…to a Newbie, YOU are the face of your gym
Written by: Yolanda Schmidt
Being the Newbie anywhere is daunting, the anxieties are experienced by most. Entering a new environment, you place unnecessary pressure on yourself to make a good impression. I questioned various people who have been the Newbie in different situations, to put together a guide on how you can make the newcomer feel welcome. This is not limited to fighters entering a new Muaythai gym, rather any person entering a new environment. If you are an introvert by nature, chances are you suffer more than an extrovert.
This might be you, currently part of the furniture at your gym. Think back to when you first had your genius idea to try out a martial arts class, how long did it actually take to follow through with the idea? How did you feel when you first walked in and how do you feel now? At this moment you most likely walk in, everyone knows your name and you may even be one who others aspire to. So, how can you change the first impression left in a newcomer’s mind?
So let’s visualise, you as the Newbie.
You walk into the gym, there are battered boxing bags hanging along the wall, an intimidating ring or cage and a bunch of bad ass looking peeps generating loud, ghastly sounds as their gloves and shins thud against the pads. Now as if that’s not petrifying enough, you see the cliques and camaraderie between members, and are afraid to impose. You’re so nervous that, once your session commences, your coordination flies out of the window, and you fear looking like a complete idiot or negatively impacting another’s session. Is this you? It was me on my first day!
Talk about overwhelmed, then you have a crack at the hand wraps, figuring out the difference between focus mitts, Thai pads and kick shields, and being too shy to ask questions or clarify instructions. This is where you, as part of the furniture (fighter or not), should be more perceptive when there is a new face in the gym.
The common denominator among Newbies, that makes them feel welcome and leads to a greater return ratio, is to remember their name. Coming in second is to be approached and verbally welcomed by members and trainers. The third most common factor is a someone taking the time to get to know them a little better, through general conversation or on the topic of their past training experience. It’s the little things that make the big difference. You are the face of your gym! Remember there are no second chances for a first impression.
You can help minimize the anxiety.
Perhaps you are on the side preparing for your session when you notice someone struggling. Do you realise that taking those two minutes to help them out can be the decider on whether or not they return to your gym? Whether you assist with their technique, remind them what the combination was or give them an encouraging word, this can positively impact their session.
Introduce yourself and welcome those Newbies to your gym. Introduce them to others, and after the class ask how they went. You might be the reason they return to your gym. The environment at your gym is unique, the interaction, the banter, the vibe. While the trainers dictate this, you are responsible for maintaining the gym’s reputation as being a friendly and welcoming place instead of an egotistical, macho and intimidating environment. I think what makes a Muaythai gym different from other martial arts gyms, is the family orientated atmosphere.
You, as the more experienced one, have nothing to prove to a Newbie, they can see you’re the top dog, and a smile can go a long way. Help them out in sparring or with technique drills. Perhaps they are not a Newbie to the sport, but simply to the gym, this is no reason to smash them in sparring. Lead by example!
… You, as the more experienced one, have nothing to prove to a Newbie
Although in all fairness, some new comers with experience enter a gym and might need to be put in their place, and they might be the ones smashing you. There is a fine line between being an intimidating dirt bag and giving them a wakeup call. They might need the latter due to a stylistic difference, to allow for the adaptations to begin as they conform to the new gym’s way.
Advice to a Newbie
In any environment, advice to a Newbie would be firstly to sign up with a friend, as nerves are already eased when you know someone. Everyone started where you are today, so go in with an open mind and focus on yourself, as you are all there for the same reason, to learn, workout and have fun. You do not need to be fit to start Muaythai, your fitness will develop as you go. We all feel a weird shadow boxing, but it’s a chance to recall combinations you have learnt and try new ones. Be respectful of the environment you are entering and don’t be afraid to speak up if you are unsure about anything. Unfortunately, you may have some muscular aches and pains after your first session. Fret not, you will get used to the impact of the pads and use of new muscles, building a stronger, fitter and healthier you.
No one likes a gym hopper and loyalty is highly regarded in the Muaythai gym culture. Yet, choosing your gym is not easy; it’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of scenario. A gym is like you favourite pair of jeans, so you may need to trial classes at various gyms to find your fit. Although you generally know within minutes of entering the gym that you have found your second home. Find one where you can build genuine relationships with the trainers and other members.
One person can impact any new comer, positively or negatively, so take a minute to empathise, remember your first day and be the face of your gym.
Written by Yolanda Schmidt
Muaythai Fighter : 32 Fights (25W-6L-1D-9KO)
WKN Australian title, WMC NSW State Title, WKA Australian Title, Thapae Stadium title, 2x MTA Gold medalist (2014, 2015), 2x IFMA Bronze medalist (2015, 2016), Australian Female Muaythai Fighter of the year 2015, Australia’s most inspirational fighter of the year 2016