A leisure centre assistant is responsible for looking after the equipment in the leisure centre as well as all members of the public using the facilities.
As we have become more aware of health-related issues and our leisure time has increased, so too has the leisure sector expanded, and the UK now has over 6,000 leisure centres which employ over 200,000 people. The industry is growing and job opportunities are therefore good.
Leisure centre assistants have responsibility not only for centre users but also for the equipment used. It is up to them to ensure that members of the public feel welcome and are shown how to use the relevant equipment properly. In order to do this leisure centre assistants must be familiar themselves with all equipment, including being able to carry out minor repairs and adjustments.
Depending on the individual leisure centre, assistants may also be involved with poolside duties, especially if they have a lifesaving qualification. They will also, in some centres, help qualified instructors in the running of exercise classes for adults and sports coaching sessions for children, which will be held after school and in the school holidays.
Some leisure centres also provide sessions such as craft classes for children during the holidays, so not all duties are strictly sports orientated. In addition, responsibility for keeping all areas of the centre clean also lies with the centre assistant and this will often include cleaning the toilets, although this may be the responsibility of the cleaners.
If there is a cafeteria in the leisure centre, assistants may be responsible for serving food and drink and/or handling money, although separate cafeteria staff may be employed. This sort of work is more common in smaller leisure centres where everyone has to be a Jack-of-all-trades, whilst in the larger centres assistants are more likely to be able to specialise in specific areas such as poolside duties.
Leisure centre assistants normally work a 37 hour week which will include evenings, weekends and public holidays with early starts not unusual. Almost half of all leisure centre assistants work part-time, so some flexibility over hours is possible.
The job tends to appeal to younger individuals and, perhaps because of the physical demands of the job, there are slightly more men than women employed as leisure centre assistants.
Full time leisure centre assistants can expect to start on between £11,000 and £14,500 a year, rising to between £15,000 and £17,000. Exceptionally there may be the potential to earn up to around £19,500 although this is more likely in London. Many centre assistants work on a casual basis and are likely to be paid on an hourly basis at a rate ranging from £5.10 to £6 per hour. Benefits associated with the job include free use of centre facilities such as the gym and swimming pool.
- Maintaining sports equipment
- Carrying out minor repairs to equipment
- Advising members of the public on the safe use of equipment
- Setting up and taking down equipment which is not in permanent use e.g. table tennis tables
- Making sure that centre users follow safety guidelines
- Swimming pool maintenance
- Supervising pool users
- Keeping the centre clean and tidy
- Administering first aid
No formal qualifications are required to become a leisure centre assistant and indeed many assistants are sixth formers or students wanting to earn some extra money. GCSEs in Maths, English and Science will prove advantageous, as will any sports prizes or sports teaching qualifications. A BTEC in Leisure and Tourism or Sport may also give you the edge over other applicants.
If the leisure centre has a swimming pool you may be required to have an NPLQ lifesaving qualification. A qualification in first aid is also useful when applying for a job as centre assistant and may in some instances be a pre-requisite for applying.
On-the-job training is given in most instances, although some employers may send staff for day release to study for a relevant NVQ.
- Physical fitness
- Interest in health and fitness
- Practical approach with machines
- Good oral communication skills
- Common sense
- Ability to remain calm in an emergency
- Ability to administer first aid
- Desire to help people and provide good customer service
- Tact and diplomacy when dealing with complaints
- Ability to work as a team member and also the initiative to work independently
- Willingness to “muck in”
- Friendly and enthusiastic attitude
- Ability to make the public feel welcome
- Awareness of health-and-safety issues
Leisure centre assistants work in leisure centres which are likely to be generally comfortable and safe. Parts of the centre may, however, be kept cool for those exercising whilst the areas around the pool can be hot and humid. The uniform provided is likely to reflect the working conditions e.g. tracksuit for keeping warm and shorts and polo shirt for keeping cool. Occasionally, work may be outdoors e.g. football sessions for children.
Prolonged exposure to the chlorine and other chemicals used in swimming pools can irritate the eyes, nose and throat. Many centre assistants handle chemicals which can occasionally be hazardous.
The job can be physically demanding since you are likely to be on your feet for long periods of time and you are also likely to have to move equipment or furniture which may be heavy. Since you come into contact with children you may be asked to obtain CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) clearance.
No formal experience is necessary to become a leisure centre assistant although past employment in a sports-related or customer-focused environment may boost your chances of employment. Unpaid work experience or a few days shadowing a centre assistant will show that you are serious about the career.
- Local authority leisure centres
- Privately run sports centres
- Hotels with private sports facilities
- Large companies with sports facilities for employees
- University sports centres
Many leisure centre assistants decide to train as fitness instructors or personal trainers. Career progression to senior leisure centre assistant, duty manager, operations manager and eventually to leisure centre manager is also possible.
Also known as…
- Sports Centre Assistant
- Gym Assistant
- Health Club Assistant
What’s it really like?
Tom is now studying for a PGCE but he started working as a leisure centre assistant at a local authority sports centre whilst in the Lower Sixth. He was trying to earn some cash to fund the gap year which he was planning to take between school and university, and jumped at the opportunity to become a leisure centre assistant as he had always been a sporty individual.
During term time he worked regularly on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings, although he was often given the opportunity to work extra shifts. He was able to increase his hours during the school holidays and was still able to return to the leisure centre during his university vacations.
His work as a centre assistant was very varied and could involve all sorts of things. These ranged from the mundane tasks of stewarding the car park for special events and moving stacks of chairs and tables from one location to another, to the more interesting jobs such as helping to run football coaching and short tennis sessions or supervising at children’s parties.
Tom liked the social side of his job. Most of the other assistants were of a similar age, and working as part of a team meant that he got to know people pretty well. He also liked the fact that he was kept busy which meant that the time passed quickly.
The ability to be flexible in what hours he worked was also a big plus for Tom as it meant that he never felt under pressure to work when he should have been revising for exams. His experience in a customer-focused job has been good for applying for term-time work and Tom has had a number of casual jobs thanks to his experience at the leisure centre. He also felt that his experience of working with children in various holiday clubs run by the leisure centre helped in his application to do a PGCE.
From a financial point of view, Tom has managed to save hundreds of pounds over the years, thanks to the staff discounts on things like squash court and badminton bookings. He was also lucky enough to have free use of the gym (he had to complete three months of being a centre assistant before earning this perk) and the swimming pool.
The only downside was the cleaning which was never a popular part of the job, especially if a child had been sick!
Tom advises aspiring centre assistants to make sure that they have the physical stamina for the job and that they have a thick skin. People complain about the most ridiculous of things and it is imperative not to take it personally! He also pointed out that in order to be a good team member you have to be willing to do your fair share of the boring jobs.
Although Tom never saw the job as anything other than a way of keeping solvent whilst studying, he believes that there are plenty of opportunities for career advancement within the sector.