Job title Head of Climbing
Employer Everyone Active
Opportunities in the climbing industry
Tell us a little bit about your role, who you work for, and what you do…
I am the Head of Climbing at Westway Sports & Fitness Centre, which is operated by Everyone Active in partnership with the Westway Trust. I have also recently been promoted to the position of Regional Climbing Manager at Everyone Active for the entire south east region. I am responsible for 10 Climbing facilities in total.
I have worked at Westway for the past two and a half years, and then for Everyone Active for the past year and a half since they were awarded the contract with the Westway Trust to operate their leisure facilities.
The Climbing centre at Westway is one of the very best in the country and offers over 350 different routes on 110 rope lines up to 13.5m as well as Bouldering with 150 boulder problems at any one time.
My main role as Head of Climbing involves managing a huge team of over 50 people ranging from route setters right through to our front of house staff. A large part of my role involves looking at health and safety and caring out risk assessments to ensure our climbers are safe at all times.
As Regional Climbing Manager I am constantly looking at new ways we can develop our Climbing offering as well as ensuring we are maintaining standards when it comes to customer retention. And of course, it goes without saying, but I am always looking at exciting and new ways we can get more people involved in Climbing and generally getting active through using our facilities.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I really enjoy working in the Climbing industry, it’s something I’ve always had a passion for and I have been in the industry for almost ten years now. I love working with a team who are all incredibly passionate and I really enjoy getting to know our customers and seeing them progress within the sport.
What are the biggest challenges in your role, or facing your industry generally?
The industry is going through a big change now as we draw ever closer to the Olympics in Tokyo 2020. As an industry there are a lot of older facilities not quite up to the right standards. So the challenge is making sure that climbing is seen as a safe as well as vibrant sport at all times.
As a manager of a Climbing facility my biggest challenge is maintaining the balance of what customers want as well as keeping everyone safe. The customer is getting more discerning and the sport is evolving. From additions in Speed climbing, to the more dynamic movement associated with international competitions, there are new ways to engage people which is great commercially, but a hair puller sometimes when it comes to keeping everyone safe.
“The opportunities within our industry are fantastic. Not just as a climbing instructor – roles include maintenance, front of house and management, to name a few”
What opportunities are there in your industry for young people in 2018?
There’s a huge opportunity for young people wanting to be get into the Climbing industry right now and that’s down to the growth and popularity of the sport. There are lots of centre’s popping up all over the UK and the opportunities within our industry are fantastic. Not just as a climbing instructor – roles include maintenance, front of house and management, to name a few. So any personality and skill set can get involved and make a proper career out of it.
Tell us a bit about your career path to this point…
From a young age, I’ve always been quite active and adventurous, I was in the air cadets when I was younger. When I turned 18 I took a real interest in sport and decided to follow this path to University.
“I tend to look for people who have passion, are reliable and able to self-analyse. I also look at a person’s attitude and try to find people who are going to gel well with the rest of my team”
I started my career path from a young age (in my mind), as I was in the air cadets. When I turned 18 I did a Foundation Degree in sports development and coaching. I then went on to do a BA in sports studies. Following this I got a job with a company called Craggy Island, who offer dedicated Bouldering, Climbing and Caving facilities at their Sutton site. I worked there for two and a half years before deciding to do a masters in Sports and Business Management as I wanted to expand a bit further. After my masters I got my (SPA) outdoor climbing qualification and become the centre manager for the XC centre in Hemel Hempstead, which had the largest indoor caving facility at the time, as well as Climbing, a massive Skatepark and a High ropes course.
In 2012, I then moved to work for a private company in Parson’s Green at the Urban Ascent Climbing Wall but decided to take a different direction for a bit and ended up working for Decathlon for two and a half years. However, I really missed the social aspect of working within the Climbing industry and saw the role at Westway, applied, and haven’t looked back ever since.
What experience, and extracurricular activities, does your kind of career require?
I would say you need to be climber, as you need to have the passion for the sport and really know the language used. Anyone who is passionate about physical activity can get into climbing though. I wouldn’t say you need to be an outdoorsy person as such but it is naturally a bonus, particularly as lots of trips outdoors kind of come with the territory.
What are you looking for when it comes to recruiting? What makes people stand out?
There’s no real secret formula as such, I tend to look for people who have passion, are reliable and able to self-analyse. I also look at a person’s attitude and try to find people who are going to gel well with the rest of my team.
If you had one bit of advice you would tell your younger self, what would it be?
Enjoy the journey
What was the best advice you were given?
Don’t manage by proxy, especially in a customer services and lead by example. Be at the forefront.