The Kids First 24 Points
We refer to our Company’s value system as The Kids First 24 Points. The #1 responsibility of each employee in Our Company, from President to the most junior trainee, is ‘stewardship of the Kids First 24 Points.’ Many companies speak of its values. At Kids First, we live our values. They guide us in Company direction, program design and our hiring decisions as well as in our personal interactions.
...To help kids grow into happy, healthy, responsible adults.
7 Unifying Principles
1. Respect...To respect each individual unconditionally.
2. Trust...To be trustworthy, trust others & exemplify integrity.
3. Teamwork...To work together as a unit, solving problems through collaboration.
4. Forthrightness...To communicate in an open, objective, straightforward manner: (1) In disagreements, go directly to and only to the person who can solve the problem; (2) Think not of ‘tact’ but of equal parts respect and candor; (3) Seek ﬁrst to understand the other party’s perspective before sharing your own.
5. Growth and Innovation...To pursue perpetual growth through constant innovation.
6. Respect for the Company...To respect: (1) The Company’s image; (2) The Company’s assets; (3) The Company’s value system.
7. Balance...To seek balance in business and in life.
11 Teaching Principles
1. Unconditional Respect
2. Keep the Kids Safe
3. Clearly Communicate Expectations
4. Catch Kids Doing Things Right
5. Discipline with Natural Consequences
6. Be Enthusiastic
7. Daily Challenges
8. Daily Successes
9. Perpetual Motion
10. Creativity, Variety, Fun
11. Love, Empathy, Compassion
5 Hiring Mantras
1. Hire the character, train the skill.
2. We shall go short stafed before we go poorly stafed.
3. Hire and promote from within.
4. When in doubt, do not hire.
5. When faced with people problems, act swiftly, seeking to do the greatest good for the greatest number.
More on Our Mission
Our ultimate goal, our guiding principle, the single thought that drives everything we do from programming to the way we interact with the children is…to help kids grow into happy, healthy, responsible adults.
In the initial years of our Company we had what we called an Underlying Teaching Philosophy, “Nothing is more important than your child’s self-esteem.” We believed then and we believe now in the value of a healthy self-esteem.
However, in the early 80’s the word ‘self-esteem’ became overused and the original concept got hijacked. As we saw it, self-esteem refers to a person’s sense of worth. As the word ‘self-esteem’ became ‘buzzed,’ the public began to interpret it as ‘always feeling good about yourself.’ From there it was short, easy hop to interpret self-esteem as ‘protecting a child from disappointments,’ a notion we disagree with.
We believe that protecting a young child from disappointments does nothing other than strip the child of the skills necessary to handle life’s inevitable bigger disappointments. Protecting a child from the consequences of their actions is one of the worst mistakes a parent, teacher or coach can make (unafordable consequences such as physical harm or permanent emotional damage being exceptions.)
We knew we wanted to do ‘good things for kids’ and as we sought to ﬁnd the essence of ‘doing good,’ the notion of being genuinely happy kept reappearing. We observed that habitually irresponsible children tended to become troubled, unhappy adults and responsible children tended to grow into healthy, happy adults. We concluded that happiness is a worthy goal and ‘responsibility’ is the foundation of happiness. We further deﬁned responsibility as ‘the habit of making choices that bring joy and harmony into one’s life in the long run.’
Our conviction in our deﬁnition of responsibility was strengthened when some decades ago we learned about the Stanford Marshmallow Study. This experiment followed children from age 4 through adulthood and concluded that the primary determinant for satisfaction in life is not intelligence, educational attainment or job status. It is the ability to delay gratiﬁcation, to set aside the pleasures of the moment in favor of happiness and joy in the long run. You might enjoy this comical video of how these 4 year olds handled the situation...Kids Marshmallow Experiment - YouTube.
More on The 7 Unifying Principles
In the early 80’s, after a few years in business, we realized our young Company could beneﬁt from behavior code that applied to all who chose to be part of the Company, employee, student, parent, alike.
After much reﬂection, retrospection and research we identiﬁed ﬁrst ﬁve principles, Respect, Trust, Teamwork, Forthrightness, Growth and Innovation. In the mid 90’s we found a need to add our 6th principle, Respect for the Company. After rebranding from Queen City Gymnastics to Kids First Sports Center in 1998 we found the need to add our 7th principle, Balance.
At ﬁrst, our principles did little more than occupy ink on a page. As time went on, their value became clearer and our conviction to them grew. Today, The 7 Unifying Principles have been indelibly woven into the fabric of our Company. We lead by them, live by them and make little and big decisions by them.
We have taught The 7 Unifying Principles at the GymClub Owners‘ BOOT CAMP since, 1991 and are proud that many gymnastics schools across the nation have adopted our Unifying Principles as their own.
More on The 11 Teaching Principles
The impetus behind The 11 Teaching Principles was a feeling of being ‘in over our head’ after moving into the brand new 86,000sf Kids First Sports Center in 1998. In creating Kids First, we knew we had done something exceptional, something no other organization in the USA had even come close to. But we felt unprepared. We were conﬁdent in gymnastics, as it had been our focus for decades. But here we were, in a brand new super-facility, about to teach a list of sports and activities as long as your arm.
As a solution, in September, 1998, while ‘the paint was still drying,’ a group of a half dozen key employees agreed to gather in our brand new conference room every other Tuesday for as long as it took to accomplish the following goal:
To identify the things that Our Company had done over the previous 25 years, that other organizations hadn’t, that allowed us to grow into this super-facility. And then to distill the ﬁndings on paper in a format that was teachable to every employee in every sport and activity.
The results, after many weeks, were The 11 Teaching Principles.
Interesting side note: The ﬁrst of The 11 Teaching Principles, Unconditional Respect, is identical to the ﬁrst of The 7 Unifying Principles. The debate whether to duplicate or not lasted an entire meeting.
More on The 5 Hiring Mantras
Unlike our other principles, the 5 Hiring Mantras came about one at a time, the ﬁrst one in 1989. That explains why they are called ‘mantras’—because, originally, for about a decade there was only one. An arguably better name might be ‘The 5 Hiring Disciplines,’ as their primary purpose is to provide us the discipline to hire carefully. But tradition has won out, and rightfully so.
When teaching about hiring at The GymClubOwners’ BOOT CAMP, we stress that The 5 Hiring Mantras represent 90% of all one needs to know about hiring because the most important skill is the discipline to say ‘no’. The 5 Hiring Mantras exist to give us that discipline.
A little about our ﬁrst and grounding mantra, Hire the Character, Train the Skill: It is important to make the point ‘character’ does not refer to the simple deﬁnition, honesty and integrity. Honesty and integrity are a great start, but to us, ‘character’ means alignment with our value system, The 24 Points. Succinctly put, we believe you cannot teach that thing called character. Character must come with the package. Hire the character, train the skill.