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stockport's life leisure wins hat-trick of national awards

Anita NicksonThe Life Leisure team receiving the Medium Employer of the Year 2017 accolade at the UKActive Training Awards

Stockport’s Life Leisure is celebrating after winning three national awards in just two days, recognising the organisation’s approach to business, the quality of its staff and its facilities.

The not-for-profit charitable trust - which manages 12 sports and leisure facilities in and around Stockport and employs over 500 people - was named ‘Medium-Sized Employer of the Year’ in the 2017 UKActive Training awards, for its clear and innovative approach to staff engagement and personal development.

In addition to running initiatives like its ‘motivator’ scheme, designed to help people enter and progress in the industry by volunteering their time in return for training and the opportunity to gain nationally recognised qualifications, Life Leisure has also adopted a staff development programme which recognises and rewards staff for embodying so-called W.A.T.C.H principles (Winner, Authenticity, Together, Caring and Happy).

Through this scheme any staff member, at any level, can become a company champion – referred to as Sentinels – and lead steering groups on business development areas.

Life Leisure CEO Malcolm McPhail said: “I’m a firm believer in the power of people. Our ultimate aim as a leisure and fitness provider is to help members of the public access and enjoy activity and the best way for us to achieve that is to invest in a great team and give them all the support they need to excel in their roles. To win this award is a fantastic achievement for us as a business, but ultimately it is all down to our dedicated members of staff.”

Members of staff like fitness instructor Danny Drayson who also picked up the ‘Outstanding Individual of the Year’ gong at the Active Training Awards, run by industry body UKActive.  

Danny 34, who joined Life Leisure on its Motivator scheme, caught the judges attention for a remarkable story that has seen the father of two overcome long-term unemployment to become one of Life Leisure’s most popular coaches, with both the trainees he now manages and the members he works with. Danny has also taken on the role as ambassador, championing the life-changing impact of physical activity to local community groups and organisations.  

Malcolm McPhail commented, “This has to be one of my proudest moments, to see Danny win a national individual award and be recognised by his peers is absolutely amazing.”

Completing the provider’s trio of wins, Life Leisure’s Houldsworth Village in Reddish beat off strong competition to be named ‘Regional Gym of the Year North’ at the National Fitness Awards.

To win the award the facility had to undergo a rigorous assessment process, which involved a site visit by a member of the awards' team who toured the facility, chatted to members and staff and examined all areas of the business from member retention to customer service.

Judges commented that Houldsworth Village won the award “as the sheer amount of quality shone through in the centre and team’s approach to cover all bases”, and that making such high quality equipment available to all through a wide and range of inclusive programmes “really gives the place a feeling of a gym with a heart”.

The second major national award win this year for Houldsworth Village (following on from the UKActive Flame award in June) previously a disused warehouse in 2010, in an area previously without any form of comprehensive fitness provision, the centre has become a vital hub with facilities - including a gym, studios and indoor 5-a-side with an extensive range of classes and activities - all widely used by the local community.

Houldsworth Village’s strong partnership with British Weight Lifting (BWL) has also seen the facility named a Regional Centre of Excellence for the sport. One of three national BWL centres and home to weight-lifting club Spartans, Houldsworth is now a blueprint for other training facilities around the country. Many Paralympians and regional level lifters use the facility as a base.

Malcolm McPhail concluded: “It’s fantastic that in winning these national awards, we are doing our bit to put Stockport – and indeed the North West – on the map in terms of commitment to physical activity and fitness provision. As a region we really are doing great things so it’s great to fly that flag.”

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