More than 50,000 parents and guardians keep sport running in the Bay.

Tens of thousands of kids wake up bright and early every Saturday morning, tie their boots or strap their pads on. Increasingly often, they're followed by bleary-eyed parents coaching, refereeing or helping out to make it happen.

More than 26 per cent of Bay adults volunteer in sport or recreation, the most recent Sport New Zealand survey found - a 3 per cent increase from the 2007/08 survey.

Without these 55,000 parents and adults, youth sport couldn't operate.

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About 43 per cent of these volunteers coach or instruct, and the same number assist as a parent helper. Almost a third officiate and 22 per cent were in administration roles.

Sport New Zealand senior coaching adviser Andrew Eade said adult volunteers were essential to making youth sport happen, but were often reluctant to put their hands up because of a lack of confidence.

But Mr Eade said more often than not, coaching and volunteering was a highly rewarding activity.

"For people who engage in coaching and get comfortable with what they're doing, very high levels report it's one of the most satisfying things they do in their lives," Mr Eade said.

"Once people discover that, it no longer becomes an imposition to find the two hours a week, it becomes the thing they look forward to most."

He said coaching was frustrating at times but the involvement went beyond the game.

"That ability for parent coaches to influence young people at a stage in their life when they need good adult role models in a positive way can be enormously rewarding.

"It'll also frustrate the hell out of them, but that's what happens with some of the best experiences."

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Teaching more than a game

Bay chiropractor Hamish MacMillan runs junior cricket at Mount Maunganui Cricket Club.

He coached his 14-year-old son's cricket team up until this season, a role he said was highly rewarding.

"Coaching is the best seat in the house ... It's far less about results than [it is about] watching children develop."

He said wrangling a group of boys could be frustrating but seeing the smiles as they played and their abilities grew was satisfying.

Sport coaching, Hamish MacMillan at Mount Maunganui College coaches cricket and says the best thing about it is seeing the player grown and learn. Photo/John Borren
Sport coaching, Hamish MacMillan at Mount Maunganui College coaches cricket and says the best thing about it is seeing the player grown and learn. Photo/John Borren

"All of a sudden you see their confidence grow, and they start to listen a bit more, and you see them putting the things you taught them into practice. That's really fulfilling," Dr MacMillan said.

"The other thing I really like is when you see kids out on the street, and they say, 'g'day Hamish, how are you? I got four wickets on Saturday!' They're always delighted to tell you how they're doing, and that's neat. That gives a buzz."

Dr MacMillan said coaching the game went far beyond winning and losing.

"There's a quote that says cricket is a microcosm of life: it teaches a lot of skills around self-discipline, patience, sportsmanship, etiquette and respect ... There are so many values that sport teaches children."

He said parents were essential to making sport happen and teaching these values, but it was difficult to get volunteers.

"What I'd say is: If you're a parent and your child plays sport, ask what you can do to help. You don't need to coach necessarily. We need parents who are willing to get involved teaching values-based sport."