Addressing the Summer Slump

Beating the summer slump.I have a former life as a baseball player. My summers were filled with friends, sunburns and road-trips. We would be all over the place playing in tournaments, honing our skills and goofing around. When I was 17 years old, I spent my summer playing for the Heartland Heat. We put together a spectacular team from the very best in our area. Most of the team went on to play in college and one even made it to the big leagues. I played catcher and hit third in the line-up.

Every baseball player knows what it feels like to fall into a hitting slump. We were playing in a tournament in Cincinnati, and I was awful. I felt like I couldn’t do anything right. My swing felt off. My timing was bad. I wasn’t hitting the ball at all. Over three straight games, the best I could do was ground out with a dribbler back to the pitcher.

After the third game, my dad told me that it seemed like I wasn’t mentally there, that I’d lost my confidence. The coaches had moved me down the batting order and my confidence was gone. He sat me down and used a voice that I always labeled “deep-speak-clearly” which meant that he wanted to make sure that I heard exactly what he was saying. He said, “Don’t forget that they picked you to be on this team.” He said that I needed to “lock in” and focus on just doing what I know I can do.

Something about my father speaking into my broken confidence revived my ability to relax at the plate, and the next game against “The Boys of Summer” from Youngstown, Ohio, the number eight hitter in our lineup hit two home runs, a Double and a Triple.

Business can be like baseball.

CrossFit Regeneration is into its fourth year in business, and I’ve started to notice some trends. Just like it’s predictable to have a boost in membership around New Year, I’ve found that June tends to be when we get hit with a fairly major slump.

I remember our first year in business. We had built up our membership base to over 50 by May, and at the end of July, we were back under 30. I was freaking out. I thought we were doing everything wrong and needed to rethink our entire structure. But the actual data told a different story. We knew from the beginning that at least 10 of those people would be leaving in June. Some were leaving for grad school, others to move back to home after graduation and still others were taking jobs in other states. Those are members who wanted to stay, but their life transitions moved them away.

There were some, however, who left because they didn’t like CrossFit, or at least how we did it at my gym. Or folks who just drifted away slowly, who got out of the habit, and finally realized that they were paying good money for one or two workouts a month. And for these people, we needed to re-think our strategy.

Summer seems to be a time of transition. People are graduating, moving and changing jobs, as well as getting married, having babies and all kinds of other changes. These are outside of their love for CrossFit, and it’s likely that they’ll continue training once they’ve found their footing again.

But summer is also a natural shift to a different pace. Priorities can shift from going to the gym to going to the lake. Vacations, travel, cookouts and kid’s activities all have the tendency to pull our members away. And we need a strategy to help them prioritize appropriately.

So, here are a few things that we’re doing to try and stem the tide.

“Lighter of Butt Fires”

We recently added a staff person with a primary responsibility of focusing on member engagement, especially with new members. She greets everyone at some point during their first two weeks at the gym and finds out their goals, current reality and major roadblocks. Periodically she’ll follow up with them to check in and offer any help she can, and if they need a fire lit under their butt, she’ll light it!

NOTE: This isn’t just a summer problem for most gyms. Keeping members around long enough to reach their goals is a big struggle, not to mention that it’s pretty hard to have a successful company with a low retention rate. Having someone around who keeps their focus on member engagement will mean your athletes will stick around much longer, get way fitter and be much happier.

Attendance challenge

Because summer does have such a transitory affect, we’re seeking to specifically address this with a full-scale attendance challenge. Our plan is to utilize our member management software to track attendance over the months of June and July and reward the top attenders with cash prizes. Our plan is to keep our athletes’ habits in line with their goals until their schedules normalizes again in the fall. The goal here is merely to keep them showing up to the gym.

Summer camps

Finally, you can think through ways to temporarily boost your revenues to account for the summer slump. How you do this is up to you. You could host a competition, or set up a series of seminars. You could create special programs and products for teachers and students, since their summer schedule provides a freedom they don’t have during the rest of the year.

With our kids program growing, we’re offering a series of weeklong summer camps directed specifically toward boys and girls either looking for an edge toward success in their sports or a basic start to getting healthy. They will be fairly intensive camps and utilize the middle of the day when the gym has traditionally been under-utilized. We may get some long-term business out of these camps, but their primary focus is aimed at short-term financial bumps.

Whichever route you choose don’t get discouraged. Ideally, once a person joins our gyms, they’d stick around forever, get super fit and live functional lives well into their 90s. But sometimes people leave. It’s sad, but it’s reality, and just like in baseball, we have to figure out how to break out of the slumps.

Charlie Sims was the owner of CrossFit Regeneration in Louisville, Kentucky.