The Leisure, Sport and Fitness sector encompasses a wide range of activities from themeparks, cinemas and outdoor pursuits, to competitive sport, recreational sport, health and fitness. Sports media and sports tourism can additionally be included. The industry has expanded as people continue to become more health conscious and have more leisure time than in the past.
The Leisure industry is the segment focused on entertainment and recreation, and related products and services. It includes a long list of entertainment activities such as cinema, horse racing, theme parks, betting shops, and gaming casinos. Leisure is a labour intensive service industry.
SPORT & FITNESS
The level of interest in both following sport, and in participating in sport has never been greater. There are more than 38,000 people employed in the sports sector alone in Ireland, according to the Irish Federation of Sport, representing approximatley 2% of the total national workforce.
The commercial side of the sport sector accounts for 8,134 jobs (21%) of the total. There are a futher 8,826 jobs (23%) in the voluntary sport sector. The supply of goods and services into the sports sector accounts for close to 15,000 jobs.
The Sport and Fitness segment can be divided into two broad areas:
Competitive sport – includes all forms of physical activity aimed at improving physical fitness and at obtaining improved results in competition at all levels - amateur and professional, local, national and international.
Recreational sport – includes all forms of physical leisure and fitness activities, i.e. sporting activities aimed at improving physical fitness and mental wellbeing, as well as forming social relationships. Recreational sport can include organised sporting activities along with recreational walking, exercise, gym-based activities, jogging, yoga, golf, skiing, sailing, bowling and many more.
The number and variety of leisure and sports centres has increased significantly in recent years, with huge diversity in the types of services offered. Smaller facilities typically offer a gym and changing rooms, but bigger operations may provide a full suite of sports and leisure activities, equipment, swimming pool, treatment rooms, classes and training courses and even a bar and catering facilities.
CAREERS IN LEISURE, SPORT & FITNESS
The range of career opportunities available in this sector of the economy is wide and diverse. Most people who opt to work in this area have the shared aim of helping others to enjoy their leisure time.
Potential areas of work include:
- Leisure centre or gymnasium - as a manager, assistant manager, lifeguard, personal trainer, fitness instructer or spa therapist
- Coaching and instructing - health and fitness consultant, sports manager, horse riding, football clubs, outdoor activities, yoga or a specific sport
- Professional sport - e.g. footballer, jockey, golfer, caddie, rally driver, promoter
- Entertainment - e.g. work in cinemas, horse-racing, theme parks, betting shops, casinos
- Voluntary & Social - youth clubs, community workshops
Employers in this sector include large leisure companies, leisure centres, theme parks, health and fitness clubs, hotels and sports clubs, sports arenas, colleges, cultural organisations, tour operators, local authorities, community centres, cinemas and music venues.
Working conditions vary according to the particular role. Some jobs are based indoors, in hotels, sports shops, gymnasiums, sports halls or cinemas, while others, such as horse riding instruction, outdoor activities in sports clubs or adventure centres are largely based outdoors. Some jobs will call for large amounts of physical training and activity. Many jobs in this sector will involve working irregular hours, shift work, evening work, weekend and bank holiday work.
The sector can offer the opportunity for promotion to supervisory or managerial levels. Sports people often move into business, or to jobs in media, broadcasting, or communications on retiring from their professional sport. The sector offers plenty of opportunities to travel and work abroad (e.g. cruise ships) and in some jobs, it is possible to become self-employed.
Skills and Abilities
An ability to communicate well with people and a helpful attitude are important in most jobs found in this sector. Organisational and teamwork skills are often required, together with problem-solving and sometimes good business skills. A professional sportsperson needs to have an exceptionally high level of skill and be totally dedicated to their sport.
Getting into Sports and Leisure
Jobs in these industries have very different entry requirements. Some demand specific qualifications, while others require no formal qualification.
With the increasing professionalisation of sport, together with the regulation of the sector, experience of fitness techniques alone is not usually enough. Level 5 and 6 qualifications are an excellent entry route to the sector, for exmple, where a specific set of skills is required in order to do the job (i.e. Health and Fitness instructor) and third level degrees are increasingly valuable, such as where business and mangement aspects of the activity are called for.
Generally, there is a wide variety of courses that can help prepare for entry to these areas of work, ranging from Post Leaving Cert (PLC) courses for careers in Leisure Centres to Level 8 Honours Degree courses in Sports Science, Sports Engineering or Business and Sports Management.
All people who are working with children or vulnerable persons, including the provision of leisure, sporting or physical activities, require Garda Vetting. This is typically part of the recruitment process.
In the current economic climate, and with reduced disposable income, people are tending to spend less on leisure activities, and on certain sporting activities such as gym memberships. However, people still want to go out to enjoy their leisure time and be entertained, but they will do it on a tighter budget and be more aware of value for money, putting the demand on quality of service. On the sport and fitness front, the increased professionalism of sport and the growing scientific approach to fitness, together with the incredible growth of events like the Olympic Games, Special Olympics, The World Cup and other such sporting events, will ensure continued demand for a wide range of job roles in this segment.
Current government policy on promoting healthier lifestyles and increasing participation in sport, will also contribute to ensuring some level of demand for appropriately qualified instructors and professionals, although Government funding cuts are impacting on the number of publicly-funded roles.