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It’s no secret that kids are facing new challenges due to social distancing and the removal of P.E. classes from schools. Matthew Kuschert and Ricardo Lamas know this firsthand, as owners of UFC Gym Naperville and parents of young children.
Their dreams of creating a welcoming, family-friendly gym are now a reality and they are committed to offering a number of youth classes to keep our kids healthy during this unprecedented time.
Q: The elimination of school PE classes and switch to Virtual Learning are affecting our children. What are the consequences of these changes?
Matt Kuschert and Ricardo Lamas: Kids need a safe and fun outlet to release energy and socialize with other children. Without physical education classes being offered at their schools, children are being deprived of necessary cardiovascular and musculoskeletal activity to boost their immune response.
The American Association of Pediatrics stresses that it is absolutely paramount for children to engage in daily physical activity. To that point, a number of parents have expressed that their children are having trouble with pent up energy and corresponding issues, due to lack of activity. This has been an ongoing problem for several months, as many camps, clubs, sports, etc. were also cancelled throughout the summer. Now that the school year is underway and physical education has been placed on the back burner, parents are constantly messaging us seeking solutions. Their children aren’t getting adequate activity in their lives and it is resulting in challenging situations with discipline, weight gain, depression, anxiety and sleep patterns, among many others.
Q: Could you explain some of the benefits and advantages of providing kids with safe physical activities?
Matt Kuschert and Ricardo Lamas: The American Academy of Pediatrics represents over 67,000 physicians. They are firm supporters of physical activity for children and teens. They contend that, “Physical activity plays an important role in children’s cardiovascular health, musculoskeletal health, mental and behavioral health, and physical, social and cognitive development.” Naturally, the Covid19 pandemic has had a significant negative effect on the aforementioned areas of child development. At Ricardo Lamas’ UFC GYM in Naperville, we put safe activities for children at the forefront. As parents of young children ourselves, we take this very seriously and believe it is critical for their development. We are committed to providing a fun, safe, and fruitful environment for children.
Q: What is your gym doing to help parents combat these challenges?
Matt Kuschert and Ricardo Lamas: We offer a variety of youth classes for ages 4 and beyond. These include functional training, conditioning, fundamentals of striking, grappling and strength training. Small group training for 4-6 individuals as well as 1:1 training are also popular options for children. We run sport specific camps throughout the year to hone in on distinct skill sets. Our coaches are skilled in working with the youth, including children with physical and developmental disabilities, beginners, elite level athletes and everyone in between. Everyone is welcome, as we believe all people benefit from physical activity in a supportive environment. The number of parents that have praised the physical and emotional results of our programs for their children has been extremely rewarding. Children will be challenged, resulting in the corresponding confidence that comes from achievement and learning new techniques to live a healthy lifestyle. Whether it be interest in learning new ways to train, learning martial arts, losing weight, or any other physical fitness goal, we develop individualized plans to help children live better, healthier lives.
Q: What do you feel are the biggest myths out there when it comes to providing kids with safe physical activities that give them the fitness and socialization they need?
Matt Kuschert and Ricardo Lamas: One of the myths we hear often today is that “gyms are not safe when it comes to the spread of Covid19.” Our gym has a great reputation of being impeccably clean. We pride ourselves on providing a safe environment which includes clean equipment, workout spaces, restrooms and locker rooms. We have added additional cleaning stations and all equipment is wiped down after each use. We run everything in accordance with the standards of the Illinois Department of Public Health (ILDPH). Each piece of equipment is spaced accordingly and when engaging in any close quarter training, we are following the guidelines set forth by the ILDPH. The safety of our members is priority number one, followed closely by providing a great experience for everyone to naturally boost their immune systems, enhance cardiovascular ability, behavioral and mental health. Everyone feels better after a great workout!
