As a family run hotel group, we are committed to obtaining excellent standards in all areas of our service and operation. Our managers strive to achieve the highest standards with staff, who in turn exhibit passion and ambition in every task they do. This dedication ensures efficient operation in every department. We value this because we know it works. Our staff is made up of individuals who strive and continue to strive to create a fantastic working environment.
Our Leisure Centre Manager, at Hodson Bay Hotel, Brian, recalls his career journey, passion for helping people achieve their health goals and been awarded Diamond Standard White Flag Award. And now with he is introducing NEW spin bike workout classes.
Brian can you tell a little about your background and what makes you passionate about health & fitness
Well, I was always into all kinds of sports especially football, which I’ve played since I was five. I remember when I was young you’d go down the street kicking a football. Everyone would be out playing, every day of the week. Football, football, football.
So, when I was eighteen, I did a one-year Access course at Dundee College, Scotland where I got to play lots of sport. I followed this with a 2-year course in Sports Coaching in Elmwood College, Cupar, in Fife. I found I loved coaching and helping kids stay interested in sport and fitness. Then I went onto a 2-year degree course in Sports Coaching at Abertay University, Dundee where I covered sports topics covered like, psychology, biomechanics, coaching processes, health & fitness and other materials.
During my college student life, I was lucky to travel all around America working with team’s coaching soccer. Following year, I went back to the US again working as Camp Director with Britannia Soccer Company. I also did a year with Minnesota Soccer Club.
After my return to Scotland, I took up coaching youngsters for Dundee United while also working with soccer camps to improve team development for Dundee Council. I then worked for a company from Armagh called Celebrity School Sports selling sports programmes to schools. But this was short-lived as once all the school signed up there wasn’t much more to do. So, I started working with Kea Designer Sportswear (Australian) selling sportswear, but it wasn’t what I wanted.
So, where did you go from there?
Well, my sister was in Ireland, and she said to come over. So, I did because I hadn’t any commitments at the time. It was a fresh start in a new country. For the first while to keep busy, I volunteered with special needs doing sports. And this work reignited my passion for coaching. I wanted to go back to that. And that meant doing a sport-related FÁS course – Assistant Swim Teacher. As it turned out the course was at Hodson Bay Hotel at the time. As part of the FÁS course, I had to do 6-weeks work placement. I asked Ross O’Callaghan in Sheraton Fitness to support my placement, and he said: “yeah no problem come in”. There I realised all my previous coaching experience came in useful. The only problem was I didn’t have a fitness instructor qualification at the time.
Ross was a great support. He recognised my desire to achieve a sports instructor qualification. And I did so through the National Council for Exercise & Fitness (NCEF) in University of Limerick, while still working. Once I was qualified, I created gym programs and swim classes with guests and members. I also learned a lot with regards to leisure centre management.
What do you think is an important part of being a Fitness Instructor?
You must be inquisitive, ask questions and understand people’s needs and motivations. It’s an amazing and rewarding experience career. You also have to have patience and learn. I was in Sheraton Fitness for seven years before. When the job came up in the Leisure Centre at Hodson Bay Hotel, Ross helped me to prepare for the interview. I was thrilled to achieve the promotion, and I started here in July 2016. I got to say there are great opportunities for advancement and progression within the Group.
And now you are Leisure Centre Manager in Hodson Bay Hotel…
Well, I’m a year and a half now. It’s challenging at times but exciting. I make the role my own. I love my job. And I am all the time looking at how to improve things. My newest goal for the Leisure Centre is the introduction of spin bikes with spin classes starting in January 2018.
Can you tell me what facilities and services I can expect to enjoy when I stay or if I am a member of the leisure centre at Hodson Bay Hotel?
Excellent leisure facilities are key to a great hotel. Hotels with swimming pool that are fully manned by qualified lifeguards are a must.
And, for guests who are interested in fitness and health, we have a lovely spacious gym and classes including spin bike workouts, aqua aerobics and yoga. Our 20-meter pool features massage jets and bubble pool. Guests get to enjoy a fantastic view of Lough Ree while they are in the pool. We also have a sauna, steam room and our health juice bar to grab the health kick after working out.
