Creating a movement for change: How life experience helped Peter Nikolakopoulos find his purpose

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Inside Franchise Business: Creating a movement for change: How life experience helped Peter Nikolakopoulos find his purpose“It was a great experience, but it doesn’t last forever.”

When former Australian football player, Peter Nikolakopoulos led his Victorian team to international victory in the 2002 Hyundai World Championships in Korea, praise came thick and fast, but it was what happened when he returned to Australia that proved to be the greatest reward.

“I call it my two minutes of fame because as the captain, I found myself on all the footy shows, tv and radio. It was the first time ever that an Australian soccer team had won anything on an international stage,” Nikolakopoulos said.

“Once I was back in Australia, I was approached by a kid to help him with his game and we started off with some one-on-one coaching over a 10-week period. What I found was that I really enjoyed assisting him and seeing that improvement and development was fulfilling for me.”

Word quickly spread and soon, Nikolakopoulos was inundated with coaching requests from local footballers, but the best was yet to come.

“I was fortunate enough to attend the FIFA World Cup in Germany in 2006, where Australia had a really successful campaign, and I saw that based off the results and support that the Australian team was receiving, soccer in this country was about to go up another level. It was a real turning point and vision of where I should go with the business.”

In what he calls ‘going back to school’, Nikolakopoulos began researching models that allowed him to provide coaching support to children across the state.

“With the demand and where the inquiries were coming from, I was travelling everywhere; it wasn’t possible for just me. My goal became getting the right people on board to service a certain area, and franchising enabled those people to join the brand in a really positive way.”

What came next formed the foundations for Sport Star Academy, Nikolakopoulos’ multi-sport, active learning franchise for children, but he reveals the journey evolved into more than just a business opportunity, with his coaching duties extending beyond the sporting arena.

Understanding the WHO and the Purpose

“It’s important to remember that skills aren’t the only thing kids learn. You find that by having professional coaches and mentors working on a grassroots level, the impact, and what they absorb can really help them throughout their life journey.”

It’s that journey that inspired Nikolakopoulos to focus on creating a movement for change, providing leadership for children both on and off the field.

Creating a Movement of Change for Tomorrow’s Grassroots Leaders

“Movement of change is something that I’m really passionate about. We want to change the way kids are offered sport, and what we did was listen to mums and dads to determine what the real demand was.”

The consultation proved extremely beneficial for Sport Star Academy, helping the brand to develop a series of curriculum strategies that catered for all families.

Nikolakopoulos said the family focus cemented the brand as a community leader, enabling him to make meaningful relationships with parents, leading to often unexpected rewards.

Our customers make the best partners

“We’ve moved away from the former player transitioning into coach, and found that recently, the highest performing and ideal franchise partners have been parents; customers that have had kids in the program. They’ve seen the drills, watched from the side-lines and seen the benefits of the program.”

“As a business partner, they are invaluable because they understand the brand, they understand the purpose but also, they understand kids and how mentor extends beyond just the sporting field.”

Training on and off the field

The idea of providing coaching on and off the field has translated to the franchisee training as well, with Nikolakopoulos dedicating a large portion of the intensive week-long new franchisee program to specific business modules, in addition to curriculum structure.

“We provide on-going training; every quarter we have coach-to-coach days, but there’s also webinars and face to face training. What we have is a really strong initial on-boarding program, but it’s backed up by really thorough on-going support.”

The future

With more than 50 franchises now up and running, Nikolakopoulos said the brand is gearing up for a massive growth period in 2019, hinting at the potential for international expansion.

“The exciting thing with our company is that we have an endless amount of things we can add, diversity we can bring to the offering. In Australia, we have a staple eight sports, and when we move into international markets, we’ll have to change certain ones, alter the system based on what’s big and what’s not, but soccer as always will be leading the way.”

“It’s exciting where we are taking the business, but the most important thing for us is to remember our purpose.”

To learn more about Sport Star Academy and how to get involved, visit franchisebusiness.com.au/brands/sport-star-academy

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