Considering a new name, new space or new approach? These changes can shake up your gym and open up new possibilities. We spoke with Allyson Moore, owner of Okemah, OK-based Victory Elite Athletics, about her decision to move to a new city and focus only on tiny/junior teams rather than offering senior teams.
What changes have you been making? We started out in Shawnee, about an hour west from where we are right now. I knew in my heart what I wanted for my program and the values that I wanted my kids to learn—but, for some reason, the area that we were in didn’t seem to share those things with me. I had a lot of trouble keeping parents committed and getting them to respect my rules and my philosophy itself, so that became really challenging, especially since I was so young.
We ended up opening a second location 45 minutes east in Okemah, which is blossoming. When we were in Shawnee, we added power tumbling and ended up having a really bad experience with the group that came into my gym. I was at the point where I just wanted to close that gym and just deal with Okemah, but I had a lot of good families, and I didn’t want to give up on their kids. But then we ended up having an issue where someone stole a little bit of money, and I just thought, “This is not for me. I’m done.” It made the decision so much easier to close my business there and really focus on the one where the people shared the same values as I did.
We outgrew Okemah so fast that we could not find a building to accommodate us. We finally found a 17,000 square-foot facility that was absolutely perfect, where we can do cheer camps and things like that. Now that we’re here, I’ve stuck to my philosophy that this is a faith-based program; I don’t let people run over me. I have to be very firm even though it is so difficult sometimes.
How has focusing on a faith-based philosophy affected your business? I ended up gaining so many people because they love those values. Once we moved, I was a lot more vocal about it; I wasn’t afraid to turn people away because they weren’t being honest or they were sitting in our parent room and bullying kids. A lot of people have said to me, “We love coming to your gym because you don’t care about politics. I know that my child is going to be treated fairly by you, regardless of whoever else’s child comes in here.” And that’s what I try to do: I want every child to be treated equally. When kids come into the program, they respect each other. I guess I’m just old-fashioned in my discipline, but that has really seemed to be the difference. I think once you stick to your values, your kind of people come to you, and that’s how you blossom. Looking back, that’s exactly what’s happened with us.
Why did you decide to focus on tiny and junior teams? When we were in Shawnee, it was very difficult to get younger athletes—it just happened to be a lot of older kids. Here in Okemah, it’s all younger kids. If I had a great junior/senior team walk through my door, I would work incredibly hard with them, but with our younger kids, I’ve had the ability to truly train them up under our values and philosophy, and then they’re more coachable as they get older. In just three years, they’ve really grown as a family and that’s exciting to watch.
What advice would you give another gym owner who’s making changes? You have to find your kind of people. You would think that everybody would share the same values as far as work ethic and respect, but unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there that don’t do that anymore. [Be a gym] that’s loyal and abides by the rules, doesn’t cheat, doesn’t recruit—to me, that’s what has made us successful.
Do you have any advice for someone who’s moving to a new gym? Make absolutely sure that before you open the doors, you figure out your philosophy, your long-term goals, and your mission statement, and stick to them no matter what. It doesn’t matter who comes through those doors or what political influence they have on others—stick to who you truly are, and I truly believe that God will bring you the right people. Our move has been a complete life-changing experience for my husband and me. I enjoy it more than I could’ve ever imagined.