Jungle Sports' Andrew Talks About the Clubs Journey Back to Normal

Read our latest interview with Andrew from Jungle Sports to see how one Australian club has opened their doors following months of disruption. 

We recently spoke with Andrew from Jungle Sports - a multi-sport kids activity club based in Western Australia. During our catch up, Andrew shared some helpful information on how the club is returning to normal and shows how working with parents will improve the process.

Read our latest interview with Jungle Sports to get an insight into how kids activity clubs are returning on the other side of the globe.

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...as soon as regulations allow for UK businesses to run, reach out to your database and ask what they think...

First of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself? Who are you, who are Jungle Sports - what are you guys all about?

"I'm MD, one of the owners, and I run this business with my wife - we've probably had it around 6 years. Jungle Sports is a multi-sports provider for kids from around 18 months through to 6 years. We cover 9 different sports, and we do term time classes, holiday camps, school classes.

The idea is you're providing classes that give parents and kids that really healthy lifestyle. It's high tempo and high energy, giving kids very little exposure to all these different sports that we all had when we were growing up.

With promotion, we believe the programme is there to focus on these fundamental skills and fundamental movements from an early age.

The idea is you're providing classes that give parents and kids that really healthy lifestyle. It's high tempo and high energy, giving kids very little exposure to all these different sports that we all had when we were growing up. 

With promotion, we believe the programme is there to focus on these fundamental skills and fundamental movements from an early age."

 

Well, we're in strange times right now. How have the last few months been for you as a business?

"Horrific really - that's the only way to describe it. Australia had strict lockdown and regulations in place from very early on (I think it was March 31st). We ran classes Sunday morning as usual, and then Monday, it was complete lockdown. All leisure schools and schools - they just shut down overnight to try to get a handle on things. 

So for businesses like us that rely on leisure centres to hire courts and run the programmes indoors, it meant you couldn’t' operate. We were completely shut down until last weekend [June 13th]. 

Obviously restrictions have been easing in Australia, and we're very fortunate to be here right now in terms of what we've got in place but yeah, it was a really dark time - and that's probably where companies in the UK will be right now.

But in such a short space of time, it has totally turned around. Classes have started again with restrictions in place. We thought it might be slow to begin with, but the actual uptake has been huge. So that's a really promising thing. There are people there to support you - the local business network especially - and I think that's something the UK will find coming sooner rather than later."

 

What were the changes in the guidelines? What are the guidelines just now? And where do you sit just now in terms of social distancing and groups of people together?

"It depends what field you're operating in. Obviously, with kids and parents, they're quite strict. But right now, it's social distancing at about 1.5 metres. Big rec centres and leisure centres have caps at around 100-300 people, and that's increasing quite quickly now (that was probably 20 people a couple of weeks ago when they started to reopen). 

For classes like us, when you've got a cap of 20, it's not viable to run the classes. So that has meant that with easing, we get access to the leisure centres. And as long as we try as best we can to social distance the kids throughout the classes, they're happy with it. 

We have very few live cases of COVID-19 at the moment in WA [Western Australia], so it's meant that parents are relaxing a bit with it. As long as they can see you're trying your best to prevent kids from high-fiving, then they're really happy with everything that's going on!"

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Good, positive story. What gives you the confidence that now is the right time to run your camps? In the UK, clubs want to reopen, but I think they're waiting for that signal or moment to give them the confidence. Was there something in particular, or is this just when you always run your camps?

"I think it was a two-prong attack for us. The first one was as soon as we were able to run it, we wanted to get back in there to give parents the option. As long as we knew we could run the camps the way we wanted to (and implement measures like sprays, disinfectant on equipment, hand sanitisers, washing hands before/after classes, and that's all the bog-standard), that was all fine. 

But then we actually reached out to all the parents on our database and said "hey, we want to get back into it June 13th, what do you guys think?" and even if people weren't enrolled in the class that had previously done it, we were getting emails saying "GO FOR IT! Get back into it."

There was a huge pent-up demand for getting kids back into it. We didn't go online during that period, we kind of - call it old fashioned - we didn't want our kids stuck in front of a screen doing exercise and things they can do at home. It was a case of wanting to get out there with kids, mums, grandparents. 

As soon as we could get out, we went for it! Plus, we had knowledge that the parents were really looking for it. So I'd say as soon as regulations allow for UK businesses to run, reach out to your database and ask what they think because you get a pretty clear indication from that [what's on peoples minds]. I wouldn't be surprised if they were the same as Australia by saying "look, we're all in - let’s go for it"."

 

Are you finding the uptake what you expect it to be at any given year, or are you limited by numbers of what you can bring in now?

"It's a good question. I think the biggest thing for us is we thought there would be quite a large lag. Obviously getting feedback from parents saying "yes, it's great" is one thing, but getting them back from term 1 when we shut down (with class credits, enrolling new pupils etc.), we've been very surprised at the uptake. 

