The beginning and how we got started
Welcome to our story as we embark on a journey of how we founded and nurtured our family business, Kidz ‘n sport.
In actual fact it is far more than a business to us as we measure our success based on the influence we have on children, equipping them with invaluable life skills that they can harness and use to live more productive lives. The pursuit of Profit has never been our ultimate goal.
Back in September of 1999, I took the first steps in creating Kidz 'n Sport, and today, after an incredible 23 years, we continue to thrive. None of this would have been possible without the unwavering support and invaluable contributions of my extraordinary wife, Jen, and our two wonderful children, Lloyd and Julie. They have been the cornerstone of our success.
My initial goal was to establish a sports and exercise coaching program for young children that would not only teach them essential sporting skills but also ignite their joy for physical activity. Fuelled by a desire to offer something exceptional, I embarked on a mission to develop a program that would keep children fit, healthy, and fully engaged. This endeavour was motivated by the fact that Jen and I struggled to find similar enriching experiences for our own children, Lloyd and Julie, when they were younger.
The catalyst for my vision struck soon after immigrating to Australia. While coaching cricket, I noticed that the games and activities I devised, incorporating various skills, stirred up far greater excitement in the kids than the cricket coaching itself. This realization, combined with my years as a schoolteacher and also the cherished memories of playing with Lloyd and Julie during their early years, sparked the idea of creating an action-packed and effective program. I became driven beyond measure, devoting 23 years of my life to crafting the brand we now proudly call Kidz 'n Sport.
Interestingly, I am a qualified secondary school teacher. However, it was the persistent requests from parents, whose older children I was coaching at the time, to coach their younger ones, that enticed me into coaching the 3 to 9 -year-old cohort. Although I had limited experience at this level, I found myself eager to develop new skills to take this challenge head on.
From the moment I started, I sensed a deep resonance within me as I connected so quickly and easily with this age group. It seemed as if everything I had honed and developed in my teaching and coaching journey had led me to this precise point in time.
I also opened myself to learning and growing with each coaching session.
Some key aspects I learnt early on
Early on, I discovered that my role involved more than just motivating kids to exercise and play sports. It was about imparting essential life skills that would extend far beyond their junior years.
My enthusiasm and energy became infectious, and I noticed that the more fun and energy I exuded, the more the children reciprocated. It was as if my enthusiasm had them "bouncing off the walls" with excitement in every class.
Recognising the importance of individuality, I implemented a key practice from the beginning—I prepared and provided each child with a name badge before every class. This small gesture of personalisation and the individual feedback I gave created an environment where every child felt valued and acknowledged. Even today, we continue to use name badges, as they instil a sense of worth and belonging in the children we serve.
I also discovered that when children attempted an activity, their self-perception often depended on the end result. To shift this mindset, I developed a technique of breaking down each skill into manageable parts and providing positive feedback on each component rather than solely focusing on the end result. By teaching children that their initial attempts don't define their abilities and that improvement is possible with effort, we've witnessed a profound impact on their confidence and willingness to give every activity their best shot. I emphasised focusing on effort and the individual parts of a skill rather than fixating on the final outcome. Even the youngest children grasped this concept and readily embraced my approach.
It was also crucial to convey to the children that what others achieved was not relevant to their own progress. I guided them to shift their focus from comparing themselves to their peers and instead concentrate on their personal effort and results. This proved challenging, particularly in a sports setting where kids can easily observe the achievements of those around them. As a coach, I stepped in to help them develop a sense of ownership and confidence in their own results as long as they had given their best effort.
Furthermore, I emphasised the importance of persistence. Rather than allowing children to dwell on negative outcomes, I aimed to instil the belief that with another attempt, things could improve. I incorporated this value of persistence into every activity we undertook. I recognised it as a valuable life skill that would benefit every child in their future endeavours.
As a coach, my goal was to create an environment where children not only developed physical abilities but also cultivated resilience, individuality, and a growth mindset. By fostering their self-belief, encouraging persistence, and celebrating effort and progress, we have witnessed remarkable transformations in the children we've had the privilege to coach.
