Leisure Is Our Business; People Are Becoming More Health Conscious and the Get-Fit Business Is Booming. Ben West Meets a Team at Work When You're at Play

Article excerpt

Byline: BEN WEST

GONE are the days when the local leisure centre consisted of a dingy six-lane swimming pool, a grimy squash court and a drinks machine. Today, any self-respecting local authority has installed a state-of-the-art recreation oasis, with a tropical swimming pool featuring wave machine and towering slides, a multicoloured toddlers' gym and a fitness suite with the latest electronic machines.

Such a place is Greenwich Borough's flagship Waterfront Leisure Centre, in Woolwich, south-east London. And among the high-tech get-fit gadgets are some humans.

Kenny Janes, 20, left school at 16 and started working part time as a recreational assistant at the Waterfront while pursuing a carpentry course.

He now works full time.

"I've had to jump in the pool a couple of times. You have equipment for a rescue, but I felt I needed to go in. It can put you in danger, because when a swimmer is in distress the first thing they want to do is grab you, which could pull you under.

"People might think we just sit there daydreaming all day, but we take our job very seriously. It's unpredictable; a drowning can happen in a matter of seconds. You might get a weak swimmer struggling in the deep end or an epileptic fit on the poolside. Our worst fear is a spinal injury and we encourage adults not to fool around as it sets a bad example to children.

"We have monthly pool training where we swim a few lengths to keep fit, and recap on first aid, such as heart massage or secondary drowning where you have water in your lungs.

"It's a big centre so you're always seeing mad things, like people trying to sneak in for free, foreigners using the wrong changing rooms, people doing summersaults on the poolside or going down the slide head first.

"It's a good career to get into. I've worked for Greenwich Leisure for a year and already I'm going for a pool supervisor's job. By 25 I could easily be assistant manager of a centre."

Front of house Since 1996, Jagruti Gadher, 32, has worked at several leisure centres in Greenwich, as a receptionist, membership supervisor, duty receptionist (where she was in control of the day-today running of the centre), wellness supervisor (looking after activities in the gym and racket sports, for example), fitness instructor and acting centre manager.

She joined the Waterfront full time in May.

"I ensure there are enough staff in the different areas of the centre. My shifts run from 7am to 3.30pm or 1.30pm to 10.30pm and include regular weekend work. I've got used to it but it can be tiring combining this with bringing up my three children. Each day I see how sales were the day before and ensure the centre is clean and tidy. I organise staff rotas and attend meetings. …