IWD Tenant Talk with Libby Bell

When I first met Libby, I saw the happy go lucky gym manager, someone with a bright smile and
bundles of enthusiasm for health and wellbeing. A very committed individual who ran a sharp
gym operation. There was something else though I noted early on, the way she spoke and
moved about the gym as manager was first nature to her. She speaks freely with everyone she
meets and actively seeks out conversation with her gym members. She always wants to help, be
it a personal fitness journey, or a shared community project. She pushes, she pulls, she drives,
she leads.

I sat down with Libby to discuss her role at Anytime Fitness, her role as Captain for Bristol
Rovers Women’s Team and more importantly, her role as an inspirational figure within society.
Libby attended Filton College where she studied for a level 3 Diploma in Sport. Progression into
the fitness world was natural to Libby as her involvement in football would support. Anytime
Fitness were fortunate to meet Libby. She began working at Yate Anytime and at the age of
twenty-one she was offered the club manager role at Willow Brook’s Anytime.
“It was daunting at first, being so young in a managerial role, lots of members would ask to
speak to the manager and I would always have to say, “I’m the manager”.
Undeterred, Libby committed to staying the course and delivering her customers a first-rate gym
Libby says that when working with her customers, she always tries to adopt a diverse and
equitable mindset. “My mum visits the gym and when she first started, she was nervous and felt
she did not belong. She has overcome these fears by being determined and that’s how I try to
see my customers, my community. I never want anyone to walk into my gym and feel
unnecessarily nervous or intimidated, I just think of my mum anytime I need to help someone
overcome any fears in the gym.”
Libby’s stance on female leadership is echoed by the shift in perception of women in the fitness
industry and sport. “Women used to stick to the cardio machines but nowadays you see as
many women in the free weights as you do the men, attendances at women’s football matches
are increasing and the standard is improving all the time”.
As we begin talking about football, you begin to see an overwhelming sense of directness, grit,
and determination in Libby. “I grew up with two brothers and we all used to play football
together. My Dad stuck me in goal and my brothers would kick the ball as hard as they could, it
was the best thing for me. I played for boy’s teams growing up and I’m so glad I did, it taught me
that physicality and aggression in football can be beautiful.”

Libby’s football journey is one of inspiration.
“I played as goalkeeper but I’m 5”2 so decided it wasn’t the best position for me”. A quick
glance on YouTube and you can see that Libby has found her calling on the pitch as a midfielder,
free kick specialist, and Captain. “I’ve played for Bristol Rovers now since 2019 and was made
Captain in 2020, my family all support Rovers so being captain fills me with a sense of pride”.
Libby also supports the “Her Game Too” initiative. A campaign that seeks to tackle sexism and
champion women in sport, and Libby has delivered this message to the next generation of
women in sport by working with the Bradley Stoke Community School and other groups. It’s not
just talk with Libby; she is a leader. She is a Captain.

Addressing the sociopolitical issues around women in football Libby is more than comfortable
speaking up, “you don’t have to like women’s football, but why does that have to be vocalised,
it’s a threat to the man’s game and any male that is moaning about women’s football is really
saying more about themselves than the game (see NFL, Kansas City Chiefs – Taylor Swift)”.
“We have seen a real shift in culture and acceptance of women in the gym and on the pitch, but
we still have a long way to go”.
I asked Libby who her role model was growing up, sporting or non-sporting. Without hesitation
Libby said, “my mum, she can do anything and everything”. Like mother like daughter.