We're probably at about 80% capacity compared to term 1 to what we were which we are very surprised about. Whether that continues or there's a bit more of a peak right now, time will tell - but we have been surprised at how quickly it's gone back to normal."

 

That's fantastic news! You mentioned the hand sanitiser, -the general sense of responsibility you're introducing - I wonder if there are any other specific changes that you've had to make or decided to make to allow your classes to run safely?

"Our classes involve a fair bit of contact with the kids - high fives and kids run up and hug you - so that's all had to stop. The kids still try and do it - that's fine, you just need to address it. And also the spacing - so we do stretches, warm ups and running, so having mats spread out evenly over the court and it's all pre-set out so the kids run, pick up a ball and go to their mat. 

So that by default shows that parents are really trying to comply with the restrictions. There's going to be elements of these classes  - and it'll be the same in the UK - where you're dealing with children and can't limit them getting too close. As long as you have guidelines in place and you're asking parents not to socialise at the end of the class so the next class can come in, they're really comfortable with that."

 

Did you find parents needed a lot of reassurance with those measures, or did they naturally just take part as you suggested?

"It's only been going for a week - still maybe a bit early to have an answer on it. But I think we probably went a bit over the top with it. I think they were caught off guard because I think a lot of parents were happy to just go along with it, even though that's maybe not what they should have been. 

I think you just go back to your default very easily. But we went a bit over the top, and that might be a really good thing long-term because I think we'll keep some of these procedures in place going forward rather than going back to what we used to do. So when parents see that, they have that peace of mind that you're doing the right thing."

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You talked about using your database for communication. Have you found having an online system has been beneficial to take the payments and for the messaging? Has that been part of this for you?

Overall, CFK (ClassForKids) has saved us a little bit! It's been a bit of a blessing because we were really messy behind the scenes and looking for a system that could handle everything. And what it's allowed, rather than sending out bulk emails, just click a few buttons and parents are updated on what the latest news is. 

We had a staggered start - some venues opened, some we waited a bit longer - and it [having a system] just means that you could clearly send out what was required for each venue. Then you take payments on these venues when you can- it was a very smooth operation. Less cash handling and manhandling the enrolments that were manually being done by coaches just meant that everything was smooth. So anything we could do now that could make the re-commencement by having everything in place was hugely beneficial for us."

 

What's the future looking like beyond these camps, can you see that far?

"The future’s looking bright! We're a really optimistic bunch here in Australia by default… so hopefully that rubs off on a few other people. But I think from our point of view, having a really good uptake with our classes and holiday camps in a short space of time shows that people are wanting to get out there and do these things for their kids. 

We're really happy! The whole shut down period gave us a bit of time to reset from the back end and say to ourselves, "what do we want to focus on - is it holiday camps or term classes?

It's given us better positioning moving forward. We think it's going to be great and a really bright future ahead for us. Hopefully that means we're operating in the UK shortly, and all these plans move along, but there's certainly no negative downside to things at the moment. Especially now that Australia is fortunately coming out of that dark time, and it's amazing how quickly things turn around."

 

Finally, you've mentioned that you do work in schools… I believe that schools are moving a little bit slower in terms of access to their facilities. Do you have any insights/advice on how to approach that conversation with schools?

"Yeah, a lot of schools that we've operated in previously are being very cautious about re-opening to clubs (although schools are up and running and everything is fine). We just had a really honest and general chat with them, just saying "what are you thinking? Is there going to be a time to re-commence and how are we going to do it?" 

One school jumped at the opportunity and booked us in for term 3, so regardless of what the restrictions are, they're happy for us to come back. I think schools are really eager, it's just that the Government in Australia is quite strict with these things, so it's a step by step process, and you can limit the exposure some kids are getting at school, so they think it's a good thing. 

It'll be a slow build but we're already seeing progress. We've got one locked in and we're speaking to three or four more on a weekly basis, so I'm sure it won't be long until they say yes as well. It's looking good - just schools are probably the last to agree but all looking bright eventually."

 

Key Takeaways

  1. Andrew has a positive attitude and admits that although there were dark times, things are returning to normal for the club. Andrew highlights the importance of local business networks, so make sure you are speaking to your network for support. 
  2. It's clear from our chat with Andrew that parent's attitudes have relaxed somewhat since cases have decreased. By preparing your club in advance, you can show parents that you are acting responsibly and safely for your return. 
  3. Reaching out to your customer database could prove very useful. During our conversation, Andrew mentioned this several times. Speaking directly to your customers to observe attitudes and gather feedback can help you improve your process of returning.

We hope you've enjoyed reading our interview with Andrew. For more information on how to future proof your club, head over to our resources page. 

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