A Recipe for Successful Youth Programs - Part 2

Side Dishes

Once staff members are engaged, there can really be some breakthrough programs. But a couple of other things should be kept in mind to ensure that everything goes well.

First, I’ve learned that one of the biggest mistakes is confusing enthusiasm for skill and competence. For example, a staff member who really loves hockey may be excited to offer a learn-to-skate program. On paper that looks good, but when the passionate staff member ends up looking like Bambi on ice during the first class, I know that things will probably not end well.

Second, there may be too much of a good thing. It’s like loving a certain type of pizza, but eating it every day loses its appeal. In youth programs, it’s the same when a great new program is offered too frequently, or is spun into other programs, or is loaded with kids in trying to keep up with demand. Strategically limiting offerings creates a buzz and leaves families with a positive perception of the programs, increasing the likelihood families will return.


To truly provide a stand-out experience for each participant,  follow up with each one in a meaningful way. Working with youth (and parents) is a relationship-oriented business, and nothing matters more than communication and interest. Online surveys are fine for gathering general impressions, but they do not compare to a face-to-face conversation, a phone call, or even a personalized email. By taking the time to solicit honest feedback, you are letting the families know they are valued and you really care. Just as a delicious piece of cake is a great end to a meal, a personalized opportunity to share and reflect on an experience is a perfect way to wrap up a program.