[Webinar] Scheduling Classes for Optimal Results

Webinar Overview

One of the biggest challenges of growing a school comes with class scheduling. Identifying when and how to optimally schedule classes and manage your instructors is something that can impact new signups, retention, student and instructor satisfaction.

We're honored to have Master Ingrid Katzberg, North American kickboxing champion and founder of Champions Academy, share her expertise. Master Katzberg manages the largest martial arts and fitness school in Canada and is an expert consultant on operational efficiency and staff management.

In this webinar, Master Katzberg will walk through:

  • Managing instructors and building bench strength
  • Scheduling classes for optimal days and times
  • Evaluating when to divide classes by rank, level and age
  • The importance of scheduling promotions

About the Speaker

Master Ingrid Katzberg
Master Ingrid Katzberg is the founder and head instructor at Champions Academy, serving the North Vancouver community since 1992. With over 10,000 square feet of training space on three floors, it is the largest martial arts and fitness school in Canada. Champions Academy has been rated one of the top schools in Canada and won numerous awards over the past two-and-a-half decades.

Video Transcript

Pei En: Hi everyone, we'll get started today. Good morning/afternoon/evening to everyone today depending on where you are. Welcome to today's webinar on Scheduling Classes For Optimal Results with Master Ingrid. I'm Pei En and I'm your host for today. Before we get started, let's do a quick sound check. If you can hear me, please type 'yes' into the chat box now. Perfect, lots of yes's coming, great, looks like we're all set.

Welcome, everyone! I'll just give a quick rundown of who we are for those of you who are joining us for the first time and not familiar with ChampionsWay or PerfectMind. Our all-in-one martial arts management software is used by thousand of schools worldwide and enables school owner to manage memberships, billing, belt ranks and promotions, email marketing, reporting, and more from a single cloud-based platform. We simplify web management and online marketing services for martial arts schools and a variety of other businesses. We've been active in the martial arts community for more than 15 years and provide free martial art webinars like the one you're watching today, e-books, blog posts, and more. If you'd like to learn more about us, visit our website at championsway.com and find out more about us.

So enough about us, let's introduce our very special presenter for today. Scheduling classes with students of different belt ranks, ages, and levels can be tricky when you're figuring out how to best manage your resources. This is why we're here today and we have a very special presenter who's going to shed some light on this topic. We're thrilled to have here Master Ingrid, a North American kickboxing champion, founder and head instructor for Champions Academy to be here with us today. Master Ingrid is an expert on running a successful martial arts school and that has been proven by Champions Academy having won numerous awards over the past two decades, so be prepared for a very valuable lesson today. Thank you again Master Ingrid for joining us, we're very excited to have you share your expertise with us. Without further ado, let's get started with this webinar. Please take it away, Master Ingrid!

Master Ingrid: Thank you very much, Pei. Hi, everybody! Thank you very much for joining me today. As we said we're going to be talking about scheduling classes for optimal results. As you guys know, this is such an important topic because this is all about everything that has to do with your school, making sure you're available when students can come to your classes. And not only that is maximizing the amount of space that you have, building on people that you have in order to make sure that you're growing at a good rate.

The first thing we were going to talk about is Managing Instructors and Building Bench Strength, because as you know we can't go and put a post up on social media, and hire an instructor. We have to hire from *within* because we want to make sure that the person who's going to lead our classes and take over certain classes from us shares our values, our core, and of course our curriculum to benefit our students the best.

I just want to mention before we get started, all of these things you probably all know. We all know what we should do, we all know what we should be doing, we all know the importance of all the topics we're going to talk about, and I think it's just like good reminder, and sometimes making a change to some of the things that we want to, that's where we need a little bit of help on. So everything we're going to go over today is just suggestions on maybe things you're already doing, and maybe just changing it a little bit, tweaking it here and there. Or completely looking at the way you're doing things and these are "Okay, I can do this. No, I don't like this idea."


So this is all open. My suggestions are what have worked for us of course, and this is what we're going to be sharing with you guys today.

As far as managing instructors, we all know that we need motivated, inspired, energetic instructors on the floor. When students come in to the school, they're probably coming from a stressful day. They're tired, they've worked all day, they've had to go deal with their children, and now they're getting to class. Or children go to school, they've had all their issues at school, now they're coming to class or their parents are forcing them to class. We want to make sure when they walk in the door, maybe they're feeling that, but when they leave, they're going to be leaving with a smile on their face. They're going to feel so pumped up that they're going to want to come back. In order to get that done, our instructors have to make sure that they lead this motivating, exciting, energetic classes. Keeping our instructors on track - that's the key.

