By Dr. Pelham Mead
One of the secrets to success with online instruction is to make it real by using real-life examples. There is nothing better than real life case studies that show things are never perfect as they are in theoretical situations.
When I began a Gymnastic Instruction program in Fall of 1972, I rented a small building on a day camp for $60 a month. It was only 25 by 50 feet long with a twelve foot ceiling. I was barely able to get the trampoline into the building. The boys rings hung from a steel cross beam. The panelite mats for tumbling went from wall to wall. Gymnastic centers were rare in the 1970’s and I had to decide what to charge for the gymnastic classes. It was just me and my volunteer gymnasts who acted as Junior Instructors. My only overhead was a small heater and electric lighting and $60 rent for the months of Sept. through May. The summer expenses the Day Camp paid for and the programs went on leave for the summers. I started with $35 dollars for an 8 week unit the first year with a free gymnastic silk screened t-shirt. I ran two classes on Wed. and two classes on Saturday the first year. I found that I priced myself too cheap the first year, so I doubled the fee the next year to $70. an 8 week session. I also offered Lifetime memberships for $200. I actually sold a dozen of these memberships. After I covered my expenses, I reinvested in buying new gymnastic equipment. I purchased a portable still ring ring which I could use in good weather outside and in the gym at Kakiat Junior High School.
Fortunately, I was working full-time at Kakiat JHS as a Physical Education teacher, so my earnings at the gymnastic center were just to help the program grow. During the summer I worked for the Camp Director, Mel Cohen at Camp Hill Day Camp. I provided my equipment in an outdoor setting that was so popular that I was able to recruit new members from the day camp for the fall gymnastic program called the Century School of Gymnastics. After two summers at the Camp Hill Day camp an opportunity developed to buy an inflatable bubble building to create a year-round gymnastic program for $19,000. The Camp Director became a backer and silent partner and sponsored me to buy the bubble building. Now the planning became more serious. I needed to start marketing big time. I came up with an idea to hand out fliers using my gymnasts in the gymnastic van. After we had a pizza party. I could distribute 500 fliers in a day to one location.
A friend told me that the local Nanuel Mall was looking for a promotion for their back to school sales event at the end of August and beginning of September before school started. I approach the owners of the mall and proposed to do a free gymnastic exhibition on Saturday and Sunday of a weekend at the end of August. I told them I would bring in 50 gymnasts of ages 5 to 18 to perform on my equipment in the area in front of Sears company on the first floor. They agreed and allowed me to do gymnastic shows every hour for two days in a row. We signed up 550 gymnasts the first weekend. The next year I approached the Mall again and they were so happy with the thousands of people we attracted they asked me to do a whole week of gymnastic shows, which I was glad to do. That week we got almost a 1,000 gymnasts signing up including our new Tumbling tot program of age 2-5 year olds. We had to cut off the enrollment at 600 because I did not have enough instructors to do more than two classes of 15 gymnasts per hour for two hours each day. The competitive teams who paid $150 a month practices from 6:00 to 9:00pm three nights a week all month long. The bubble was 35 feet high with a double wall for insulation. It was also 100 feet long and 70 feet wide, double the size of the little casino building I first rented. I had to hire 20 instructors and involve all my talented competitive gymnasts as Junior Instructors on a voluntary basis as part of their team fees. After the second year of the bubble the annual gross income came to $250,000 a year without having to operate during the summer. The Day camp took over the bills from June to August which gave me a reprieve.
The Junior high team got more and more new equipment that I personally bought with the profits from my Century program. We did exhibitions all over the EAST Ramapo central school district at Elementary schools. This allowed us to work up to the Competitive level sponsored by the USGF national girls program. The boys program came under the Public school system since the USGF program was weak in competitions. We went to a few AAU meets out of State. My instructors got paid $18-20 an hour in those days and many were Team Coaches also. The tumbling Tot program was run by a Director during the mornings with 40 minutes sessions and three sessions each day weekdays. Ten small children were in each group with two adult instructors setting up mat castles and donut mats for imaginative gymnastic play.
For the first 15 years the program grew bigger and bigger with two additional gyms being set up in a Church in Suffern and a Day camp gym in Monroe. The Monroe program lasted three years until we had a billing problem with the camp. I got a !,000 electric bill and then I realized the camp had a maintenance living on the camp burning electric day and night with a portable heater. They denied it but it was obvious that we were not using that much electric. Sadly, I had to close the program. The Suffern program stayed open unto 1990 when I finally retired since I was taking Doctoral courses after school instead.
I was able to place 14 girls into colleges with full scholarships at Penn State, Indiana State University, Kentucky University, and other colleges.
For the men I developed one Olympic hopeful in 1980 place 11th in the Nation. We boycotted the Olympics that year. I sent two outstanding gymnasts to Springfield College, one to Princeton, and other colleges on scholarships. For the USGF program we were Division III NY State champions three years in a row in the early 1980’s. One of our girls made AA for the USGF regional award. As to State champions for the girls we had dozens of girls become champions. Many came back to serve as coaches and instructors years later. The good thing is we never went bankrupt like so many other gyms and we made a profit big enough to keep growing and always having new exciting equipment and foam pits, 8 inch training balance beams, spotting rigs, reuther never bars, portable uneven bars and Nissen Spaceball rigs.