You did it! You successfully opened a gym or created a clothing brand or did whatever one does to create value in the parkour community these days. Hopefully you’re crushing it on Instagram in those DMs and maximizing your Facebook Ads but sooner or later you’re gonna have to get people excited in person about your product or brand. That means you’ll need to throw an event for your audience, and let’s hope you know who you’re reaching out to. This article will go over some thoughts about which kind of event you should throw given the size and scope of your audience. Let’s get it going.
For the sake of the article let’s separate our events into a few different categories: jams, competitions, workshops and retreats. Jams refer to any one time (weekend) gatherings with the pure intention of everyone getting together and sharing their training. It doesn’t matter if it’s an annual national jam or a monthly open gym session – a jam means you’re welcoming anyone and everyone that wants to train. Competitions would obviously be a slightly different target audience than the more general jam target is, but you still want as many people as possible to compete (better leave extra time for the speed round tho). Competitions are a great way to challenge your local community with out of state talent as these types of events tend to motivate athletes that want to really better themselves. Competitions could also extend to small bands testing in the gym for local athletes to pass certain tests and trials that allow them better karate status in the dojo and whatnot.
Workshops shall be defined as any gathering that has the primary goal of educating the attendees, this could also extend to coaching certification events. Workshops fall closely in line with a bands test, insofar as each athlete is expected to demonstrate certain movements over the course of the event with the hope of improving that skill or testing themselves against the given challenges. Workshops represent an excellent opportunity for both individual coaches as well as gyms because it changes up the local routine a bit. And last but certainly not least, the art of Retreat creation may be the most valuable for creating community culture of all – the extended length and nature of retreats allows for more conversation and exchanging of ideas so the sport can expand in a way that it would not purely sharing in jumps with others (which is obviously still the best part). Retreats can be even more targeted of an audience than competitions are as you are specifically addressing a certain sub niche of the community in most cases. Let’s dive in!
JAMS (like Hubbable or Beast Coast)
So. Who’s coming to a jam and why are they coming there? This depends largely on when and where the event will take place. For example, Hubbable may be the first time many athletes have trained outside in a few months because the winter in the northeast can be really brutal for training. It is an important responsibility then to remember that you are providing an opportunity for others to train that they would otherwise not have themselves. Jams bring all types of people, especially large national jams, because it is an excellent time to see many of your friends all at once. Some people want to go to catch up with old friends and relax around people doing the sport that they love so much. Others want to go and break challenges and gain status with their peers. And the ones that make it all happen have their cameras rolling to catch the moments that make us want to play.
But everyone else is dodging other humans while they’re trying to craft the perfect line. Traffic is a notorious problem at jams and really is something one should consider when organizing an event in a small gym or densely packed outdoor spot. Jams are a good morale booster, it’s still the best way to get everyone excited about something in a short bit of time. An event is an opportunity to spike the total growth of the sport across a given population. When Storror toured the United States, the jams they left in their wake were some of the most exciting days of the training year for the athletes that attended. The right jam may set the tone of training for a whole season or year if the right people show up, if you put the work in on marketing the results can echo across the sport.
You should run a jam event if you’re someone that likes to be the life of the party, if you are well connected (and even more organized) you can create real value for a community. You should not run a jam if you’re purely focused on raising money. Adding a monthly jam for the community at a reduced (or free) rate can dramatically improve the morale of your local community, but it should serve that function before it purely serves as an entrepreneurial opportunity. Jams should be thrown to unite not to collect. Some of the best jams lose money every year they’re thrown, and it’s not to say that they will or should always function that way, but they should be thrown at whatever cost because of the intangible value community lends to the sport. So if you’re the type of person that can harbor a burden like that, financial or otherwise, then throw a jam.
COMPS (like NAPC or Red Bull Art of Motion)
Oh competition day, everyone has their freshest duds on and is drilling their tech till they can do it blind. Which may come in handy because I would not want to see Joseph Henderson prepping the same speed course that I’m about to run. All jokes aside, at competitions you may see more top athletes than at local jams because the proverbial gauntlet has been thrown down and some athletes need to rise to the challenge. When throwing a competition you are setting the bar for where athletes will compare themselves to other athletes. I think this is why the founders were so against competitions initially, because there is an implied division when comparison is involved. However if you’ve attended a parkour competition (at least a grass roots one), all you will see throughout the day is unison and athletes working together toward common goals.