If we just leave our instructors on their own, they're going to go through everything that we go, stresses that we get burned out, we lose interest sometimes, we run out of ideas like how many different ways can I teach a front kick. So we have to be able to make sure that they're always on point. Having meetings with our instructors is key. We do monthly meetings and it's just a way for instructors to get together. Sometimes we just play a game. Sometimes we do like martial arts Bingo, sometimes we do Taboo. We do different things to not only build a team and make sure that everybody has each other's back, that everybody works well together. If somebody is out, another person will [say] no problem jump in for them and teach their class. But also we need to inspire them continuously and remind them, "Look, your job is so important. We're not a coach only. We're not just standing in front of class counting, giving them drills. We're trying to shape them into a successful, powerful, confident human being." That's the thing that we have in our hands. We have such an important role. In order for our instructors to pass that on, they also need to be motivated and inspired. Who else to do that but you, their instructor. Our instructors need *us* to motivate them - how we teach their classes, how we pump them up, we need to get them to do the same thing for their own students. Nothing motivates them better than you re-affirming why they are teaching martial arts, and the important role they play in shaping our students' lives.

In order to build our instructors, not only do we need to make sure that we're picking up those gold nuggets - that's what we call them "gold nuggets". Gold nuggets are those students that you see in class that are always there. They're always energetic, they have a smile on their face, they're pumped, they're motivated, they try hard. These are the people that you look at and you say, "You know what that's going to be a potential future instructor." These are the people you approach and the people that you start putting through an assistant instructor program.

We've come up with our assistant instructor program, and that's how we train our instructors to become an instructor one day of their own class. That's when we talk about the courses. We have courses, we run them regularly, and we divide it into three levels - 3rd assistant instructors, 2nd, and 1st. Each assistant instructor has its own role.

When we first approach somebody if they want to become an assistant instructor, we approach them, they say yes, we take a look at the schedule, and right away we put them into a class so they can shadow another assistant instructor plus the instructor. Their task is very minimal in class, but we want them to get a feel for it, we want to make sure that it works with their schedule. So we get them to do things like doing the warm-up and making sure that everybody scanned their card. So they help us out a little bit with anything.

Then we move up to the 2nd assistant instructors. They're the guys who have a little bit more experience. They've gone through the courses, and they can help one-on-one, to help out students who need a little bit extra help, help with all those floor charts, those non-active students that haven't come, making sure that somebody spends one-on-one time in class with them, they can help you set up the drills in class, etc.

And then the 1st assistant instructor. They can actually help you out interpreting the curriculum, running the class smoothly, helping prepare students for exams, for testing, doing the progress checks, helping you with striping, those kinds of things.


Of course you divide it any way you like, but you have some form that they have to also grow in their martial arts, like they get a stripe or they get a next rank. They get promoted into being a 3rd assistant instructor, then they put in, for example 50 hours of volunteer time being a 3rd assistant instructor. Then they move up, they take the course, they take the final test, they become a 2nd assistant instructor. They do the same thing as 2nd and they become a 1st.

Then you always have somebody as a backup. So if one of your instructors leave, you have somebody qualified ready to go. Students know them, parents know them, they've already been in classes for months and months with these other instructor, they can take over, of course depending on ranks, etc. We usually try to have the assistant instructors be at least three belts higher than the class they're assisting in. That way it looks good, they know all the curriculum for the three belts below them, so we don't have any challenge where they're the same belt level and people will not respect them or parents will think, "Well this person doesn't know more than my child or etc."

Then the training, like we were saying. We divide it into courses, so we have two sections of the training. We have theory, which is an actual written courses, outlining all the responsibilities for each level. This includes little quizzes test. It outlines all the needed information for them to comply with their responsibilities according to their level.

Then of course we have the practical, making sure they're actually in to one or two classes every single week. And then they need certain amount of hours right to pass from each level, and there to get hands-on experience. Of course each instructor in each level is responsible for their assistant instructors, so they can give them different tasks on a regular basis to help them grow into becoming an instructor in the future.