According to a Harvard University study in April 2020, “just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.” It is critical that children have a safe and fun way to engage in physical activity. The benefits are well documented and the absence of a sound way to engage in physical activity has profound negative effects on physical and mental health. This is a primary reason why elementary, middle and high schools have offered physical fitness and kinetic wellness classes for decades. The negative results of stripping this from the curriculum cannot be overstated.
Q: What are some common misconceptions parents have about providing kids with safe physical activities that give them the fitness and socialization they need?
Matt Kuschert and Ricardo Lamas: We feel most parents are aligned with the notion that physical fitness coupled with a healthy diet are important to the health and wellness of their children. Rather than misconceptions about the benefits, they may not know the specific value and outcomes that a strong program will provide. Again, the American Academy of Pediatrics is very firm on the fact that children must engage in physical activities, games, sports, and the like to develop cardiovascular health, muscle strength and endurance, mental and emotional well-being and the corresponding socialization that comes with group activities.
Q: What are some common fears parents have about providing kids with safe physical activities that give them the fitness and socialization they need?
Matt Kuschert and Ricardo Lamas: The parents and children that we serve quickly see that safety is our top priority. Whether it be the cleanliness of the facility, quality of our coaches and instruction, or the serious approach we take to the development of our curricula, their fears are quickly quelled. While nobody can absolutely guarantee anybody will be 100% safe, we take every step we can to ensure our environment is as safe and fruitful as possible.
Q: What inspired you to make the decision that you were going to become a(n) owner and coach?
Matt Kuschert and Ricardo Lamas: We have been coaches at a variety of levels for over 20 years. We have coached small children, youth, adolescents, college athletes and adults. We were both student athletes, and have been positively influenced by a number of coaches throughout the years. I (Matt) believe it is critical to have people outside of your family pushing you and driving expectations for achieving excellence in your life. There are few other things that motivate us more than watching someone try something difficult, overcome obstacles, persevere, and succeed. As long as you keep improving, you will NEVER fail. We have been fortunate to learn from some of the best coaches in the world and we are constantly nourishing our minds with trainings, books, and podcasts of some of the world’s foremost experts in the field of health and wellness. We both studied the natural sciences in our undergraduate degrees and I (Matt) studied the psychological/social sciences in my graduate work. The marriage between the body and the mind cannot be overstated. A sound body and sound mind go hand in hand!
Q: What were the circumstances surrounding the day you crossed over from “I’m going to be” to “I am” a(n) owner and coach”?
Matt Kuschert: I have been a coach for most of my adult life and even as a high school and college athlete, I was coaching youth sports. In regards to owning the gym, Ricardo and I always knew we would do it. The conversation started in college, but it was ongoing into our adult lives as he was climbing the world rankings in mixed martial arts and I was climbing the ranks in the professional world. Rick is one of the best coaches in the world and we always knew we wanted to create a special place where all walks of life and ability levels were welcome to learn from such a decorated and accomplished athlete. We did NOT want a bunch of meatheads and jerks walking around trying to intimidate people, like we had seen in so many other gyms over the years. We have plenty of accomplished warriors, but they all exhibit kindness and humility, and that starts at the top of the house with a humble warrior like Rick. Today, our gym boasts exactly that; people of all ages, ability levels, shapes and sizes, and backgrounds coming together to better themselves. I cannot think of anything more amazing than the eclectic nature of our gym and the church-like, welcoming, and supportive feel of the culture. We all care about each other, and the gym is much, much bigger than Ricardo and me now.
Q: Tell us about your first experiences as owners and coaches.
Matt Kuschert and Ricardo Lamas: Owning the gym has been a dream come true. Being a small catalyst for someone to achieve something they may have doubted was possible is a very moving experience. We have worked with people that thought they’d never walk again, never lift weights, never learn something new, or never accomplish their lofty goals, just to name a few. Self-defeating mindsets and speech are completely destructive to improving one’s life. Providing a supportive environment where they could be pushed and encouraged to improve is the most incredible feeling. Folks will often thank us, but we remind them that THEY did it, not us. It brings us near tears thinking about all the folks that have accomplished things they never thought were possible. We have yet to meet a single person that doesn’t respond to encouragement and have always found it to be sad that many folks do not have that type of support in their lives. We like to encourage people because the positive ripple effect of them accomplishing their goals and achieving challenging things is virtually immeasurable.
