Setting Expectations for Martial Arts Students Upfront
Authority is highly influenced by emotion.
While your staff and students may intellectually understand that you are the boss and master instructor, they have to feel it, not think it.
It’s the emotional connection that anchors your authority on a deep level.
If there is one powerful moment in your role as a professional martial arts instructor, it’s in the enrollment conference.
While the parents may see you as the master black belt, they usually don’t have an authoritative reverence at this early stage.
The enrollment conference is a seminal moment for you to establish your authority and gain the respect and gratitude of the family you’re dealing with.
Presenting the programs and their cost to parents can be tense at times. Some parents want to negotiate. Others might object to the agreement. Some want a safety net in case their child wants to quit.
While it’s important that you are prepared to overcome any objections, it’s when the bottom line is signed and the initial investment is completed that you have a critical window to demonstrate your authority.
Many owners complete the transaction and gush with statements like, “Awesome. It’s great to have you on board. Johnny, you did an awesome job tonight. High five! Thanks Mrs. Jones it’s great to have Johnny as part of our family. Let me know if I can help with anything.”
Who has the role of authority here? Mrs. Jones and her credit card. That was a missed opportunity.
Let’s try again. You would adjust this script to the age and circumstance, but here is an authority template for the enrollment conference.
Mom has just enrolled Johnny into the program.
You, “Johnny. You want to learn Empower Kickboxing, right?”
“Good. I want you to understand that your mom just enrolled you into a six month program. You are going to learn a lot of great skills and lessons. It’s going to be fun and sometimes it’s going to be hard. That’s the good part because that means you’re learning. So you have to pay attention and practice at home 20-minutes a day when you don’t have class.
Are you going to work hard and practice?”
“I’m glad. Your classes are Monday and Wednesday at 5pm. When are your classes?”
“Monday and Wednesday at 5pm.”
“Good. You’re a smart guy. That means that you have to be ready to come to class by 4:30 on Monday and Wednesdays so that you’re not late. Will you do that?”
“No matter what you are doing, you will be ready by 4:30, right?”
“Good. The first lesson is integrity. Integrity means that you do what you say you are going to do. You keep your promises. You promise to work hard and be ready for class, right?”
“No matter what you’re doing. Right?”
“Great. We’re going to be so proud of you. Your mom just enrolled you, so please turn to her and say, ‘Thank you mom.”
“Thank you mom.”
“Alright. When someone does something good for you, you always say thank you. That’s called gratitude. What’s it called?”
“Correct. So you’ve learned two important lessons today. Integrity and gratitude. What does integrity mean?
“Keeping your promises.”
“Yes. What does gratitude mean?”
“Saying thank you.”
“You got it! You are going to do great, I can tell already.”
“Remember, your class is…”
“Monday and Wednesday at 5pm.”
“When will you be ready to come to class?”
“You have a good head on your shoulders Johnny. You’re going to be good at this.”
“Because you’ve showed your mom gratitude and you’re going to keep your promises, here is a school t-shirt for you to wear. Every time you put it on, I want you to think of integrity and gratitude. Will you do that?”
“I just gave you a shirt. How do you show gratitude?”
“Thank you sir.”
As taught in the MATA Certification program, it’s also a good idea to let mom know that it’s important that she control what Johnny is doing around 4:30 which is the agreed upon to be ready for class.
If Johnny is playing with his friends or deep in a video game, it’s going to be harder to get him to get ready than if he is cleaning his bedroom or something he’d like to leave to go to class.
Keep in mind that mom is watching this happen before her eyes. What have you done to establish your authority?
- You’ve provided her with a language pattern that both her and Johnny understand. This is huge.
- You’ve given mom the “integrity” framework to deal with any reluctance to go to class.
- You’ve provided her with a strategy to engage Johnny in less fun activities so that going to class is an easy decision.
- You’ve laid out when Johnny should get ready for class without complaint.
- Before her eyes, you taught her son important lessons with real world examples. No doubt, your authority sky-rocketed in her eyes and in her heart.
Look for places where you can make these kinds of strong emotional connections.
Demonstrate true authority and leadership. That will last much longer than a trite, shallow compliments like “Awesome! Good job.”
This will help your students to understand how and why they are training with the best school.
great article mr. graden
i think that wushu (kung fu) can offer more for the spectators of the olympics, whereby i respect karate very much. I only mean this from the perspective of the viewers. but i’m curious to see how karate is received at the olympics. Greetings from munich
Always nice to hear from you Dusan. I was in Munich for the 87 WAKO Championships as a Coach and Official. My brother Jim won silver. Great memories. Both my brothers were actually born in Munich on the US Army base.
I like Its more and more martial arts, Boxing & Muay Thai….