This will ensure that the whole team is following your curriculum and teaching the technical portion of your art to your expectation. We're basically trying to replicate us, ourselves - trying to replicate what we believe in, how we teach things, and what our expectations are from our students. Because we know if we rely only on ourselves, there's so much we can do and there's so many classes we can teach, and that's as far as we're going to get. If we want to grow, that means that we have to have people to help us. It doesn't always have to be about paying people. All these people are volunteers and they know. If they teach more than two or three classes a week, then you can start doing something with their membership without even having to pay them at all until the future, because really they're learning a skill for a future career.

It has worked very well for us. We've been doing it since we've started. We're going to celebrate our 25th anniversary next year at Champions and we're super excited about that, and it's worked really well for us. Right now our instructor team is 17 full time instructors. What I mean by full time instructors is they teach their own classes, they're black belt instructors teaching their own classes, responsible for their own students. And then we have 35 assistant instructors.

These are all people who are going through these courses and are helping us every week in classes. We start them at about 16 years old and older. We have a few younger that help us with the little kids classes, but we don't really get them through the course until they're about 16. It really works well for us.

Right now we have a gentleman who's going to be testing for black belt next in May. That means his class will have to be taken over because his class conflicts with his own class. So the assistant in his class is ready to take it over, and we already know that a year ahead of time. We're building this guy, we're testing him a little faster, he's going through the course a little bit faster in order for him to take over the class. Students know him, they respect him as an instructor already even though he's actually only at intermediate belt level. So it doesn't necessarily have to be a black belt either teaching every single class.

That was the first thing that I thought would be important because in order to have different classes, different times, and separating it the way to be the most successful for growth is you need enough people in order to do that.

The next thing we're going to be talking about is days, times, and weekly versus bi-weekly. We're going to start with the days. Selecting the right days of your class of course is key to success.


Scheduling classes one or two days in between is important. We want to give students a break in-between each class. Back-to-back classes isn't the best ideal situation, especially if they're coming like twice a week and then you don't see them again till next week. We want to give them a little bit of a break in-between, and keeping in mind that for future growth and to keep your schedule open, classes should be a maximum of one hour. Most of our classes are 45 minutes long. Only on our advanced like black belts and low black which is the one right before black belt in our style is 1.5 hour class, but all our other classes are 45 minutes. It's a push sometimes, sometimes it's like "Oh time went by so fast!" but it's the only way that you are going to be able to grow and have a potential of eight classes every single day starting at 4 o'clock. The only way to manage that is to make sure you give your classes a good time. So you have to think of that when you start really looking at the future, and seeing the days and times that you're going to be able to run classes.

Talking about times, as everybody knows our most important hours are from 3:30 to 9:30 P.M. every day. Offering classes after school, after work, before work, early morning class, a 6:30 in the morning class, and weekends, is key. So making yourself as available as possible is what's needed in order to grow, even offering a lunch hour class. Sometimes it's scary to open up a new class because you have to have somebody there to open up your school, you have to have an instructor. If you're relying on yourself or one more person, it's perfect because you can make your own time. What we do in order before we start a new class is we get signups. We kind of say okay what would be required in order to start a new class? Let's say five registered people and then we'll start the new class. That way you don't risk anything. If five people register for that class, at least you have enough to pay for the instructor of the class or someone to come in and open, whatever your scenario is.

The other important thing to do is to think about offering an adult class and a kids class at the same time. If space allows you and you have another person to help you that would be ideal, because when somebody comes and registers a child, you can say, "By the way you can train at the same time as them." Not necessarily in the same class but they can train at the same time. So now from one student, you're going to get two or three. So trying to offer like a combination class is perfect. Sometimes, like on Thursdays at 6 o'clock we have adult class, a kids class which is 3 - 6-year-old, we have a youth class, and then we have an advance class. We kind of have four classes going at the same time but it open up the door to so many parents signing up and coming at the same time as either their kid who's very young, and then their older child, and then themselves. So if you're able to that would be ideal. We're going to talk about division of classes and the ideas to do that a little bit later.

