Every year, thousands of volunteers contribute millions of hours to sport in the Bay of Plenty. This week, National Volunteer Week, they get the credit they deserve. David Beck reports.
Volunteers have long been the backbone of local sport, without them little would be achieved, and this week they are being celebrated.
Often happy to work tirelessly in the background to provide opportunities for others, National Volunteer Week is all about giving credit where it is well and truly due.
According to the Active NZ Survey 2013/14, there were 57,000 sport and recreation volunteers in Bay of Plenty who contributed seven million hours worth $100 million to the sector.
Sport Bay of Plenty community sport team leader Zane Jensen said volunteers were the lifeblood of sport in Bay of Plenty, their efforts providing long-term benefits for the community.
"They are the heart and soul of ensuring community sport and recreation can happen. The way our culture is made up, sport and rec is such a huge part of it, and it wouldn't be able to happen without the thousands of volunteers.
"We need to take every opportunity we can to really celebrate those volunteers and thank them for giving up their precious time in a world where everyone is really, really busy."
Jensen said the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown had not affected the enthusiasm of the region's volunteers and "in a funny way" fostered more of a community feel.
"I think, if anything, it has increased people's desire to support their community. We haven't seen a huge increase but everyone is a lot more motivated to volunteer and support one another. We did the whole Covid thing and stood together and now everyone is sort of standing together to try to get back to normal the best we can."
It is the Kiwi way to grow up playing sport on a Saturday morning and there are countless volunteers refereeing, coaching and managing to make that possible.
"Every Kiwi should have the opportunity to be active and it's the volunteers making sure they do. Volunteers tend to be very humble, they don't do it for the credit, they don't do it to be thanked, they literally do it because they think it's the right thing to do."
One of those thousands of volunteers is Blue Rovers Football Club president Theo Ursum whose football community has become a family.
"I moved to Tauranga in 2011 and got into fulltime work straight away so didn't have much time to get contacts and get into the community. I'm Dutch and my passion is football so I decided to join the club and build up a bit of a network."
Ursum started off coaching 14 and 15-year-old teams before joining the club's committee and five years ago being made president.
"I wanted to pass on my skills, I don't have my own son or daughter playing, and also build that network. Now, quite often I'll be walking around town and people from the community will say hi. It's really good to be a part of, I feel at home now.
"There was an opportunity to join the committee and I saw that as personal development, a learning experience in a governance role, as well as an opportunity to give back a bit more to the community."
He said he was a community minded person and he loved seeing everyone enjoy playing football on a Saturday.
"It's great to see so many are involved, that they want to be part of the club and playing football. We aspire to be a family club and we have more than 100 volunteers contributing thousands of hours every year."
Another volunteer is Greerton Athletics Club president Julie Marriner who said she did athletics as a child and she saw volunteering of a way of giving back to the sport.
"My mum and dad were both volunteers when I was a kid so I guess that was just something that was on the radar. I volunteer with other things, not just athletics, and I think you are just that way or you're not.
"Athletics has been a big part of my life and I went on to be a PE teacher so sport in general is something I've always valued. My own daughter did athletics at school and wanted to be a bit more competitive so we got involved with the club side again after many years."
Marriner said it was all worth it when she saw children getting the opportunity to go out and enjoy the sport.
"Kids are fabulous, they run around, they're free, they just lap it up and they enjoy it. Athletics is five or six different sports in one so the kids get this big platform to try lots of different things.
"We have a good little team of volunteers and the parents are really involved which is great, it's a family environment. You can always have more volunteers though, the more there are the less each has to do."