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Leaving the Leisure Industry to Work Outdoors | 4 Years On and I Love It

Life in the Outdoors

The leisure industry is excellent, it is inclusive, forward thinking, diverse and produces some great managers, and if you are employed on the old school local authority contracts, it’s usually fairly well paid. People who work in leisure centres care about their workplace and the community that they serve. 

I’ve seen plenty of gregarious leisure assistants, lifeguards and managers move to other industries only to then struggle to apply their skills and ethics to workplaces such as hotels, visitor centres, supermarkets or offices.

Naturally, when I decided to move from leisure management to work at Land & Wave, I was pretty apprehensive. There were a few reasons: Firstly, I’d built a career based on sacrifice in leisure, I’d given up evenings and weekends at short notice, I’d missed my children’s bedtimes for weeks in a row, I’d even slept at work to maximise my sleep hours between closing and opening the centre at ungodly hours. I was leaving behind a career that I had prioritised for a long time.

The role I’d applied for at Land & Wave was Admin Assistant, and probably a backwards step from managing teams and multi million pound facilities. 

Rich outdoors  from leisure

Secondly, I’d always worked for local authorities and the perception of private enterprise is that it is very cut and thrust, and that companies weren’t as transparent as they should be. If I didn’t do a good job, I’d be in trouble.

Thirdly, of course I’d seen lots of people leave leisure and come back with their tails between their legs.

Spoiler alert; I’ve had an excellent (nearly) 4 years in the outdoor industry.

I must admit, the first three months of coming to work and answering the phone was just what I needed. I would finish work at 5pm, go home and not think at all about work, until I came in again the next morning. 

However, anyone who knows me, knows that I am always looking for the next challenge and that I’m easily bored. I’m grateful to the management at the time who spotted that and gave me the role of Schools Manager. I loved the purpose and the responsibility for gaining and maintaining big contracts and actually ensuring that we delivered everything on the ground as promised. 

18 months later (I’ve removed the Covid blip), and I’ve been promoted to a role that challenges me as Operations Manager, I’m back to a place where I’m managing teams and facilities,and surrounded by the same gregarious people who care about their work, and the community it serves. However, this time I’m not having evenings stolen from me and I’m not sleeping at work, even though we have 300 beds, all of which are all more comfortable than my desk.

I now find myself training new outdoor instructors, and training/ mentoring staff members who have been in the industry over a decade.

A career in leisure gave me everything I’ve needed to succeed in the private sector/ outdoor industry. I find that, rather than caring about the community I work in, now I think about the national community, giving school children from Devon to Derbyshire access to the same opportunities that I was fortunate to have, my parents worked their socks off to get me on every school trip available. Which has given me the confidence to access nature, to be brave and to adventure with my children.

Leisure gave me my Lifeguard Trainer Assessor career, where leisure centres want pool lifeguards, outdoor centres want beach lifeguards and open water lifeguards, I quickly worked to gain the skills and knowledge to train all of the above. I’m proud that this skill set has benefitted Land & Wave. My role as Royal Lifesaving Society National Trainer Assessor, means that the Outdoor Instructor Training Programme has been improved, thanks to the introduction of the Beach Lifeguard qualification this year.  

Operationally, leisure centres and outdoor centres are pretty similar. Both have limited activities or locations, which need to be filled efficiently with excellent delivery of that service.

Both leisure centres and outdoor centres are health and safety driven, ratios and staff qualification level are absolutely key. Oh, and, COSHH and PPE are still a thing. It’s not the wild west!

Despite being a clumsy chap, and making my fair share of errors over the years here, I’ve been really successful at Land & Wave, perhaps partly because I put in the groundwork in during my leisure years. 

If you’re thinking of making a change, be brave, do it. I’ll see you real soon!

Learn about how you can grow you skillset and join the outdoor industry here:

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