This is Part 3 of a three-part series in which community recreation centers from around the country share their experiences handling the New Year rush.
As a “New Year, new me” mentality continues to drive new membership numbers through the roof for many community rec centers, it’s imperative to know how to get members to really feel connected to your facility while their motivation is at its highest.
Steve Tarver, the president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Louisville, believes the most important practice for keeping new members engaged is relating to them on a personal level and understanding what their goals are.
“Recognize most people who come in this time of year have a health-related motivation,” said Tarver. “Generally, it’s to lose weight. But we like to redirect that into broader lifestyle changes that can last a long time.”
Tarver and his team also know there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution for every new member. Individually helping members reach their goals truly enhances their experience. “We cater to the person who’s changing their lifestyle and wants to set some goals,” said Tarver.
In an effort to cater its experience to members on a brand new fitness journey, the Y of Greater Louisville takes great care to make its facility as welcoming as possible for anyone who walks through the doors.
“We try to provide a lot of comfort — a lot of people walk into a fitness center and think it looks like an English torture chamber, so we try to desensitize that,” said Tarver.
Part of that comfortable experience is being guided on tours or through new classes by a personable and qualified staff. “We’re very proud of our staff and the way they go about interacting with people — I think we have a very caring staff,” he said. “We’re trying to build up a relationship on a long-term basis with folks.”
But when it comes to handling increased member volume and facility usage as a result of the New Year, the Y of Greater Louisville doesn’t hire additional part-time employees.
“You don’t build a church just for Easter and Christmas,” joked Tarver. “We don’t hire new staff, but we do deploy our staff a little bit differently for the first couple months of the year than we do the rest of the year.”
Deploying the staff differently in the first quarter includes delegating the increased amount of clerical work that comes with more memberships, as well as assigning more hours to current part-time staff members.
In addition to preparing current staff members for the New Year rush, the Y of Greater Louisville has found an effective way to help new members get more comfortable in the facility.
“We anticipate classes being a little more filled, so we add some shorter beginner classes,” said Tarver. “They’re almost like mini-orientations we do as a group to get people used to the workouts.”
These “mini-orientations” allow new members to get that personal attention they need to truly become invested in their workouts.
The classes have also facilitated stronger relationships. “Not only do you get the close interaction between the staff and new members, but the new members begin to build new relationships amongst themselves,” said Tarver.
New members are more likely to become dedicated members when they have strong relationships within your rec center. The YMCA of Greater Louisville understands this, making relationships the cornerstone of its New Year engagement strategy.
“We’re looking to build a long-term relationship with folks, not just have them come in for a month or two,” said Tarver.