Hockey coach Gillian (Gill) Gemming was so stunned to find out she had been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, she kept the news in a drawer for two months.

Gemming has been recognised in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours for services to hockey. It's something she has struggled to keep secret since she received letters from the Prime Minister and Governor-General eight weeks ago.

"I had them hidden away in a drawer. I just couldn't believe it. I had to read them several times."

Her only confidante was husband John, who happened to bring in the letters at the time, "and probably knows more than what he's letting on about who's behind it", she chuckled.

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Gemming said she was honoured and accepted the award on behalf of "the many volunteers that run our sport in New Zealand".

As a child, Gemming played many sports "but hockey was the one that really caught me".

"So I've played from a junior level right up to a senior level but it was probably coaching which became my passion."

Coaching was rewarding and it was particularly heartening to see young local players evolve into New Zealand representatives on the world stage, she said.

In her earlier coaching years, Gemming managed a team of under-13 Tauranga boys.

"It's a wonderful age group to work with because they are so enthusiastic and want to absorb everything. In 1996 we won The Hatch Cup [National Under 13 Boys Tournament] and that was our first for Tauranga. Since then we have consistently been in the top 10 in New Zealand," she said.

"But it wasn't about me, it was about those groups of young boys that you work with. And what I love about it is some of those boys, Andy Hayward and Steven Graham , are now Black Sticks."

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These days, Gemming is focusing on the New Zealand Masters teams. As she talks to the Bay of Plenty Times, she packs her bags to join the national women's team who are training over the long weekend for next month's World Cup held in Spain.

As much as she loved the international competition, it was seeing new generations of aspiring hockey players coming through in Tauranga that she was especially fond of.

"It's rewarding watching them grow and then seeing them get involved with their children," she said.

For Gemming, coaching was something "I'm really thrilled to have given back with".

Keeping the eye on the ball

Gill Gemming was nominated for her work as president of the Tauranga Hockey Association, board member, coach and manager. She is currently developing the Hockey Without Limits programme for those with disabilities and she was instrumental in setting up Tauranga's first hockey turn in 1992.
Gemming has coached the Masters Women's teams in Tauranga and through to international level since 2000, with her New Zealand Masters Women's Team consistently winning the Pacific Rim Tournament.
She is been involved in setting up and growing hockey in smaller Pacific countries and piloted a national Funsticks schools programme.