Utilising humour also played a significant role in shaping my coaching style. Recognising early on that these younger children craved having fun, I made it a priority to be an enjoyable and fun coach. By incorporating appropriate humour, I found that it helped to keep children engaged and added to the overall enjoyment they experienced during our sessions. Utilising humour became an essential tool in my coaching arsenal.
Before every session, I made a deliberate practice of putting on my "coaching hat." This meant fully committing myself to the task at hand and giving 100% focus and attention to each session. Regardless of the number of sessions I had conducted before, I approached each one with the mindset that it was the most important session of my coaching career. This dedication and professionalism ensured that every child received the best coaching experience possible.
From its modest beginnings of coaching just a few children in the park, Kidz 'n Sport experienced rapid growth. The program gained popularity and classes started booking up quickly, with minimal marketing or sales efforts. The reason for our success was simple—we consistently provided incredible value. Parents began sharing with me that their children's Kidz 'n Sport class was the highlight of their week.
The positive impact on children became evident as their enthusiastic response, along with their families' feedback, confirmed that our program was filling a void. The kids craved the enthusiastic and positive atmosphere that I and my coaches created. Kidz 'n Sport quickly became a focal point for families seeking a supportive, friendly, and nurturing environment where their children could thrive both physically, mentally and emotionally. Witnessing the value we were contributing to the children became immensely rewarding for me and my family.
Teaching essential life skills such as self-confidence, active listening, good behaviour, determination, persistence, and patience became integral to my coaching strategy. These principles were not just about sport but aimed to equip children with valuable qualities that would extend beyond their time in our program. We aimed to empower children to become positive, healthy, and happy individuals who would benefit from these skills throughout their lives.
Kidz 'n Sport soon became the centre of focus for myself, Jen, Lloyd, and Julie. Every moment of the day filled us with joy and excitement as we wholeheartedly embraced the opportunity to create value for children. The contagious enthusiasm displayed by the kids affirmed that we had started something truly special. Our dinner conversations became forums for discussing new ideas, concepts, and ways to keep children inspired and engaged. These discussions were endless and filled with enthusiasm. We explored topics that covered the whole spectrum of our business. All of these were aimed at making our programme better and making sure that we did everything to get all children engaged, no matter their skill set or gender.
We started thinking beyond the current level of success and were inspired to seize this opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of more children, further afield.
As our momentum grew and the positive feedback from children, parents, and schools continued, we realised the importance of documenting our ideas, concepts, and experiences. We knew that simply having our concepts as ideas was not enough; we needed to put them on paper so we could teach others to do what we were doing.
The challenge lay in documenting what we were doing, such as: the games we invented, the structure of our sessions, the optimal group sizes, the equipment we designed, the process of recruiting and training staff, and a myriad of other things.
My schedule quickly became packed as I coached during the day, spent time playing with Lloyd and Julie in the early evening, and dedicating my nights to authoring and documenting our intellectual property and ideas. There was no manual to consult, no book to read, and no established path to follow, as we were building something entirely from scratch. We were building unique systems and procedures, filled with nuances and intricacies that no one else had.
At night, I made it a priority to transcribe our coaching sessions and gradually transform them into manuals. I diligently created diagrams for every activity and game we devised, accompanied by thorough written descriptions. Every aspect of what we did, no matter how small or large, needed to be recorded.
Franchising crossed my mind, drawing on my prior experience in this style of business back in South Africa. I believed that by embracing this approach, we could reach even more children and their communities, extending the impact of our programme.
A Happy chance finding
What transpired next was an exciting and fortuitous discovery.
One morning in October 2007, during a school holiday coaching session at Cottesloe Primary School in Perth, Western Australia, I observed a new staff member exhibiting remarkable enthusiasm and energy while coaching a group of children. His infectious positivity resonated from across the oval, and it didn't take long for me to recognise that he had exceptional talent as a coach. It felt surreal, as if he had read my mind regarding the ideal coaching approach I envisioned. He had the ability to engage with the children in a way that was both incredibly fun but also effective in teaching skills. His passion was radiating through our session, and I was impressed by the advanced coaching ability displayed by this young man.
This coach happened to be Mike Lee, who worked with me for several highly productive and positive years. During one of our conversations, I mentioned my decision to franchise Kidz 'n Sport, and without hesitation, Mike eagerly expressed his interest. He became my very first Kidz 'n Sport franchisee in July 2009.
