I’m not going to lie. I was the first to reject the idea of online kids classes. Business coaches have been telling me since 2012 to launch an online studio, and it didn’t feel right.
For me, teaching children isn’t just about sweat, squats and scalability. I pursued a career in Physical Education and launched into kids fitness entrepreneurship because I hold deep core values for movement, social connections, interpersonal skills and the energy between human beings, all of which, until 2020, I didn’t believe could be done through screens.
By closing our doors and cancelling our in-person classes, the global pandemic restrictions forced me to reassess my beliefs and lean into my purpose, passions and calling.
I refused to let 2020 be the year where I succumb to the state of society because of my stubbornness. Instead, I used this perfectly pressurized space to ignite innovation.
Over the last 8 months, I’ve challenged myself to explore, learn and redefine how we as practitioners teach, develop and nurture personal and interpersonal skills through movement and play.
Viewing the virtual spaces that I used to see as disconnected, empty and superficial now as playgrounds where we can move, learn and connect with one another was the necessary shift that inspired the design and launch of our online play-based programs.
In these new virtual spaces, I realized that online classes:
Allow us to reach new clients (more than one million of them!)
Hello physical restrictions, but bye bye geographical limitation. Virtual classes allow our instructors to reach kids and families who would have never otherwise accessed classes. From reaching rural areas, to different provinces and even across continents, access to quality kids programs has become more accessible to more people from around the world.
Are convenient, in a different way, for parents
Remember those busy bustling schedules that parents used to endure? Driving around, navigating traffic, manoeuvring parking spots, calculating travel time… the physical demands of the after-school parent was significant. Through at-home virtual programs, parents get to maximize their scheduled time, get a glimpse of their child’s movement experiences and perhaps even join in for a shimmy, squat or stretch themselves!
Can be fun and engaging, when taught using best practice
Here’s the truth – whether you’re in-person or online, if the instructor doesn’t use child-centered teaching methods, the program quality will remain mediocre (and we don’t do mediocre at PL3Y Inc). Our instructing practices needed to adapt to the new screen-based platforms, and so I focused the restructuring of our program guidelines, teaching policies and instructor training courses on the same foundational pillars as I had built our award-winning in-person program: energy, engagement, confidence, self-expression and success for the child. I’m not talking about just the physical success, but their overall sense of joy, satisfaction, challenge, mastery, validation and social connection to support each child’s unique physical literacy journey.
Provide an opportunity for kids to have a different kind of meaningful connection with an instructor.
Yes, school teachers lead them through lessons each day, but through purposefully designed class plans, our instructors created more meaningful connections with participants. From first-name basis conversations through the screen, to individualized instruction and a variety of connection tools, we are redefining what it means to truly feel connected to one another.
I believe that all entrepreneurs come to a moment in their business where they face a challenge, and must reflect and decide which is greater: the challenge or their passion.
Although in-person classes will always hold the top spot in my heart, my unwavering commitment to my passions fuelled the restructuring of our offerings so that we can continue to deliver quality movement experiences for all kids, global pandemic or not.
The challenges of technology and physical restrictions were overshadowed by our shared commitment of providing safe and healthy spaces where kids can move their bodies, connect with one another, feel supported by caring leaders, grow along their physical literacy journeys, and in this case, stay “virtually’ awesome.