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Building better facilities is a priority

Fuel the debate about issues and opportunities across the industry. We’d love to hear from you – [email protected]

Published in Health Club Management 2022 issue 4
Davies: ‘Pools are lacking investment’
Davies: ‘Pools are lacking investment’

Your article on the employment crisis in the sector (HCM 3 2022, page 54 or raised valid points about what needs to be done to address staff shortages. I particularly applaud Jo Cherrett’s call for an honest conversation about the living wage.

This especially applies to swimming teachers. Two members of my family have left swimming teacher jobs because of poor pay. With a national shortage of 8,000 swimming teachers (Swim England 2021), addressing pay will go a long way to attracting and retaining these professionals at a time when their skills are needed more than ever. Children have already lost two years of swimming; we can’t afford for them to miss any more because of a lack of teachers.

But let’s also be frank about the condition of our workplaces. So many of our leisure centres are outdated and in a shocking state of disrepair. Staff who work in these centres are constantly having to deal with complaints about faulty equipment, dodgy showers and smelly changing rooms, which is both frustrating and can lead to low morale. Is it any surprise staff get fed up and move on?

Some of the UK’s leisure stock is in crisis. A leisure centre where I swam in the 1990s is fighting for its future. Cornwall Council is trying to secure a new operator for Wadebridge Leisure Centre after confirming it’s not in a financial position to provide ongoing funding to keep it open. It has permanently closed Ships and Castles Leisure Centre in Falmouth for the same reason. More than 200 pools have closed since the pandemic and Swim England fears we could lose 2,000 by the end of the decade if we continue on this path.

We need facilities that meet the needs of users and provide attractive places to work. Sustainable buildings are key to redefining the sector. This is why I’m an ambassador for Paragon Structures, providers of insulated tensioned membrane buildings. The company was born out of a desire to have a direct impact on health and physical activity by building affordable, yet state-of-the-art facilities, which is one of the reasons the company was selected as a solution partner by Swim England.

As an athlete and sports presenter, I’ve been fortunate to experience some of the best facilities in the world. I believe the UK can offer bright, airy and energy-efficient venues which can be built at a fraction of the cost of traditional buildings and significantly faster too.

Sharron Davies MBE

We must commit to supporting mental wellbeing
David Monkhouse, director of leisure-net and active-net

I was interested to read the feature on employment issues in the latest issue, (HCM 3 2022, page 54 or especially during National Stress Awareness month, as it really highlighted that, no matter how much people love working in our industry, that alone is not enough, without better pay and conditions.

The impact on our workforce’s mental health has never been clearer; demonstrated by the 2022 Workforce State of Mind survey, launched at this year’s active-net by Workplace Mental Wealth, which found 57 per cent of respondents had experienced a mental health issue in the last 12 months.

While three-quarters of those with a line manager feel the manager cares about their mental wellbeing, only 11 per cent said someone regularly checks in on their mental health at work and 48 per cent said they would not be honest with an employer if they felt they needed time off work because of a mental health issue.

We need to do better, and it’s one of the reasons we were keen to theme this year’s event around mental health, with a keynote revealing the survey’s top-line results and provoking a discussion around how employers can do more and breakout sessions discussing the wellbeing of our workforce, customers and communities.

After-dinner speaker, Jamie Cartwright, held the room in silence for more than an hour as he told his powerful story of child abuse at the hands of football coach, Barry Bennell, and how he turned his life around.

The talk had a profound effect on delegates, with many approaching me to say how touched they were by his honesty and declaring their organisations’ mental health pledge.

I hope these frank discussions encourage more employers to sign up to the Good Work pledge at and engage with next year’s survey, so we can continue to gauge and improve how we’re doing as an industry.

It’s time to give the same importance to mental health as we do to physical health. We hope active-net 2022 put a spotlight on how our sector can help.

It’s time to give the same importance to mental health as we do to physical health
Mental health was debated at active-net 2022 /
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