29 May 2024 World leisure: news, training & property
 
 
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Health Club Management
2024 issue 1

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Fuel the debate about issues across the industry and share your ideas and experiences. We’d love to hear from you: letters@leisuremedia.com

Buddy volunteers support members at Primetime sessions photo: MyTIME ACTIVE

Helen Rowbotham, CEO, Access Sport
Helen Rowbotham / photo: Access Sport

Access Sport, the sport inclusion charity, has entered into a partnership with Lex Leisure and Legacy Leisure to pilot an inclusive community sport offer centred around leisure centres.

The partnership aims to develop a national inclusive club support model that recognises the important role of leisure centres as hubs for positive change in community sport.

Traditionally, operators have struggled to engage with disadvantaged and disabled young people in their local areas. For example, only 17 per cent of public leisure centre users are from deprived communities and understandably, staff are not typically experts in social and disability inclusion and often don’t have the tools to work with these young people.

The project will initially be based in Derbyshire and Devon UK and will deliver social and disability inclusion training and development support to local community clubs.

The training will focus on building local connections with communities, upskilling coaches and developing new inclusive programmes. The project will then be reviewed with a view to creating a national offering that can impact the lives of thousands of disadvantaged and disabled young people.

We’re excited to be working with Lex Leisure and Legacy Leisure to pilot this concept and we’re aiming to create a new leisure centre-focussed inclusive club offer that will enable more children and young people to access the transformational benefits of community sport. These benefits include mental and physical health, life skills and prospects, a sense of belonging and community engagement.

Traditionally, operators have struggled to engage with disadvantaged and disabled young people
Jason Stanton, CEO, Mytime Active
Jason Stanton / photo: MyTIME ACTIVE

I read with interest the research by Savanta, on behalf of UK Active, that 78 per cent of respondents cited improving their mental health and wellbeing as a reason to take out a gym membership, while 43 per cent said going to the gym helps them make new friends.

It’s positive news that people are seeing that accessing physical activity is about much more than just getting ‘fit.’ However, if operators really want people to keep coming, we have to prioritise and deliver opportunities for making friends and eliminating social isolation when they come through our doors.

At Mytime Active we’ve found the key to unlocking this need for friendship, particularly for those who may be more vulnerable, such as older people who are inevitably more likely to live alone, introducing a ‘Buddy’ scheme for our Primetime (over 60s) members.

Primetime buddies are volunteers, who are positive role models who understand the fears and challenges older people may feel and can give peer-to-peer information, help and support to our customers.

The buddies are an approachable, friendly and welcoming face. You can’t miss them in bright purple buddy T-shirts – they’re the first faces people see when they come through our doors. They also keep a look-out for anyone who’s unwell, nervous or needs help if they’re struggling in a class.

Our army of volunteers ensure a buddy is available at every class to help foster friendships.

We know it works because our customers tell us, with comments such as “Being a buddy is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I feel I’m doing a worthwhile job and get a lot of satisfaction.”

For many of our customers it’s been a lifeline after their partners have died. Making friends can be difficult at any age and I’m proud that many of our Primetime members tell me they consider each other to be like family.

We have to prioritise and deliver opportunities for making friends and eliminating social isolation

Originally published in Health Club Management 2024 issue 1

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