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Leisure Services Manager

Leisure Services Manager

Tell me about it
Leisure services managers may be responsible for one or more facilities such as swimming and leisure pools, sports halls, outdoor sports areas, gymnasia, ski slopes, ice rinks, 10-pin bowling alleys, restaurants and bars.

The work could include running a leisure centre on a day-to-day basis, recruiting and supervising staff, organising, advertising and promoting events, and managing budgets and controlling finances. The manager is normally in charge of the sports coaches and instructors, together with office, catering and maintenance staff, and deals with every aspect of running the centre, including financial control and book-keeping, the recruitment of staff and the organisation of timetables and special activities (such as school holiday courses and tournaments).

The manager might have some face-to-face involvement with customers, dealing with complaints and possibly doing some sports coaching, if suitably qualified. Leisure and sports centres vary widely in size and scope, with the largest quite possibly encompassing indoor and outdoor facilities, such as swimming pools, gymnasia and fitness centres, badminton, squash, tennis and basketball courts, football and cricket pitches.  They may also include dance floors, saunas, and children's activity centres, and there will almost always be cafés, usually with bars too. Some centres specialise in outdoor and adventure pursuits, such as rock-climbing and canoeing.

Entry level
Most leisure services managers have professional qualifications or degrees, and at least five years’ relevant experience. Graduates and non-graduates often enter the work at lower, middle, assistant or trainee manager level and work towards professional qualifications while in employment.

For a degree course in a leisure management subject, you would normally need at least two A levels/three H grades and three GCSEs/two S grades (A*-C/1-3) in other subjects, usually including English and maths, or equivalent qualifications. You should check course details carefully because they vary a great deal and may not contain the right elements for you.  A talent for sport, and proven success, would be an advantage and the ability to drive could be useful.  Lifeguard qualifications and first aid training might also be looked for.

Experience of leisure services work is important before applying for any full-time post. This may be gained either part-time or by doing voluntary work, for example on summer holiday schemes for children, or as a part-time instructor of fitness or sports classes.

Making the grade
A graduate training position with one of the larger employers would give you the chance to get the necessary experience to become a manager while studying on a part-time basis for the certificates and diplomas of the Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity. An alternative would be to start at a lower level and study part-time for degree and professional qualifications. You may also be able to get into the leisure industry through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need.

Personal qualities
As a leisure services manager, you should have an interest in promoting sport and fitness, although active sporting ability is not essential. You must have organisational and planning abilities, good interpersonal skills for dealing with staff and customers, and the ability to prepare accounts and manage budgets.

You must also be skilled at marketing your facilities and promoting special events.

Looking ahead
Leisure and sports centres have grown considerably over the past few years, all over the country, and are usually very popular. Opportunities to progress to senior management positions have generally kept pace with the growth in leisure provision. There is scope for managers to be promoted to bigger centres, or to take up administrative and managerial posts with local authorities in their sports and recreation departments. We are likely to see a growing number of local authorities outsourcing their sports and leisure facilities to the private sector.

There are employment opportunities in privately-owned leisure centres, those owned by local authorities (many of which are privately run) and workplace clubs, including those run by very large companies or organisations. Similar management opportunities exist in theme parks and outdoor activity centres.

Alternative suggestions
Other possibilities might include marketing executive, PE teacher, public relations officer or sports coach.

Take-home pay
Salaries very widely, according to the size and location of the leisure services provision you are managing. An assistant manager usually starts on around £17,000 to £27,000 a year. This could rise with promotion and increased responsibility to around £35,000 to £55,000. In the private sector, you may also receive a bonus related to targets, such as membership retention or attracting new members.

Your working hours would almost certainly be irregular and could include early mornings, evenings, weekends and bank holidays. You would also have to be on call for special events and emergencies.

Sources of information
Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity: 
Sport and Recreation Alliance: 


SkillsActive - Sector Skills Council for Active Leisure and Learning:

Fitness Industry Association:





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