Better and more welcoming experiences – the way forward for community sport and physical activity providers

If you are to grow the number of people at your club/centre we believe and increasingly research proves it that you simply have to, consistently, provide consumer experiences that people will want to join – and pay for as customers.  Because that’s what they are: Customers.  Regardless of whether you are coaching in a leisure centre, trying to attract 50 more people to a rugby match at your local club, running a leisure centre or CEO of a major professional club, you can grow your numbers by focusing on your customers. Listen to them and provide them with better experiences.  And the good news is that it does not have to cost a penny.

Welcoming clubs have more members and make more money

Yes, there is a clear financial case for providing an excellent experience at your club or centre.  Happy customers spend more money, attend more matches or sessions, bring more friends etc.  We are not suggesting that performance on the pitch or technical coaching skills are not important – but many people attend sports not just for the sport, but also to enjoy the camaraderie and atmosphere of live sport in their community.

We are all becoming ‘demanding’ customers and customer loyalty cannot be taken for granted; it has to be earned. Considering that almost 30% of the UK population has posted a message on a consumer website, you can only wonder what people would say about the customer experiences at their local club or centre.

 “They just did the same thing every week and the classes were very big so it was on a sort of a circuit. So I could see they were getting bored when it was the same thing each week”  Mother of 7-year-old recreational level female gymnast

A great experience means different things to different people. The people who go on holiday with Club 18 – 30 tend not to be the same ones who spend a couple of weeks with Saga Holidays and vice versa!  The guy who likes a quiet pint in a village pub is rarely seen clubbing in a busy city centre on a Friday night! This principle also applies to community sport, so when you coach, you really have to conscious of who you are coaching and what you are offering and if that fits in with their needs.

They will always forget what you tell them…but they will never forget how you make them feel! What do people at your club/centre feel at and after a session? Are they ‘smilies’ or ‘saddies’?

Great coaches need to develop an understanding that progress and achievement will always mean different things to different people and therefore have a clear understanding of those criteria and deliver accordingly. There needs to more feedback between coaches, players, athletes and parents and coaches must make sessions to be more fun/less serious


Often these initiatives are flexible, do not necessarily require commitment day in, day out, are accessible for everyone regardless of level of fitness and skills and appeal to different groups and people of different ages regardless whether they are looking for fun and/or recreation. The good providers also include the wider community when developing and delivering their activity programmes.


I often wonder why the words ‘fun’ and ‘customer experiences’ rarely appear in official plans for growing sports participation – I guess that solution is too simple!

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