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Upper Hand

Sports Management Blog

Unlocking the True Potential of Your Clients - Athlete Retention

Posted by Myles Grote | Jul 25, 2016 10:00:00 AM
Avoid losing 26% of your athletes or more, by making sure your sports business is focusing on client and athlete retention. Here's how - 

By far and away, the most important task that you need to focus on is coaching. It’s your trade, it’s what puts bread on the table, and as such, you should always make it a priority to continue to improve on your trade. Whether you’re a carpenter or a Fortune 500 CEO, being great at what you do is critical to your success. But one thing you cannot forget is that you have additional responsibilities beyond coaching. Doing a great job coaching may attract new clients via word of mouth, but it will not always guarantee that you retain those customers. It requires more effort off the field to ensure that your true clients are kept happy. So, this begs the question: Who are your clients and how do you keep them happy?  


Understanding Your Clients

Who are Your Clients: In order to both attract and retain clients, you have to first understand who your client is. According to the 2015 IBIS Sports Coaching Industry Report, 70% of all sports instruction is with athletes between ages 6-18. Chances are, your clients fall within this age range. However, who is it that foots the bill for this training? Is it Mom… Dad… Grandma… Grandpa?  

According to a 2013 ESPN the Magazine article, ninety percent of parents with children on a team attend at least one of their kid's games a week. And with most youth players at an age where they talk to parents daily, you can guess what the subject of conversation often is: 68 percent say they talk at least every other day about games and practices. Taking this in stride: understanding the decision maker behind the athlete is equally, if not more important to increasing your chances of obtaining new and retaining existing clients.

What are Your Client’s Goals: At Upper Hand, the first question that we ask our customers is “What are your short and long term goals?” When you boil it down, price is not an issue in the existence of value. If your service produces results that align with your client’s goals, then you’re creating value.

Without having a clear understanding of your client’s goals, you’re potentially setting yourself up for disaster. For example, if a mom has a six-year old and her goal is that they make the Olympics next summer, you need to ask yourself, “Can I help this client achieve this goal?” If the answer is no, then you need to tell them what you CAN do for them. Set appropriate expectations, and exceed them. It’s critical that you show them immediate results versus what their goals were over time, so that you can continue to show them value. If the results aren’t aligning with their goals, then communicate why, and how they can get closer to achieving these goals moving forward.

Client Retention

I cannot emphasize how important client retention really is to the long term success of your sports training business. There are case studies galore, mainly pertaining to software companies with recurring revenue streams, that discuss something called customer churn rate.  Put simply, this metric tells you how effective you are at retaining clients. You need to be tracking this on a monthly basis for your business. Here is a good read on churn in relation to sports fitness clubs, which might be similar to your business model. Essentially, it’s way less expensive for you to retain a client than to have to go out and get a new one.

In order to reduce churn in your business, it’s important to recognize why clients will potentially leave your business so that you can nip this in the bud prior to it happening. Below is an infographic that breaks down why athletes quit team sports. These are athlete attributes you need to avoid to minimize churn, and parents play a key role in these attributes.


In addition, SFIA reports that between ages 14 and 15 there is a 26% drop in the number of kids who play at least one sport, even recreationally. This should make you raise your eyebrow a bit.  It means that if you take on 100 new athletes that are age 13, you will lose 26 of those athletes in the next two years. This makes it more critical than ever to truly pay attention to these athletes and their parents to ensure you’re keeping them engaged.  

The main takeaway here, is that retaining your clients and reducing churn is 90 percent of the time in your control. You have to focus on the athletes, but you have to also focus on the guardians that are footing the bill for training. Keep them in the loop and make sure that you understand their goals so that you can align training with these goals. Communication is huge.  Make sure that guardians are in the loop on progress and that they understand the results. If you follow some of these simple guidelines, I guarantee your overall sports training business will become more profitable.

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Supporting Sources & Infogrpahic:


Topics: Clients & Parents, Sports Business Management

Written by Myles Grote

Myles is the Chief Revenue Officer at Upper Hand, a sports software company aiming to simplify front and back-end office tasks, by providing cutting-edge marketing and registration tools, and business intelligence, that enable unsurpassed performance for sports businesses across the nation.