Keep 'Em Coming Back for More…
by SAMantha Greystorm
We’ve all witnessed this beast in its natural habitat – the newbie. Eyes as large as saucers, akin to a deer in the headlights, wandering around aimlessly lost. How should we approach this sometimes scarce creature, and more importantly, keep them coming back for more?
The answer to this question is to form a mentoring program within the group. This does not take a lot of individuals, just one or two people well-versed in overall Amtgard with the ability to converse with others.
Be cordial, welcoming and inviting. Pair the newbie(s) up with one of the mentors. If two friends come out together, try not to split them up, have the mentor take both of them. A mentor should try not to have more than one or two newbies at a time as this can detract from the desired result. The mentor should ensure that a waiver has been signed and is on file with the park Chancellor.
As a mentor, you should give a brief over-view of Amtgard and different elements that Amtgard has to offer – arts and sciences, awards/recognition, fighting and fighter practices, camaraderie, problem solving, campouts, competitions and events, garbing, armoring, classes, etc. Whereas the overall scope of Amtgard is great, do not inundate them with in-depth details and do not to use Amtgard jargon that will not make sense to them at this time.
You should encourage your newbies to ‘shadow’ their mentor for a couple of weeks, going wherever the mentor goes, including into little ‘cliques’. This will enable the newbie to feel more a part of the group instead of an outsider. Introduce said newbie to people you are speaking with. The MAIN job of a mentor is to ensure a good comfort level for the new person, including them with the group instead of standing ‘on the outside looking in’.
The swinging of foam is what initially attracts many, so this is likely the first thing you will do ‘hands-on’ with the newbie. When this time comes, ensure that the newbie has an adequate understanding of shot locations, wounds, deaths, etc. Then, take the field with them and watch. Provide constructive criticism and pointers.
Inevitably, the time will come when a newbie doesn’t take his/her shot, so watch for this and be sure to point these out nicely. Please NEVER allow another member, in the heat of the moment, to ‘go off’ on the newbie. Remind the offended party that the individual is new and their help, rather than ire, would go a long way in the learning process. Also some newbies are going to be reluctant to take the field for fear that they might accidentally miss a shot and be branded a cheater. Minimizing the culture of yelling at cheaters that exists in many Amtgard parks is the best way to prevent this.
Remember, you will not be able to teach everything, nor does anyone expect you to. As newbies spread their wings and need (or want) to know more things; point them in the right direction. When the newbie has questions that are above the scope of the mentor’s knowledge, the mentor should send the newbie to the most qualified person to answer the question. If you are not the best equipped person to answer a question, admit it and go with them to those that are (you may learn something too). It is always better to refer, than give incorrect information and risk losing the respect you’ve gained to this point, plus, they are meeting people and learning where to go to find answers when they need them.
The "Nevers" of Mentoring.
1. Never badmouth another member to a newbie. Be Positive. Mentoring is not for exploitation, but to teach and welcome them. The politics and other extraneous matters will rear their head soon enough and the newbie should be afforded the opportunity to form unbiased opinions.
2. Never pester or push a newbie towards doing something he/she does not want to do or is not comfortable with. This will only work against the mentor and alienate prospective recruits.
The mentoring process immediately brings a person ‘into the fold’ and makes them feel a true part of the group. If someone comes to the field and only one or two people seem approachable, it is not an atmosphere conducive to continued attendance. It is up to every single member in the park to do what they can to encourage growth of the group and Amtgard as a whole. Encourage your group to do the items above and you should see a higher retention rate.
The mentoring program is still in it’s infancy at our park; however, we are already reaping the benefits. Two brothers recently showed up at our park to play and were welcomed with open arms. These ‘two brothers’ have since produced their parents, who are actively playing on the field and two additional friends with continued attendance. Provided just such a comfortable atmosphere, the parents of these youngsters had a birthday party an hour before our park meeting, inviting the families of friends and church friends. These two boys and the welcome they’ve received have netted our group an additional 14 people on the field.
Overall, mentoring brings up your numbers, increases the closeness of your group, a more unified group and a wonderful atmosphere in which to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Try it; see how it works for you. Encourage your group to do the items above and you should see a higher retention rate. Here’s to more people in the Amtgard family!