Aligning Your Classes

Synopsis: Are your classes safe? How are you furthering you own learning? What are you minimum operating standards? What are you doing to ensure your classes are credible? Who are you partnered with to ensure your classes reach their full potential? In this post I briefly break down the vital parts to successfully aligning yourself and your classes in the truest possible sense: agencies and networking partners.

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How good is your kids program likely to be without proper exhaustive planning and an understanding of how to lay the best, strongest foundations?

The strength of your kid’s program, and ultimately its growth is a function of alignment. Alignment is key and where all good programmes begin. Everything revolves around bringing your hard work into alignment with organisations, networks and key people of influence that provide credibility and scalability.

AGENCIES.

Utilising the agencies that have a mandate to safeguard and legitimise what you do: from government and national governing bodies to local education authorities and school sports partnerships is vital. Their impact on branding, communication, your delivery and ability to engage can make or break your kid’s programme.

Many agencies are in place to provide education and certification that not only safeguard the children under your tutelage but also you as a coach. Enhanced DBS checks, emergency first aid and liability insurance should be considered the three staple benchmarks of attainment, your “minimum operating standards” and must be in place before the implementation of any formalised children’s classes.

Governing bodies are easily accessible to immediately facilitate these credentials, adding weight to your capability for coaching the children in your care and furthering authority with parents (your clients) – demonstrating a level of professionalism and cultivating a safe, accountable environment for their children to learn.

Minimum Operation Standards (MOS) Examples.
Imperative MOSGeneral Administrative FunctioningCommon Sense
Enhanced (DBS) DisclosureEtiquette Statements & DeclarationsCoaches Ability
Instructor Liability InsuranceAttendance Registers & Membership formsCoaches Appearance
Emergency First Aid CertificateCoach & Student Code of ConductCoaches Punctuality
Safeguarding & Equity in Sport CertificatesAcademy Policy & Procedure Notices
Affiliation to a National Governing Body (NGB)Thorough Risk Assessments
Equipment Upkeep & CleanlinessBank Account for payment

Realising a set of minimum operating standards is also important if you are to tap into potential funding opportunities from local sports partnerships who have funds set aside for sporting initiatives that target specific lesser participated groups in underfunded areas of sport, including: inactive, disassociated young people, teenagers and girls and the disabled. Provided you have a plan with watertight foundations that can support a self-sufficient framework of delivery, internal and external communication channels and established sustainable exit strategies for these groups you could be in line for a slice of that funding.

Affiliations to specifically designated bodies literally rubber stamps credibility on what you can offer customers (and non-customers). You should use them to develop pre-eminence and an element of social proof to build your brand, this association and accredited standard helps grow your classes – think of a football coach whose promotional material displays the Football Association (FA) insignia, a tennis coach associated with the Lawn Tennis Association or a gymnastics academy affiliated to British Gymnastics. The coaches connected to each of these examples are protected, vetted and educated by these bodies to a degree that carries forward further development. Bureaucratic policies and procedures are also organised by designated departments to safeguard and periodical training is available to inform and update. In short, without such alignment how do you anticipate growing your kid’s classes in the strongest possible sense, how do you expect to serve your client base in the truest possible way and thus develop long-term trust across your programme?

As an aside to this, I would suspect you would be surprised to discover just how much attention is given to a programmes pragmatic approach for such affiliations. I have already mentioned three examples of agencies whose sole purpose is the protection and development of those people linked to their existence: the FA, the LTA and British Gymnastics. How much attention have you paid to companies away from our industry that display the Royal Warrant by the Queen? Bentley Motors Limited, Waitrose Ltd. and Weetabix Ltd. are just three companies, amongst hundreds who use the warrants perceived seal of approval to endorse and promote their product in the market – you should adopt a similar approach of demonstrating your affiliation when aligning with respected organisations.

Agencies, governing bodies and their association are paramount in providing a safe framework from which to operate, umbrella organisations instil credibility, stability and accountability. Make sure you align any programme you are considering to develop and in doing so protect and promote your clients, yourself and your reputation.

Agency Examples & Benefits of Alignment.
National Governing BodySchool Sports Partnership
Relevant & Accessible TrainingRelevant & Accessible Training
Enhanced DBS Disclosure FacilitationAccess to Portfolio of Schools
Potential for Reduced Insurance PremiumUp-to-date Advice
Kudos Among ClientsNetworking Potential
Access to FundingAccess to Funding
Networking Potential
Governance & General Advice

NETWORKING.

Certified accreditations are only half the equation, endorsement and acceptance completes the picture.  Forget the agencies for one second sit back and think about yourself and your position amongst your peers.  Would those within your field of authority describe you as Authentic, Believable & Credible? Always strive for these three parameters – they are your targets – from within your peer group; they are the ABC of networking. Constantly examine yourself: “am I credible are my classes valid and amongst peers and the authorities, am I viewed as legitimate?”