The next topic I wanted to discuss, because it comes up all the time regularly from other events people are kind of used to, is weekly versus bi-weekly. Sometimes people come in, "Well I just want to bring my son or daughter once a week, or I can only train once a week, I'm really busy." I usually don't even want to register people for one week because we all know that when they come once a week, you don't see them for six days. Anything that you've taught them is going to go out the window. When they come back, they have to re-learn everything. Especially if we're talking about kids 3 - 6-year-olds, youth, even adults. Imagine to learning the form and then coming back one week later you have to re-teach them all over again. And that's going to be a back and forth. If they're planning to get in shape, if their thing is to lose weight, to whatever it is, how can they do that coming once a week, right. So it's encouraging and only offering the bi-weekly at least as a minimum is key, and not encouraging small memberships, short-term membership, three months' membership. You can accomplish nothing in a short-term membership. They're not going to learn or grow, or understand even what martial arts in three months. They're still a baby, they're crawling, they haven't even learned how to walk in three months in martial arts. So the same kind of idea with what kind of membership you're offering.


I just wanted to mention that because I know that that comes up in a lot of other activities do offer the once-a-week so they're kind of used to that. But really selling the twice-a-week membership is going to be key to keeping their interest for them growing and being motivated. Once a week is kind of like very casual kind of experience.

We're going to move on to division of classes. This I think was probably the most successful thing for us and I think this has really enabled us to grow, is dividing our classes by rank. Right now we're able to offer a class for white belts, yellow belts, high yellow belts, orange belts, like every single [belt] - we have 12 ranks in our style and we can offer a class for every single belt level. That's so nice because especially for adults I find when they come in and they have not done anything before, they're a little bit out of shape and concerned about, especially for us, kickboxing - "Oh I have to be in great shape," having a white belt class only is such a nice way to introduce it to people who are a little bit afraid of the whole idea of even committing or trying out martial arts. If possible, having a class for each rank is great.

Now we're talking about space, we're talking about bench strength having those instructors. That's why having an instructor team in place is so important, having those asisstant instructors, having those extra people. Because you can be there, you can have one floor, one main instructor and have three other people helping you out and you're able to do this. Let's say at 3:30 or 4 o'clock you have the little kids, they could come in and you can have all these different ranks, like two or three different ranks going on at the same time if you have that help. You can do it all on one floor. And instead of having 15 or 18 kids in one class, you're dividing them now to three different groups for example. Imagine the potential of growth that each student has because they're only learning their curriculum. We know that growth equals motivation. Getting a stripe equals encouragement. Getting that next belt equals "Yes, I'm moving forward!" That's the most important thing. It's when they don't grow, they don't learn their things, they're not tested on time, that's when they get de-motivated, and that's when people don't want to come anymore. They stop having fun, they stop learning. So dividing classes is the most important thing, focusing on what they need to learn.

The next one is levels. "There's no way, impossible that I can do it according to ranks, there's no way, I have no people, I have no space." Okay levels - let's do beginner, intermediate, advance, at least. You know the two or three belt levels as a beginner - white belt, yellow belt, and whatever the other belt level is, then intermediate, and then advance. At least a white belt isn't jumping into a class with red belt and a black belt all at once.

Sometimes that might seem like cool, that's awesome, I'm going to go, but it won't work for everybody. And then remember, we know that the person coming into martial arts --martial arts is still to this day, is still revered as a real mysterious kind of art, and that's a good thing. We want our students to look forward to becoming a black belt. We want them to look forward to becoming an advance belt. We want them to look forward to learning that weapon or doing that spin kick. If they're mixed up in a class and everybody's doing the same thing or they're standing right beside the person's doing a jump flying kick, they're going to feel like there's nothing for them to reach forward to in the future, there's nothing for them to aspire to, to gain. That's kind of the other downfall in mixing everybody up together. So if possible by levels is great.

The next one is ages. We know children have different needs than youth, youth have different needs than adults. We want to shape our children into being confident, empowered, respectful. We want to build a great community. Martial arts is the best tool that we have in order to achieve this. How can we talk about discipline, respect, or respecting your parents in a class with different ages? We have to talk to children 3 - 6-year-olds very differently than we talk to an 8-year-old. Our tone of voice, the way we approach it, the way we talk about it is different.


Being able to offer a separation is important. We want to make sure that they have fun, we want to make sure that we end every single class with a game for the kids, even with the youth. We want to make sure they leave having fun. So this requires that split up. Teenagers get pushed in sometimes to be taught with adults and they never learn any lessons of life. They still need to learn. The young girls need to learn to have respect for themselves. We need to talk about bully with them, we need to talk about confidence with them. We have to talk to them about different topics that we never get a chance to talk to in adult classes.

