Talking Point: How Do You Deal With Participants Arriving Late To Class?


You are in the local venue (gym or outdoors) and your participants are well and truly warmed up and getting stuck into their workout when a latecomer sneaks into the group (or attempts to) and starts doing the exercises as if they have been there all along.

Some of you may not need to imagine this scenario, having encountered it on more than one occasion.


So, how do you deal with participants arriving late to your class?

Do you:

  • Have a no-entry policy to minimise disruption and risk of injury; or
  • Do you welcome all comers, regardless of how late they are?

If you only have latecomers very occasionally you may decide that turning them away is the right answer.


However, if you have latecomers, you might consider the following:

  • Why are participants turning up late?
  • Do you strategically place classes on the timetable to minimise latecomers. If they are late for one class, is there another one they can attend?
  • Is there a culture of ‘allowing’ latecomers to join?
  • Asking people to politely leave can set the tone for ‘future’ latecomers.

What are the Arguments for Late Admission?

  • For some people, building the motivation to attend a training session in the first place is hard enough. If they are turned away for being a few minutes late, they may not come back again.
  • A skilled instructor/trainer will be able to offer exercise options while they warm up and catch up to the rest of the class.
  • It could be argued that it demonstrates flexibility and sends a message that everyone is welcome.

What are the Arguments against Late Admission?

  • Increases the risk of injury and can be unsafe for participants to miss out on the warm-up.
  • Arriving late can be/is disruptive to other participants, especially if equipment needs to be set up.
  • Lateness can be viewed as disrespectful and rude to the instructor/trainer and other participants.
  • If the class is busy, arriving late generally sees the participant squeezing in at the back of the class, which may reduce space for surrounding
    participants in indoor environments.
  • In a freestyle training session, late participants may/will have missed learning curves/points/techniques and layers to a routine/workout which makes it difficult to follow safely.

I know some companies use the start of the warm-up as the cut-off, whilst others use the end of the warm-up as the cut-off.

Ultimately, when dealing with latecomers, the instructor/trainer should do so with respect and professionalism. Even if your right, and follow company policy/procedure, being untactful can impact on reputation – think posts/videos on social media! If possible, take the latecomer away from the group and inform them they cannot join the group but you look forward to seeing them at the next session (or mention an alternative session if available).

I suppose you have to weigh the:

  • Concern around potential risk for participants not warming up sufficiently and managing the disruption caused (and sometimes the talking that follows) versus,
  • The participant not attending at all due to fear of being rejected and using it as an excuse not to exercise.

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