It’s funny how times change.
Talk of how to interest people in taking up a sport may seem strange this summer.
When just about everyone it seems, wants to get off the sofa and emulate our Olympic sporting heroes.
Wind the clock back a couple of years, and maybe that wasn’t the case.
Which is why any sports centre that can claim a 16 per cent increase in membership over the past two years, before the Olympic flame was lit, would appear to be running ahead of the pack.
David Lloyd in Frogmore Lane, Southampton , can make just that boast and is well situated, it would appear, to make the most of the renewed interest in all things sports.
For the team at David Lloyd, the success story was hard worked for, not least by general manager Ian Edmunds, whose two-year programme to target both staff and customers is paying dividends.
The Welshman, who ran nightclubs for 15 years naturally heaps praise on others in his senior management team, but recognises that his approach to communication has played a major role in setting the centre on target to take gold as David Lloyd’s most successful club.
Already the club has been recognised with High Performance Centre (HPC) accreditation by the UK Lawn Tennis Association, providing the centre with a cash boost to continue supporting young tennis stars of the future.
“Primarily it’s been about encouraging staff to not see any barriers to what can be achieved and taking pride in communicating that to our membership,” said Ian.
“And if members see the centre is somewhere that is naturally friendly, where staff are approachable and they look forward to coming, then that is what leads to success.”
The centre has also undoubtedly benefitted from refurbishment and a proactive approach by the senior team in meeting the aspirations of an increasingly particular fitness fan.
For this reason, the two years has seen the centre increase its number of classes from 68 to 110, with three more classes coming on board this autumn – Fight Klub, Bokura and Sh’bam.
Fight Klub, a lively variation on the circuit training to include punchbag action and later stick work is likely to prove as popular with women as men.
Bokura, and Sh’bam are dance-based keep-fit classes.
The class structures and schedules have been devised to not only appeal to existing and newly emerging trends, but fitting with the aspirations and often busy schedules of members.
For this Ian is quick to heap praise on others including Greg McPherson- Seward his studio co-ordinator and Helen Watt, the centre’s sports manager.
The centre has also been ahead of the wave with such initiatives as its triathlon club with the current 12- week schedule for both adults and juniors sold-out and more classes planned for the future.
Initiatives and ideas from centre staff have been encouraged, and Ian’s approach and management style has seen heads of departments, including himself, move out of offices to hold meetings in public areas, rather than behind closed doors.
“By meeting with staff in the coffee shop or lounge.
There is a more open approach, but also members see us there and feel they can come over and talk to us at any time,” said Ian.
But I’m not trying to make out it’s all easy-going. We have to work hard with staff and very occasionally it doesn’t work. But in 99 per cent of the case this approach succeeds.”
As for the Olympics , Ian and his team have seen the surge in interest in sport in general, following Team GB’s gold successes, as a vindication that they were always on the right track.
“Through the British Olympic Association passport scheme we’ve had Olympians training here, such as Ben Ainslie and Pete Waterfield, as well as members of the Paralympic squad so we felt very much part of the Olympics,”said Ian.
“Like everyone, I have been amazed by how the Olympics have gripped the nation, and if this means more people are encouraged to take up sport at all then it’s all for the good. For young people in particular it’s marvellous that they have so many heroes now and they want to emulate them.”
For Ian, leading from the front means taking part in sport himself and later this autumn he will be competing in 100-mile bike race even, as he jokes himself, if he comes in last.
Somehow, judging by his success rate at David Lloyd, finishing last is not likely for this successful sporting manager.