These are things to consider when you're dividing your classes and you're thinking about looking at your schedule and see okay what can I do in order to be appealing, offer a great time, but also where am I going to make the most difference in my students' lives, how am I really going to mould them, shape them and so forth. Okay so that was about division of classes.

The final one that I wanted to finish off with was the importance of scheduling promotions - why is it important, how often should I do it. It's so important, we all know growing, getting a stripe, getting the belt is a highlight of every student's martial arts journey to black belt. Black belt's the ultimate in the degrees but before that they have a long way to go. In order to keep them motivated, they have to continuously grow, continuously learn. Part of that is knowing, part of that is anticipating this test coming up, so they need to know ahead of time. "Okay, you are coming up for a promotion testing, exam, whatever you want to call it. You're coming up in a couple of months. I need to see a better attendance, I need to see this, I need to see that." I went up the other day and talk to a parent, "Your child should test at the end of November but you know he's not so focusing in class lately. What's going on?" I found out he was having a hard time at home, he was having a hard time at school. So we talked about it with the parent, we're going to get him ready to go for the end of next month. Without knowing when he's supposed to test, now he has some kind of goal. He's got encouraged with the mom is onboard, the dad's onboard. They're going to make sure to help him, to make sure they bring him to more classes. He was missing so many classes, so how can I get him ready for tests if he doesn't come.

Scheduling ahead of time is not only good for your calendar of events for your school, but also for them. They need to know what to work on, how to get ready, how to push. If students are studying at school for mid-term, they need to know ahead of time. I've got three weeks, I've got to do all my homework. You have to prepare with the same. We're as important as school. So scheduling things ahead of time and letting them know is super important.

How often? Of course it depends on your curriculum, on your style, on your requirements per belt level. We have one every month, doesn't mean everybody test every month, but we offer testing day every single month. We alternate between a Wednesday night and a Thursday night. We go from 4 - 10 or 11 o'clock, depending on the ranks that are testing, and we do it every month. Sometimes we have 75 people testing. This month we have 99 people coming up, tonight is our testing, and we've got 99 people scheduled.

We test them according to their own rank and according to the waiting period. But they know ahead of time when they're supposed to test. We have a yearly calendar that we give out and all the testing are set up for the whole year. This way people plan, especially parents, they have so many activities. Adults have work, they have to maybe take off a little bit early from work, they have to plan ahead of time. So not only scheduling for your sake but scheduling for them is very important. Then you'll have people making sure that they actually show up for their testing.

Division of promotions. It's kind of the same idea as classes. We offer at 4 - 5 o'clock we do the little kids test from 3 - 6-year-olds. And then from 5 - 6 o'clock we do beginner youth. 6 - 7 [o'clock] more advance youth. 7 o'clock beginner adults until 8:00 or 8:30. And then we do intermediate advance adults after that. We kind of divide it that way. Testing is fun, it's short, it's sweet, we highlight all our students, their parents and their peers get to come and cheer them on, appreciate everything that they've learned since their last belt, and they're out.


We don't drag it on like three or four hours on everybody like we used to and then we changed it. We looked in the back and people are like they don't know what to do. They're sitting, they're rocking in the back, and parents are like yawning, it's too long. So we try to keep it short, exciting and fast-paced, so that it's a good experience. Because they're already nervous, a little bit nerve wrecking. It's exciting but also, especially adults get nervous about it. How many adults really on their daily life have to perform physically in front of an audience, right. And get graded on it and get picked apart by their peers, their instructors and everybody, right. So it is stressful so we try to make it as stress-free as possible, as exciting as fast-paced as possible, so that it becomes a good experience. I think that was the things that I wanted to go over today. I will throw it back Pei.

Pei En: Awesome! Thank you, Master Ingrid, that was a great webinar. You gave some great advice that's going to save all the school owners listening a lot of time and planning in how to manage the class scheduling and the instructors. I particularly found what you said about finding those golden nuggets and the motivated students to be potential instructors really interesting. That was a concept I didn't think about. And also having those combination classes with adults and kids at the same time, that was great. You really shed some interesting things today for the webinar. Thank you so much for sharing all your insight. I'm sure I can speak for everyone when I say that. We all had some great takeaways from your presentation.