So if you have to be concerned about division and egos you better make sure that your event runs a little smoother than your jam did. Competitions can often demand media like livestreams or live commentary, which means a lot more moving parts than just making a compilation video from the event a week after it ends. Competitions are expensive to put on properly, and you sort of owe it to the athletes to throw a competition worthy of the effort they’re putting forth in competing for it. If you can’t find enough volunteers or employees to make sure a competition runs smoothly, then you may be better off throwing a jam. People will move on from a bad jam, they just won’t come to the next one. But you can’t afford top name athletes not wanting to return to your competition because it was poorly run, you want the best at your comp every time. So think hard before you seek to challenge the best of the best, it’s a heavy cost for sure.
WORKSHOPS (like with Sebastian Foucan or Maxwell Henry)
Workshops may be the first opportunity to actually turn a profit on an event for once. The overhead is a bit smaller, because you just need to reset your facility for the needs of a traveling coach, which is theoretically a more controlled environment with less moving parts than a competition or larger jam would have. You can charge a premium for the coach’s expertise that benefits both your facility and their hourly rate and athletes are usually happy to pay for the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the biz. Workshops may also be the most targeted event that you will deal with, and also one that relies heavily on how well it is marketed. If your annual jam gets popular enough each year athletes will come to you asking when and where it is, but if no one hears about your workshop there may not be another one they can attend for some time.
Even still workshops provide an excellent opportunity to network within the sport, hiring the best coaches to train your local community thus influencing how and why they train in the first place. You never know what effect the right teacher can have on the willing student. Perhaps there’s a lesson another coach can impart that you and your staff have been unable to teach so far. Further still if you throw a certification event you can create better coaches that understand how to teach curriculum in a more effective and engaging way. Certifications like workshops provide a high cost event with less up front work than a national jam or competition, another great opportunity to make profit while providing an invaluable opportunity for those that choose to take part in the event. Workshops need to have education as the first priority, listen to your community and get the coaches that they want to learn from if you want to have real lasting success with your events. After all you are building events for a given audience, and you know them better than anyone else could, assuming that you’ve been paying attention to them.
RETREATS (like JumpFest or the Art of Retreat)
Retreats are a great chance to spread ideas instead of just jumps for once. If you are looking to unite your audience around a certain set of values or practices then a retreat is most likely the best way to get everyone on the same page. They provide a great chance to address things that may be hard to talk about normally, such as bullying or feeling like one is not welcomed by their community. Retreats are all about inclusion and making sure that everyone walks away with an experience that they remember and cherish as they go back to their own communities and bring back what they learned. Retreats like competitions can often be quite expensive as you are trying to cater to a number of people’s specific needs rather than just general ones. For a retreat you may have to provide access to housing opportunities and food rather than just direct them to the nearest Chipotle or Motel 6. But that all depends on how much value you provide.
Retreats are where we decide what type of people we want to be within our community, not just how we want our movement to be remembered. They tap into the spirit of bettering oneself alongside your peers and charting the course of the future of the sport. If jams are for the kids to get their energy out then retreats are for the grown ups to get their energy back. Without this delicate balance there may not be enough inspired individuals to host the events that benefit our communities so much. You should run a retreat if you’re someone that wants to influence the culture of your community. If you want to see more entrepreneurs and coaches and tenders of the flock then a retreat may be the best place to find that common interest. Retreats also act as a great networking opportunity because typically other business owners attend these so they can have some time to actually talk without a birthday party or a national jam loud in the background.
Thanks so much for reading everyone! I hope that this article has given you some critical talking points for which type of event you want to run next for your community. Are you ready to take on the responsibility of a competition or a retreat or should you just stick to monthly jams for now? I would love to hear some feedback about your experiences running events and what you’ve learned so please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Events are one of the best opportunities to accelerate the growth rate of the economy in the sport so we here at Parkour Entrepreneur will always work to make sure the proper tools are available to those that wish to benefit others. Let us know how we can help.