I can see you are very dedicated. How do you feel about being one of the only hotels in Westmeath to win the White Flag Awards?
White Flag is recognition of best practice for leisure centres. Leisure centres don’t have to be White Flag certified, but if you want to follow best practice and achieve recognised high standards, then you want to have a White Flag Award. I think it is important for to know that the hotel has a proven safe, clean and protected environment.
It involves a lot of work. But when you have the processes in the place then it is relatively easy to follow. There are 2-levels for hotels. There are Emerald and Diamond.
Emerald is your basic level with high standards of health and safety, the pool is water tested, it has high hygiene standards, and staff are knowledgeable and friendly. Then Diamond Standard is the higher level. And we at Hodson Bay Hotel hold the Diamond Standard. It requires a higher level including child protection standards and safeguards officers who look after child protection issues. When you have the Diamond Standard, you are operating at the best standard.
What does winning this award do for the hotel? How do the staff feel?
It is something to shout about and be proud of it. I am proud of our team, four full-time staff and six part-time staff here, for working hard to achieving the Diamond Standard of White Flag. It did take a lot of work with maintaining all the other day-to-day activities, but it was something I knew we could achieve as a team. We are proud to offer this high standard to our members and guests.
The White Flag Awards are part of Ireland Active, which plays an integral part in leisure, health and fitness in Ireland. How do you encourage people to take part in recreation, health and fitness?
I’m quite an ambitious person when I do a job. And as my Dad would say ‘if you’re going to do a job, no matter what it is, if it’s cleaning toilets, just do it properly.’ And when you follow that ethos you will get to your end goal.
My goal is to help staff, visitors and guests reach their health and fitness goals in a healthy realistic way. We just purchased ten spin bikes. We are going to launch our new spin bike workout in January. Now, we are in the process of training the staff to teach the classes so that we deliver great classes and great experiences.
What does White Flag mean for families staying at the hotel?
Also, as part of my role as the Leisure Manager, I oversee the running the Kids’ Camp, which is very busy. Over the term time, we have quite a high number of children in the hotel. They need something to do because it is also their holiday and it’s essential they experience an enjoyable time. We hard behind the scenes to create games, structure and healthy meals during term-breaks, all summer and every Saturday. And I make sure that all staff are trained and able to play the games.
As a parent myself, when I go to a hotel with my son and daughter, if they’re not enjoying themselves then I’m not enjoying myself. So, here I am mindful of that. We make sure the kids also have a good time.
Are there any unique services you offer at the leisure centre?
We aren’t a huge corporation, so we offer classes to our staff at no cost where possible. And for our kid’s swimming classes, we are trialling report cards for the parents to let them know how their children are doing. We do a lot behind the scenes. It is a real team effort, and we all work to the goal of exceeding visitor expectations.
How do you encourage people to keep fit and healthy? What tips would you give to someone who would like to start a fitness and health program?
I don’t believe in fads, and there are a lot of them in the online world of health and fitness. The problem is there are thousands of pictures of these guys and girls who wouldn’t eat a chocolate bar. It’s very misleading. I work in the real world, with real people who maybe want to enjoy themselves for Christmas. And I say enjoy yourself but try and be a bit sensible. There is no magic wand. It’s easy, it’s calories in and calories out. And if you are eating too many calories you are going to gain weight. It is very basic.
Everyone is different, and everyone’s body is different. And it takes someone qualified to take health history into account, understand the person’s lifestyle and their goals. We take an interest in everyone and try to help everyone reach their goals.
No matter who is coming into the gym professional sports person or full-time parent we meet with them and chat about their program. When you or your family want to join, we show you around and offer a free pass before you sign up.
How can I join the leisure centre?
No matter who is coming into the gym professional sports person or full-time parent we meet with them and chat about their program. When you or your family want to join, we show you around and offer a free pass if you’re unsure. We are here to help everyone select a membership package to suit. I always say feel free to use the free pass to ensure you are happy with your membership.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I’m awesome. My teams are awesome. Join!