Our 13th Annual Ideas Issue once again highlights creative concepts that are helping clubs engage members and enhance their operations on a year-round basis.
An idea that was born from the growing popularity of “Tough Mudder” races was scaled down to fit the younger members at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. The club wanted to create a youth event that made fitness fun again, according to Alexandra M. Sarris, Director of Member Events and Front Desk Operations. “Getting muddy was a bonus,” she jokes.
Congressional’s “Mini Mudder” first debuted in 2014, and an encore performance was held the following year. A two-and-a-half-year hiatus followed, because of major construction for the club’s new tennis house. But the event resumed in 2018, with the help of Director of Fitness and Well-Being Theresa Soppelsa and Sam Guell, Associate Director of Fitness and Well-Being.
The initial planning process began at least six months in advance, Sarris says. “Mapping the appropriate course was crucial,” she explains. “We wanted extra muddy and creative obstacles without leaving damage environmentally, as well as not being an obstruction to the membership. And keeping the kids safe was also a high priority.”
After the course outline was complete, the team began brainstorming the obstacles.
“Instead of barbed wire and electric fences, we envisioned slip ‘n slides, mud pits, giant spider webs, muddy army crawls, fence climbs, forest runs and scooter pulls,” Sarris says. “By utilizing our open space surrounding the clubhouse, and with the expertise of our Grounds Department and the creativity of our fitness team, we developed a course consisting of 15 obstacles through water, mud, up hills, through ropes and over fences.”
Many of the Mini Mudder supplies were ordered online (Slip ‘n Slides, ropes, Hula Hoops, etc.), while bigger items such as wood pallets, tunnels, tires, and hay bales were obtained through Congressional’s Greens and Grounds Department. Greens & Grounds Manager Dave Burdette single-handedly set up all of the obstacles, according to Sarris.
Once completed, the course stretched to nearly ¾ mile. It took most kids between 20 to 30 minutes to finish, depending on their age.
Congressional’’s Fitness Department has had a budget of roughly $1,000 for the event—the largest of that being spent on supplies and labor to prepare the course, while additional expenses were used for goodie bags for participants, mud-themed food and beverage refreshments, and event staffing. The cost to participate is $25 per child.
As expected, kids love the mud, according to Sarris, and most kids run through the course a couple of times to be sure to get their “muddy’s worth.”
“Parents and team members alike crowd around the course to take pictures and cheer the kids on,” she says. “Overall, we have had tremendous, positive feedback year after year, including increased attendance.”
Now that the event has been revived, the plan is for the core obstacles for the course to remain each year, with a few “new and unique” obstacles added for each new running.
The Goal: Based upon the popular Tough Mudder events for adults, Congressional CC wanted to create a youth event that made fitness fun again (getting muddy was a bonus). The idea of the “Mini Mudder” was born.
The Plan: The initial planning process began at least 6 months in advance, to map the appropriate course. The club wanted muddy and creative obstacles without leaving damage environmentally, while also not being an obstruction to the membership and keeping the kids safe. Instead of barbed wire and electric fences, Congressional envisioned slip ‘n slides, mud pits, giant spider webs, muddy army crawls, fence climbs, forest runs and scooter pulls.
The Payoff: Kids love the mud, as evidenced by many running through the course a couple of times to get their “muddy’s worth.” Parents and team members alike crowd around the course to take pictures and cheer on the kids. Overalll, the club has had tremendous positive feedback year after year, including increased attendance.