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Blog: Reigniting the Passions of the Ex-Athlete

A friend of mine runs a gymnastics program, and is counting the days until next summer. She knows the second that the Summer Olympic Games torch is lit in London, her phone is going to start ringing. And hers won't be the only phone, either - all over the nation, kids will be discovering new heroes and wanting to emulate them.

But the Olympics only come around once every four years, meaning sports like gymnastics don't get the spotlight all that often. Kids are fickle, too, and they can be quick to move on to the next diversion, whether it's sports, Scouts or something else.

My friend is well aware of this. She knows some of the little kids in her program will lose interest in a few months' time. But she's also a canny businesswoman, and she's learned that the Olympic torch lights up another flame - the one living in the hearts of many former gymnasts.

The first time little girls started coming in to learn basic tumbling, my friend saw their moms gathered at one end of the gym, looking wistful and talking about the years they'd spent on their school teams, or just doing gymnastics on their front lawns. They obviously loved those times, because they peppered my friend with questions about her own sports career, and they talked endlessly about who their Olympic heroes had been.

"It got me thinking," said my friend, "that I should offer a refresher course for grown-ups."

She floated the idea, and the moms came running. Now, every week, they show up for designated adults-only sessions. These formerly sedentary women are practicing their tumbling and using the equipment they remember from their glory days. They're doing gymnastics again, and loving it.

For my friend, it was an unexpected revenue stream. She could offer sessions during school hours (the traditional down time), and plow some money back into her facilities to keep them updated.

This is an idea that could work with any sports parents might have thought they outgrew. Maybe swimming or diving, maybe tennis - maybe your community has a number of former riders who would be excited to be reintroduced to equestrian skills training. Think outside your expected age group and demographic. Maybe there's a whole new group of athletes out there, and you just didn't notice them because they're not, strictly speaking, new.

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