Why you should be tracking attendance at your martial arts school

Checking-in with a code or a membership card is a very common practice at fitness gyms. I haven’t seen it done often at martial arts schools, until I joined my current academy which does just that. At first I considered it a hassle – I knew all of the staff personally after the first week, so there should no need to verify my membership every time.

As it turns out though, there are significant benefits to tracking attendance, for both the instructors and the students.

Tracking Progress

Tracking a student’s progress over time can be difficult for instructors, more so if there are many members at the school. Some people stand out more than others, and some have a tendency to fall between the cracks, getting passed over for promotions and perhaps feeling like they’re not making progress.

Obviously, we don’t train for promotions, and especially in full-contact sports like Judo and BJJ, performance on the mat is all that matters. However, using attendance data can help instructors know who to pay closer attention to in class. Are they on the cusp of getting to the next level? Or are they training inefficiently? Knowing how much mat time a person has put in can be very helpful, especially when the same instructor has to keep track of dozens, and even hundreds of students.

The same goes for the students – knowing how much time they have been spending at the gym can help them orient themselves with their training goals. Are they training as much as they think do? Are they making progress relative to the time they put into the sport? Knowing those parameters can help students identify problems in their training and address it, instead of just chugging along with no clear indicators of progress to go on.

Identifying students who are struggling

Tracking attendance also helps instructors and school owners know when a member has not been showing up as often, or not showing up at all! It’s harder to keep track of who is not there, aside from the regulars which you expect at every class.

There are many reasons why people stop showing up – from problems at home, financial reasons, injuries, or falling out of love with the sport. Instructors who are attentive can help out, and at the very least make sure students know they can come back at any time to train. I’ve seen personally many people miss a bit of time and then just never come back because they feel they got too far behind their peers. A talk with an instructor can help break through those mental traps and get people back on the mats.

Similarly, keeping up with people who got injured makes them feel like you care. It’s easier to avoid people falling through the cracks if you have actual data about who has been missing class.

Insights on your schedule and instructors

Attendance data is also helpful for learning more about how your academy is performing. What classes have higher attendance than others? What classes are mostly empty? And in the case of multiple instructors, which instructors attract more students to their classes?

Most gym owners have a general sense about these kind of questions, but having actual data can confirm or debunk your gut feeling, and allow you to make better decisions for optimizing your schedule and staff, which is important for making your school a successful and sustainable business.

How to track attendance

There are many online services that enable attendance tracking, from dedicated attendance software to integrated solutions like ours. Typically students check-in at the front desk using a numeric code or magnetic membership card, and their attendance is then logged in the software for later review.

Ideally, when a student checks-in, the software also logs which session he is checking-in to. This allows the gym manager to later review per-session data which can be used to improve the schedule and review instructors’ performance / popularity. Not many services provide this functionality, which in my opinion is very important and that is why we added it to our attendance tracking feature.

Our attendance tracking interaction looks like this –

Attendance tracking

Having attendance tracking integrated with your school management software has the benefit of connecting attendance data to the member data you have. This allows you to view individual member attendance data in the context of their overall profile, and also compare it with important events such as promotions, competitions and so forth.

Reporting functionality is also important when picking a solution – the benefits of tracking attendance disappear if getting interesting data out of it is too complicated for day-to-day use, and which is why we put so much effort into making it as user-friendly as possible in our software.

It’s never too late to start

Even if you haven’t been tracking attendance at your school so far, there’s no reason not to start doing it right now. It might take a small adjustment period for students (it took me a couple of weeks to get used to it when I moved to a school that does it), but after that it becomes second nature, and the benefits are many.

Do you track attendance at your school? If not, why not? Let us know in the comments below!

Published by

Eran Galperin

Eran has been developing software for close to 15 years, and training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for almost a decade. After starting and running web ventures in various industries, Eran has decided to combine his passion for the martial arts with his technical skills to create MA on Rails, a service for managing martial arts academies.