If the answer is “No” how can you expect to foster working relationships with your peers, key people of influence or indeed potential clients to trust in your program.

So many coaches do not network or at least they limit their networking to old training partners and employ and ‘old boys club mentality’ to inter-club competitions, promotions, ideas and marketing. This ‘them vs us’ approach does nothing but bolster egos, narrows scope for progress and reinforces politics within the martial arts – ultimately destroying everything.

Open your mind, share ideas and understand the ‘abundance mentality’, there is more than enough to go around, just think laterally on how to ensure this remains the case. After all, that is exactly what I am doing with this website.

Nowadays networking is easier than ever, social media provides opportunities to contact and connect with the very best individuals from your market industry and beyond. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat provide the ability to promote and discover upcoming seminars, workshops and webinars that each, in turn, provide their own free insights and spark remarkable ideas. Apps such as WhatsApp and Slack provide an array of means to disseminate ideas and further relationships remotely, whereas, software such as iTunes, Soundcloud, Vimeo, Wistia and YouTube allow broadcasters and listeners to exchange ideas that would have been impossible just ten years ago.

Networking Examples.
Digitised ExamplesAnalogue Examples
Online WebinarsOpen Seminars & Workshops
Designated Messenger AppsOld Fashioned Paper Print
Social Media ApplicationsOpen Training Sessions
Online discussion forumsInter-club competitions

Networking provides a support mechanism for your ideas; further ideas are born through this assembly, which in turn can be spread and developed both individually and universally. Becoming insular in both attitude and aspiration will do nothing to grow your kid’s classes. Get out and network.

PARTNERSHIPS.

So far I have laid out the significance of appropriate alignment in growing your kid’s classes. I have offered motives for association to several agencies and given a number of examples that would serve your brand well. I have also introduced an additional construct to alignment, networking, and argued how suitable networks foster a level of support that is hard to acquire elsewhere. Nevertheless, what you must realise is that it is vital that you seek and prioritise certain networks over others; just being part of an online community is not enough and your fullest potential is only ever going to be achieved if you are practical and tactical about how certain groups and individuals within these group can elevate you and your classes.

Proactively pursuing partnerships and developing working relationships with certain individuals can enable a tipping point for your classes, in every industry there are personalities that provide a channel of advocacy and promotion that others can only dream of and just like the agencies I mentioned earlier they provide yet more authenticity, believability and credibility to your projects.

In his book, Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell stated “There are exceptional people out there who are capable of starting epidemics. All you have to do is find them.”. Daniel Priestley also references these people in his book Key Person of Influence and Seth Godin too points to “sneezers” and “early adopters” in his book Purple Cow. It is these individuals that you must look for.

Do not misunderstand, any attempt at cynically positioning yourself will have no longstanding prospects, partnerships are a two-way association and value must be provided for both parties. Underline any communication for potential partnerships with considerate, mutual terms of engagement. What value can YOU offer and how is any affiliation going to benefit your potential partner? But just as big brands utilise celebrity endorsements to promote products you would be well advised to use the exposure key partners can offer.

Aside from actually chasing individuals you believe provide extra exposure, credibility or marketability for your brand, an essential principle in all of the above is to remember that everyone that your brand ‘touches’ is a potential partner and therefore, someone that can further or grow your classes: children, parents, teachers, advertising agencies, local council officials, caretakers, venue hirers, competition organisers, adult academy members, in fact anyone you’ve ever interacted with over your classes will have experience of you, your brand, communication and delivery. This brings us back to something I have already mentioned and instead of ‘would those within your field of authority describe you as Authentic, Believable and Credible?’ How about: would those with any experience of your brand describe you as Authentic, Believable and Credible?

In closing, remember the foundations you lay will exist for years to come; they must be robust and revolve around transparent legitimacy. Your ability to identify and align with the appropriate agencies. networking groups and key partners is critical if the foundations you lay are to be strong enough to build and support structure, structure for your idea, your brand and your ability to market that brand.

Alignment Summary.

  • Do you have a National Governing Body (NGB)? Are you affiliated to it?
  • What are your minimum operating procedures? Are you improving these?
  • What other minimum operating procedures could you incorporate?
  • Are you networking? Who are you learning from? Who are bouncing ideas from?
  • Who are the Key People of Influence within your market?
  • What are you doing to foster partnerships?
  • What would people say about you? Have you any endorsements?
  • Are you seeking to increase your Authenticity, Believability, Credibility.
  • Any partnership must provide ‘value’ for both parties.
  • Don’t not be cynical about who you align to.

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