that again. I went over the top with safety protocols. We tried to communicate our best in class cleaning practices including UV cleaning and professional cleaners.. We printed out our safety procedures and protocols. We set the space up and communication well.
With face masks originally we made it mandatory. Our local professionals advised not wearing them when they trained. We made masks optional. So I had branded some face masks. A lot of students love it and showing that it's part of our clubs. Some students wear masks. That’s different state to state. Country to country. In Korea they use the masks mandatory at Dojang. We have a lot to learn from those countries. Bit of an education process from us. It challenges your patience communicating that to your parents.
What Percentage of Students Can You Expect Back When You Reopen Your School?
First off all we are still offering online classes. We let all of our members know they could come back to live classes. But they had to register and they would revert back to the old tuition as they did. But they can do zoom as they wish. For students who continue with Zoom they keep pay the reduced rate but have no access to live classes.
We started at 17-20% of our clientele. Our classes were really small. What I found that your advanced, adult and intermediate came back. But our tigers and white belts didn’t come back at first. That was first week of June. That number creeped up to 25%. In July we are at 30% back to live classes. I’m really big on stats and numbers, our first weeks we had more sign ups then normal in July. Clubs opening now in the summer and people aren’t doing vacations so now they are looking for activities for their kids. Typically August is busy registering for September. It looks good for new sign ups. The main reason people don’t take classes in summer is they are taking vacations. Which people aren't doing as much due to COVID.
Clubs that have more Asians have far less returns after reopening. The community is more cautious. Club owners need to manage their expectations. I talk in California and they said they were opened up and they were thinking 80% to 100% return. If you are operating at 50 percent you are best in class. Seriously those are great numbers for re-opening.
If you are a smaller club, you had only 10 to 15 in your class. With larger clubs you have to adjust from larger to smaller. There’s a number of factors you have to take into consideration for planning your reopening. There is a huge adjustment.
Looking Forward to September
Vast majority of members on hold have indicated they will return in September. September seems to be a default answer. People are conditioned to take summer off. To do vacations. September is back to normal life. I understand that mind state. Our school district has indicated on September they will go back 2-5 days a week. With a combination of online platform. From standpoint of mother or father, they now have to go back to are they doing swimming or soccer. For past 3-6 months they have been doing nothing at home. I’m looking forward to September. A lot of clubs open now have something positive to look forward.
A couple Podcasts ago I predicted 20-40% would come back. Looks like I was right. I have a good feeling from the attitude and feedback from our membership that September will be a good month. People are really wanting to get back to some level of normal. That means kids going back to school. Parents working. I think number-wise thats the biggest positive piece of information.
In BC we have whats called a social bubble. As long as you are within the circle of six you can be together. If you have family of 4 and family of 2. You can create a social bubble square. They can spar and kick together. There have been talks to reduce 2 meter down to 1 meter distance. Then I will be able to have more students per class. My prediction is our club will be full with wait lists because we can’t accept all the students that we want to. Come September you’ll be full with a wait list in Oracle Tony’s prediction.
Clubs that aren’t opened. The reality is going to be different. When they open back in September. It will be a mixed bag. Some clubs will be at full capacity others at 20%. If your city is doing good with COVID cases, I think September is going to be very encouraging.
Why Kids Need Martial Arts Now More Than Ever
Deep down parents know benefits of martial arts but you have to be able to communicate the value. That’s your job. To make sure they continue to invest in it even if there is a money pinch. Leave them a voice message. Make the communication personal. Tell them if theres anything you can do you will support them to keep the journey moving forward. Communicate the the importance. Michale Mertens said “No point in history do our communities need the principles taught in Martial Arts. Whether you are conservative or a liberal, never has it been more important to learn the principles of love, respect, humility. As small business owners we need to communicate that need. It’s challenging times but your son and daughter need that positive outlet, and that distraction. If you are having difficulty let us know. So we can help your kids be in the right place to become leaders in the future. Where else are they going to get that from?"
Club owners need proper signage when they come in. What we have posted outside is our health compliance forms. Our social distancing markers. Of course we have a notice that says if you have any symptoms don't come in and reminder of social distancing all laid out at the front. As soon as you come into the training facility we have hand sanitizing station. All students get their hands sprayed. We have more markers for entrance and exit. Our viewing area only has a limited area for people to sit in. They fill out health compliance form when they enter. Our program director has face shield plexiglass. Students then are instructed to put shoes in numbered cubby. This works with their training square. The number indicates where you go with the training floor. Square #13 gots in cubby #13. We have a lot of wave masters and kid kicks on the floor so students can use those to train. In bathrooms and change rooms we only allow two people and have warnings about social distancing on the doors.
We have a sign about how many people can go inside. We have reminders of protocols all throughout the school. All of our academies are set up the same way. When they exit class they exit one by one. They hand sanitize on the way out. Pick up their shoes. And they leave. When classes are finished. In between all classes benches, door knobs, and mats are sprayed down. It dries in a few minutes. Our health declaration is great. If they have been outside the country, if they know anyone with symptoms and that they agree to abide by our training policy. We don’t do temperatures. At the beginning we did. Our local health authorities said taking temperature is misleading. Just because someone doesn’t have a temperature doesn’t mean if they have the symptoms. Finding out if anyone at home is sick is better.
Be as accommodation as possible. They can’t come back for 2 weeks. But you can set them up on Zoom.
Policy for Emergency Action Plan
If anyone has COVID, member or family member tells that they had COVID. Then we are legally bound to talk to health authority. Then they take you through the steps. Thats why you need to know who has come into your dojang each and everyday. So you can warn people who came into contact with them. They can’t come in, but they can do the Zoom. That’s great because we have a lot of kids who can’t come back because they are living with their grandma.
We are offering half day summer camps this year. All of our camps are full. Because we have small numbers. Parents and students are looking for activities. We had overwhelming response.
What Do You Do in a Socially Distanced Class
We are doing a lot of standing kick targets. Fun drills and games on the spot. We do variation of Sir Says, Taekwondo kicks and drills. I think if you get creative you can come up with a whole slew of them for tigers. IN 20 or 30 you have kids bumping into each other. Now the way it's laid out. Kids know they have to stay on their square. In some ways it's easier to teach them. They aren’t off somewhere causing trouble. We invite kids to wear shoes and shoe sale revenue has gone up. We always shut down our water cooler. Kids have to bring their own water bottle to their square.
Our BJJ school has closed. We did Zoom but it's difficult to do zoom because not everyone had training dummy. Everyone has to indicate they're allowed to do drills with people in their bubble. With solo drills I don’t think we’d have new signs up. In jujitsu it's going well. Return to jujitsu was 30%. Starting to see more sign ups.
An Uphill Journey to Achieve Our Purpose
I honestly I don’t think it will go back to regular numbers for a year. A year from now is my honest assessment. In many ways when we reopened June 1st it felt like doing it again for the first time and starting again. It was frustrating and scary and deflating at a time. As martial artists we have to rise up to that challenge. It's an uphill battle and we need to do it for our community and membership. When you reopen, focus on community leadership and involvement. Get involved with local charities. They were doing huge community events. Delivering meals. What we are planning is last week of July is a breakathon for our local hospital. When you focus on helping others and once again empowering students and families to help others it builds your brand and a loyalty. We aren’t just talking about displaying love and community leadership we are acting on it. It rallies your troops. You get raving fans. When you put these tenets into real action. We have a girl empowerment week and an online event. Get involved with the community. Is there something we can do to help out our first responders. By giving to others you do yourself a big service. Live by the tenets you teach and you will survive this.
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