Sarah Beattie is the Regional Netball Development Manager at Everyone Active. Within her role, she is seeing sport participation growing steadily, and bringing further opportunities for operators.
We spoke to Sarah about:
- how sport can be an effective revenue stream
- how operators can incorporate sport within their facility regardless of space and,
- how operators can effectively promote a new sport offering
Do you think sport should be part of the offering at more health clubs and leisure centres?
Absolutely. Sport participation is on the rise and as a result, there is a great opportunity for facilities to capitalise, both from a financial perspective and to offer something impactful to both existing and prospective members. For example, we know there are huge mental and physical benefits to playing sport that people simply can’t get by going to the gym alone. Put simply, participation in sport can change people’s lives. It can often form the basis of lifelong friendships, regardless of age, and it can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem enormously. For children, one of the best ways to develop their social skills is through sport, particularly team-based activities. You hear so many fantastic stories from members who have taken up sport and seen a positive impact on their health, with some of them even able to come off medication as a result.
What are the benefits to the operator?
Offering sport makes commercial sense as it provides additional revenue streams and increases engagement and retention.
From a revenue perspective, offering sport increases the offering for existing members and provides an opportunity to introduce non-members to your facility. There may be people who do not see themselves as someone who would join a gym, but they would jump at the chance to play sport. Those people are great leads, and we often find these people becoming members following a positive experience in sport. Likewise, anther revenue opportunity is for existing members who would like to get involved in sport but perhaps do not feel fit enough, in which case you could suggest they try a cardio-based class or work with a personal trainer.
Offering sport can also lead to increased member and staff engagement. For example, at Everyone Active, we run Back-2-Netball sessions and sometimes a team of staff will take on a team of members. The members enjoy seeing the staff take part in what they’re doing and the staff are given the chance to create stronger relationships with colleagues and members.
Finally, the increased sense of community that comes through offering team sports will aid member retention. Sport can really bring people together, as you find yourself surrounded by others who share your passion and work together as a team to achieve a common goal.
How can people work sport into their offering, regardless of space?
Space can be a real deterrent for operators, particularly in London, but operators can still incorporate sport as an option by repurposing space and thinking beyond the four walls of the facility. A good coach can adapt their sport to meet the surroundings and engage the size of the group. If space is limited, skills and drills can be practised in smaller spaces and operators can deliver modified games such as 5-a-side netball or mini games like 3-a-side basketball.
Once you’ve introduced sports sessions, what’s the best way to engage your members – particularly those who have shied away from sports in the past?
It can take a bit of extra effort to engage those members who have shied away in the past, but it will be worth it. A good coach will make all the difference and encourage members to keep attending. Ensure your facility is offering sports that are accessible to all and use friendly marketing that shows there are sessions for all ages and abilities, even those who have never played before.
Try not to timetable sessions at the same time as already successful sessions if you’re trying to target the same audience. For leisure centres specifically, sessions like walking sports provide social opportunities for older members and encourages them to socialise with each other, bringing more than just sport.
If you already run a successful session such as a spin class, another great tactic is to run a free sport taster session afterwards to encourage those people to take part. This provides an opportunity for likeminded groups of people to try something new together in a ‘safe’ environment.