Embarking on the franchise journey was both exciting and nerve-wracking for both of us as we ventured into uncharted territory. Looking back now, thirteen years later, I realise how fortunate I was to have had Mike take that leap. He proved to be the perfect individual to kick off our franchise endeavour at Kidz 'n Sport. Over the years, Mike has achieved remarkable success with his franchise. He still coaches with the same unwavering commitment, passion, and enthusiasm today as he did all those years back. His success is due the exceptional commitment and value that he gives to every child that he and his team coach. His ethos is first class. His focus has always been to the customer first, by creating amazing value. Mike's reward has not been on making money but on the thousands of children he has helped in so many ways. He has also become an invaluable contributor and ambassador for our brand, generously sharing his knowledge and experience with fellow franchisees and myself. He has made a massive impact to Kidz ‘n Sport.
Shortly after, we welcomed Corry Grosser in Floreat, who has been an absolute pleasure to work with and continues to be a valuable team player and successful licensee to this day. Corry is deeply passionate about his business and the positive influence he has on young people.
Our expansion continued, and we eventually established 12 franchises across Perth and Sydney. With our growing operations, I found myself unable to balance the roles of head coach and franchisor simultaneously. Consequently, out of necessity, I shifted my focus to the back end of the business, receiving tremendous support from Julie and Lloyd, who took on various roles within the company. They managed the marketing, and finances of the Franchisor company and took on the position of head coach for the Nedlands territory, where we initially started Kidz 'n Sport. Their unwavering dedication and willingness to assist wherever needed proved invaluable. Meanwhile, Jen continued to provide her exceptional support behind the scenes.
As the business evolved, I noticed my franchisees yearning for greater involvement in the management of their own businesses. I embraced their desire for increased contribution and recognised the potential value they could bring to each coaching session through their skills, experience, motivation, and focus. I became excited about finding an opportunity to make this a reality.
As a consequence in early 2018, I arranged a meeting with my franchise lawyer, to explore ways to better harness and incorporate the talents of each franchisee. During this meeting I was introduced to the concept of Licensing. It didn't take me long to embrace this business model as I could see the potential it offered us.
It was what we were searching for. Soon after, I met with my franchisees to inform and discuss Licensing with them.
I provided my franchisees with the opportunity to convert their agreements to licenses, and it didn't take them long to embrace this new direction. One of the reasons behind their enthusiasm was their eagerness to infuse their own creativity into their businesses. They were genuinely excited about the prospect of having more freedom and influence in creating their future successes.
The transition to licensing has proven to be a great move. As licensees, they feel empowered and have brought a personal touch to their operations. Our brand has grown stronger as a result, thanks to this group of highly motivated business owners.
I am incredibly grateful for the talented and committed licensees we have, namely: Mike in Melville, Corry in Floreat, Taryn in Willetton, Rebecca in Nedlands, Jack in Duncraig, and more recently, Tanya and Andrew in Bunbury. I firmly believe that this team is the best in the industry, and I consider myself fortunate to have them on board. Every day, they instil confidence in children, help them believe in themselves, and make sport and exercise exciting, fun, and rewarding. They are making a significant contribution to their communities and positively impacting the health and well-being of young children, who will carry these life skills into adulthood.
Lloyd, Julie, Jen, and I continue to strive for improvements in our business. Our greatest motivation stems from knowing that we are actively contributing to transforming thousands of children into happy, healthy, and content individuals.
If we can play a small part in making the world a better place, then all the hard work has been worthwhile. This journey has been incredibly fulfilling thus far.
I frequently encounter parents whose children I coached many years ago, who describe and express the enormous impact I have had on their children's lives. This feedback fuels our desire to continue contributing to and making our communities even better.
It's amazing what one can achieve when passion becomes a dominant force in one's life.
We feel honoured and fortunate to have started something 23 years ago that has positively impacted the lives of so many children. We eagerly anticipate the next chapter at Kidz 'n Sport, expecting this to be just as positive and exciting for us.
Owner and founder
The early days
Jen adding the finishing touches to our custom-made basketball units in 2002
Lloyd making our gross motor skills mats in July 2002
Julie at a Christmas Carnival in 2007
Mike Lee early on