Much good work goes into developing junior memberships, whatever your club’s sporting focus, with free lessons a norm for many CMAE member clubs – particularly golf clubs. But has all that effort had much of a return on investment? CMAE’s Mike Braidwood CCM offers up insights into how to attract and keep junior members, whatever your club.

Junior memberships are ridiculously cheap and lessons are often free. Then, to add insult to injury, the kids leave at 18 never to return!

So what to do?
Get proactive and make it a really great club experience for them. Make it such an important part of their life that they can’t do without it! And, following that line of thought, don’t give it away. Think how much parents spend on things like iphones, Xboxes and so on. It needs to have the same importance and the same entertainment value. So here are some pointers.

Give them their own space
Set aside some space within your club for your juniors and make it an attractive environment, a place where they would like to hang out. Make it inspiring to make them want to go out and play the game,whilst also offering some other activities. Relevant Wii games, indoor putting mats, cricket nets, short mat bowls – whatever the discipline there’s a way to bring it inside. And how about setting up their own notice boards? And maybe newsletters?

Make it a real club for them
Parents are always looking for someone else to do things with their kids! So make it more of an inclusive club and organise more than just competitions and lessons. Away days to other clubs and activities,challenge matches against other clubs, fun nights in the clubhouse and instigating a local league are just some ideas. If you roll out a series of events you’ll develop a great club spirit and have parents dropping their kids off in droves.

Make it fun
Clubs can seem pretty boring to kids sometimes,so spice it up and make it fun for them. Don’t put too many rules in place and employ a ‘can do’ attitude. Kids love variety, kids love challenge, kids love team work so think of things that will get them excited. Maybe a monthly skills challenge surrounding their chosen sport, or fun competition formats. Maybe inter-club challenges. All of these can help to keep them engaged and motivated.

Get parents involved
Although parents often see kids clubs as a free baby-sitting service, it’s good to get parents to volunteer. Seek out a pool of mums and dads who are willing to help organise events, drive kids to places– but be sure to keep the adult-to-kid ratio right.

Too many parents and the kids will feel swamped and intruded upon. Involving the parents is also a good way to introduce more adults to the sport. And you can always give them a free lesson as a thank you for helping out.

Educate them –more than just lessons
Kids love to learn and they learn fast. Try to introduce more than just lessons. Teach them other things like the rules and etiquette (and set tests with certificates). Set them challenges to research different game formats, get them involved in volunteering with the club and train them in other aspects of the game, such as grounds maintenance,umpiring, and, for golf, caddying (they can then make some money at the same time!). All of your education activities will make them more informed sportsmen and women and they’ll go onto be better members, a force in the club’s future. And back to the parents, they love it when the kids walk out of the club grounds with more knowledge than they had when they entered.

Communicate at their level
The best way to get the most out of kids is to not treat them like kids. Treat them with respect and space and communicate with them at their level. Use communication platforms such as facebook, twitter, texting and keep the language relevant to kids

Find out what they want
Let them tell you what they want. It’s easy to come up with a survey to find out what they like and want. You could even get the kids to design and develop the survey for you. In that way they feel you care about their opinions and you are keen to create a club and club environment that suits their needs.

Showing progress
Create a ladder for improvement. Kids love to strive to do better and get to the next level. Create leagues where they can play and progress through divisions.Maybe create skills test certificates and awards.

Invite their friends
The best way to keep kids engaged and to introduce more of them to the sport is to allow your junior members to bring friends to functions and events(for a nominal charge). In this way the kids won’t be shy in turning up as they have a friend with them and with any luck the friend will enjoy the event and want to sign up to the club as well.

Variety, the spice of life
To ensure kids remain engaged, continually mix it up. Keep it interesting, keep it relevant, keep it fun, but most of all make sure there is variety. If you follow some of the previous tips then there will be no shortage of good ideas coming in from your junior members.

Student membership
After all of your hard work you need to ensure your juniors stay with you once they reach adulthood. Put in place a tiered scheme to take them from a junior membership fee up to a full membership fee.Think about those juniors who leave to go off to further education. Wouldn’t it be great if you could keep them on board so that they can still enjoy the club during the holidays and when they come home for weekends? And maybe create some special events just for the students so they still feel very much part of the club, even if they are off studying further afield.

And finally – a bonus tip – create a loyalty scheme. These can be used to build credit towards the joining fee or adult membership. And don’t forget to include interesting and thoughtful things on the menu that kids will want to eat and drink.They’ll appreciate the effort and the fact that they could be earning loyalty points. It’s a grown up concept which will make them feel an integral and valued part of the club.

Article published in Clubhouse Europe magazine issue 8