With that being said, owning and operating the business is certainly not without its major challenges, especially throughout the Covid19 closures. Frankly, there were times that we were not sure we were going to make it. Like so many other small business owners, we saw what we had worked so hard to build start to crumble as revenue ceased and expenses continued. However, we were committed to our staff, coaches, and members to get back after it, and we wanted to show them that we were never going to give up on them or ourselves. We constantly preach for folks not to give up on themselves and their goals (one of the biggest challenges is people quitting), so we needed to practice what we preached, and we were able to persevere through that very challenging time. We continue to have struggles, but the culture of the gym really helps, as everyone stepped up big time to help us weather the ongoing storm. The outpouring of support has been incredible! It has been simultaneously the most humbling and uplifting experience of our professional lives.
Q: What is an important lesson you have learned that still impacts how you do business today?
Matthew Kuschert: I try to take an introspective approach in life and that is certainly true with this business. I find that sometimes people are resistant to admitting mistakes, but I believe that is exactly how you get better and better every day. My personal mantra is to be “1% better every day”, so it takes a self-critical (not negatively, but constructively) person to improve every day. The list of mistakes is too long to write out, but I pride myself on not making the same mistake twice.
There are so many variables that go into operating any business, and the fitness industry is filled with minutiae. It has taken several years to fully (and I am nowhere near done learning) understand the day-to-day management operations, along with the ownership responsibilities. Insurance, taxes, hiring and selection, payroll, profit and losses, feedback, rent, maintenance, sales, marketing, and many other things are all critical details when running a quality club. Even when they are done well, there are challenges that present themselves. Tapping into the mental resilience and perseverance that physical fitness and competition have taught me has been absolutely critical to getting through tough times and enjoying the great times!
Q: Have you experienced any failures that you now realize directly contributed to the success you have today?
Matt Kuschert: I think all of my failures have contributed to success. It is so important to recognize them and learn from them. The only failure that is worthless is one that you don’t learn from. I have been humbled so many times with the multitude of things that I did not know, but I was taught at a young age to not pretend that I know everything, and to seek out resources and good people that can help me along the way. This has helped me to avoid the catastrophic failures that could have destroyed the business. I learn from EVERYONE, whether it be my partners, staff, coaches, members, family, friends, insurance agents, attorneys, accountants, etc. I genuinely value feedback, and I try to enter every conversation as if I have something to learn from the person I am speaking with. Worst case scenario, if they are a total jerk, I know what I DO NOT want to do or be like, after speaking with them. Either way, I learned something!
Q: How can we find out more about Ricardo Lamas’ UFC Gym Naperville and contact you?
Matt Kuschert and Ricardo Lamas: We have a multitude of options to meet the needs of our diverse client base. We take an individualized approach to learning what our potential clients are looking for and then we advise about and build the plan accordingly. For some of them, the classes are exactly what they are looking for. For others, we need to customize and develop a plan to meet their specific goals. In 99.9% of the cases, we are able to offer what people are seeking and serve them accordingly.
Please call 331-444-2580 or email email@example.com to set up a time to swing into the facility, take a look around, get any/all questions answered, and determine what plan or approach will meet your specific needs. When people show up consistently, they get great results, but I still haven’t figured out a way to force people to get off their couch! 🙂
To learn more about UFC Gym Naperville, visit: https://www.ufcgym.com/locations/naperville/
Mark Imperial is a Best Selling Author, Syndicated Business Columnist, and Host of numerous business shows spotlighting leading experts, entrepreneurs, and business celebrities. Mark is also the media and marketing strategist and voice for some of the world's most famous brands. www.markimperial.com